At first glance, Nadal’s habit of fixing his water bottles just so; tying his head band after vigorously shaking his head; tucking his hair behind his ears and adjusting his underwear prior to serving, may all seem to be rituals that he must perform because they impart some supernatural power to gain him victory. On closer examination, they are probably indications of Nadal’s longstanding battle with anxiety. In an attempt to feel calm and in control he developed these habits that became obsessive. They must be performed to suppress the underlying fear that something bad will happen. No one is exempt from the occasional bout of anxiety. In small doses, anxiety is a good motivator and warns you of impending danger. However, persistent anxiety is not good for the body, neither is it normal. If left unchecked, anxiety will eventually prevent you from functioning well in just about every aspect of your life.
Nadal also appears to be displaying some of the physical symptoms associated with anxiety. He is sweating profusely, which has caused him to suffer more cramping recently in his matches. Muscle weakness is another symptom of anxiety and often Nadal seems to suddenly lose energy on his shots. There are times when Nadal appears to be confused about his shot selection, “his mind has gone blank”. My interest in Nadal is twofold: I admire what he has been able to accomplish in his career and I would love to see him competing at that level once again; and Nadal’s struggle is an example of how anxiety can wreak havoc in a person’s life and there are many people as well as tennis players who are suffering from anxiety. Mardy Fish publicly announced that he was affected by anxiety in the latter stages of his career. Nadal will fight through this and find a solution; however, it must be very frustrating for him to have to deal with this in such a public arena.
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