My eyes widen as I watch Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 tennis player in the world, slide to his right corner of the court to reach for a ball 10 feet behind the baseline during the French Open final. Nadal hits the ball diagonally across the court, causing the ball to graze the sideline opposite of Novak Djokovic, scoring the point. Nadal became the nine-time French Open champion on June 8.
According to Mats Wilander, former No. 1 tennis player in the world, Nadal is the “perfect” player on clay. Wilander believes Nadal’s achievements at the French Open will never be matched.
If Nadal had an answer to what the secret is to his “perfect” game, what would he say? Do us ordinary people have anything to learn from him?
I, a violinist, would say the secret to a perfect violin performance, for me, is transcendence – allowing myself to rise above and forget the technicalities of playing and let the music overtake me in a way that’s beyond physical.
Micah Coffey, 18, who played football, basketball and baseball at Batavia High School and will play baseball next year at the University of Minnesota, had a similar answer:
“What I would say, you know, the best games that I have ever played ... I kind of felt free and loose and just pretty much having fun. ... I haven’t really been worried about how I’m personally playing. And then at the end of the game somehow you realize, ‘Oh, I mean, I just scored 26 points.’ Or, ‘I just threw four touchdowns’ or – you kind of play within the flow of the game. You’re not worried about long-term goals; you’re worried play-by-play and getting your job done every single play. And so, you know, those kinds of games, you can kind of feel when they’re coming. ... Everything kind of seems to be falling in place.”
But, what about others? Can people who aren’t measured by how many points they score or how many notes they hit achieve perfection like Nadal?
David Zacker, humanities professor at Elgin Community College, said about giving the perfect lecture: “I wouldn’t necessarily talk about what the outcomes would have to be so much as what kind of person would I be in the classroom. You know, I would be patient when I’m listening to what students have to say, and I’m trying to teach tough material. You can’t get upset when they don’t understand what I’m trying to say. I would be diligent and really push for helping a student work through a problem. I wouldn’t give up easily. I would be a good listener – really try to take in what students have to say and understand them. And that could lead to a good outcome ... But it’s how I do it that matters.”
For Alicia Boerema, baker and manager of the Breadsmith of St. Charles, the answer was more simple: “Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn,” she said of baking bread.
So, whatever the answer is to each of us, let’s achieve perfection in our daily lives, in whatever we do.
To the journalists in the Kane County Chronicle office: write the perfect story. To Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns: give the perfect speech. To the engineers at the Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency: find the perfect solution.
Nadal falls to his knees in joy as he wins the match point of the 2014 French Open final.
If Nadal has reached it, so can we.
• Melissa Hutter is an intern at the Kane County Chronicle. She is a rising sophomore at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and plans on double majoring in English and music performance. She loves orchestra, running in nature and reading classic novels. Contact Hutter at email@example.com.