Check Out These 20 Quirks, Rituals, and Fun Facts about Rafael Nadal

A serving ceremony, meticulous arrangements on the court and his own virtual universe are just some of the strange routines of Rafa Nadal, the current ATP number 4. We'll reveal some of the tennis player's other fascinating habits here.
Check Out These 20 Quirks, Rituals, and Fun Facts about Rafael Nadal

Last update: 25 July, 2022

The routine of an athlete like Rafael Nadal goes beyond physical and mental preparation. In his particular case, a series of somewhat exaggerated routines and habits accompany the tennis player’s participation on the court.

They are gestures and routines that some consider tics. But as the Clínica Universidad de Navarra explains, tics are neurological disorders. On the other hand, Nadal’s habits are a symphony of peculiarities that make up the prelude to a match.

Why do these strange behaviors exist in the player? What happens if he doesn’t do them? Are there other fun facts surrounding the athlete’s life? Let’s take a look!

The truth behind Rafael Nadal’s quirks

Rafael Nadal Parera, known as La Fiera, El Matador, El Gladiador or El Rey de la Tierra in Spanish, now occupies the fourth position in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking. He’s famous for his record and also for his meticulous routines at each tournament.

The Mallorcan himself attributes his pre-game habits to the need to stay focused, drain the pressure, and seek comfort.

In previous statements to the sports press, Nadal confessed that there are no absolute formulas for his performance on the tennis court to be better or worse. In fact, he would prefer not to have so many rituals. However, the reality is different.

The rituals, routines, and quirks of Rafael Nadal

Tennis is a discipline that demands maximum mental control. The Spaniard’s bizarre routines help him to focus on the goal and feel confident. In his opinion, paying attention to these aspects leads him to isolate himself from everything that could distract him.

No circuit is stranger to the quirks and habits of La Fiera. There are also a few interesting quirks that make his career more striking. Here, we’ll tell you about them.

1. He lines up his drinking bottles

This is a classic habit of Nadal: he lines up the bottles of water and salts facing the court. They must go side by side, forming a straight line. The obsession is such that the tennis player makes sure to leave the bottles with the letters diagonally.

In addition to ordering the bottles like this, he follows a set of steps to hydrate himself. He always has two bottles and drinks from both of them.

After lining them up, Rafa takes the bottle that’s further out, puts it on his right thigh, opens it, and drinks from it. To return it to its position on the floor, he checks that it fits on the mark left by the bottle. With the second bottle, he does exactly the same thing.

Entrenamiento de Rafael Nadal.
In addition to physical training, the tennis player follows strict rituals that help him focus his mind on the match.

2. Rafael Nadal’s serving ritual

Whenever the player is due to serve, he performs perhaps the most famous of his rituals in the following order:

  • He touches his shorts.
  • He rubs his left shoulder.
  • Nadal rubs his right shoulder.
  • He grasps his left ear.
  • He touches his nose.
  • Nadal grasps his right ear.
  • He repeats the movement with his left ear.
  • He goes back to touching his nose.
  • Finally, he finishes with a touch to his right ear.

If he closes the first serve, Nadal just repeats the last two tics.

3. The tennis player distracts himself with soccer

Soccer, fishing, and reading are La Fiera’s favorite hobbies. Similarly, he often distracts himself with video games among friends or enjoying movies.

4. It was hard for him to rest

Aware of a demanding career in which his work intensity stands out, the Spanish player has often found it hard to rest. Over time, he came to understand that he needed to regulate his rhythm, take better care of himself, and be systematic with his rest.

5. He was reluctant to eat well

Before nutritionists were part of his team, Nadal was a sloppy eater. Now, he manages a balance between health and pleasures, focused on performing his profession to the fullest.

6. An airport was about be named after him

After winning his 21st Grand Slam in the final of the Australian Open, fans started an Internet campaign that proposes changing the name of the International Airport of Palma de Mallorca to Rafael Nadal.

The athlete’s followers obtained more than a hundred signatures in the first 24 hours, arguing among many opinions that this is “the best representation of Mallorca.”

The tennis player declared that he was not aware of this proposal. However, he asserts that if the decision makers consider it is the right thing to do, he would be honored. The office of Spanish Airports and Air Navigation has the final word on the matter.

7. He’s won more Grand Slams than other tennis players

Nadal isn’t obsessed with piling up awards, although he receives each one with excitement. He currently has 22 Grand Slams, the most recent being Roland Garros, which revalidated his title as “The King of the Clay.”

8. He’s had a few decisive injuries

The Spaniard abandoned the Wimbledon 2022 competition as a result of an abdominal rupture. In his meeting with the media, he revealed that he was going through a hard and sad moment. The injury would keep him away from the courts for two to three weeks.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the only setback in the journey. There are several injuries for the 36-year-old athlete, since 2003 until today. Among others, the list includes the following:

  • Tendonitis
  • Chronic pain
  • Elbow fractures
  • Abdominal tears
  • Knee discomfort
  • Iliac psoas injuries
  • Problems in the shoulders
  • Wrist sheath inflammation

9. He jumps to warm up

From the hallway to the court and even while the draw lasts, Rafael Nadal warms up by jumping. That’s how he keeps his body in tune. He doesn’t stop jumping until the game starts.

Since 2010 and on the advice of King Juan Carlos I, the Mallorcan wears on his right wrist a lightweight watch that doesn’t interfere at all with his performance.

It’s a special model valued at 800,000 euros, whose casing is made of aluminum and silicon, favoring the light weight of 28 grams. The technology of the accessory makes it withstand impacts of up to 10,000 G-force.

Only 50 copies of this almost indestructible piece were created, baptized with the name of Rafael Nadal. The model is RM 27-03 Tourbillon and corresponds to the Swiss brand Richard Mille ®.

11. He doesn’t step on the lines

The Spaniard never steps on the lines of the court. Even if he has to change gears, he adjusts his steps to skip the lines when he enters a box, when he leaves one, or when he changes sides.

He also doesn’t step on the court with his left foot. When entering, Nadal always touches the ground with his right foot. More than superstition, he likes to think of it as a habit.

And if the dispute is on clay, part of his routine is to clean the serving lines and shake the shoes with light racket strokes. Of the three balls offered by the ball boy, La Fiera always discards one.

Then he’s ready to start.

12. He’s as much a champion as he is polite

Rafael Nadal is a habitual winner. At the end of his matches, he releases the headband that holds his hair and shakes his head, wiping away the sweat.

He then turns to his opponent and greets him with a few words. He repeats the scene with the referee before hitting the strings of the Babolat AeroPro Drive GT racquet with his right hand. It’s a sign of applause for the spectators.

It’s the same every time – a strict ritual from start to finish, underpinned by the comfort and concentration the tennis player needs.

13. A bull is hardly ever missing from the clothing

Nike ® sponsors the tennis star. Rafa Nadal’s combinations share the brand’s logo and that of the athlete: a fierce bull that represents his tireless personality, persistence, and endurance.

14. He changes racquets every 8 games 

After 8 games, Nadal uses another racquet. A new instrument offers him optimal stringing, as he believes that after three or four sets, it loses its properties. In addition, the exchange coincides with the change of balls.

15. Nadal’s academy is a world reference

Since 2016, a sports center recognized worldwide has been in operation: the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar ®. The leader is Antonio “Toni” Nadal, the ex-tennis-player uncle of the “King of the Clay.”

Located in Manacor, the institution has avant-garde facilities and enjoys the prestige of a school of winners, which merges sports education with excellence in studies within the classrooms of the Rafa Nadal International School.

The Rafael Nadal sports center
The center created by Rafael Nadal receives young tennis players to train them according to the highest training standards.

16. The Rafa Nadal academy has its own 3D virtual tour

The Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar has a virtual version of the center, a metaverse that Telefónica ® created just for the athlete. In this virtual space, anyone with internet access can see the school in 3D.

The guide? Logically, it’s an avatar of Nadal! The figure accompanies you during the tour and teaches you how to win prizes with the application.

17. He loves what he does

The biggest motivation for Nadal is that he works at what he loves to do. He enjoys the training as much as the competitions and does not give so many laps thinking about retirement. The athlete affirms that as long as he has the capacity to continue, he will do it with great enthusiasm.

18. He’s a good friend of Rod Laver

One of the friendships with whom Rafa Nadal has a good relationship is Rod Laver, considered the best player in the history of tennis. Nadal says that Laver always attends the Australian Open and congratulates the competitors. On one occasion, the Spaniard and the Australian agreed to meet again at the Indian Wells Masters, an event that thrilled the Spaniard.

19. Opponents have complained about Rafael Nadal’s rituals

Some of the tennis player’s rivals have complained about Nadal’s rituals. The argument is that they’re done on purpose to annoy or distract his opponents.

In his defense, the Spaniard replies that they’re simply things he does to focus. However, his coaches have tried to help him get rid of certain behaviors, but they’ve never succeeded.

20. Nadal will debut as a dad

Rafael Nadal and his wife, Maria Francisca Perello, will debut as parents in October 2022. The couple announced the pregnancy during their vacation after the athlete’s triumph at Roland Garros.

Regarding the turn that his life will take, the athlete is sure that the joy of receiving his first child will not condition his calendar too much. Therefore, he’s ruled out professional changes.

Like this article? You may also like to read: How to Use a Tennis Ball to Calm Plantar Fasciitis Pain

Extra data: More court rituals

The tennis player from Mallorca performs a warm-up that usually lasts more than half an hour. Before the matches, he takes a cold shower and doesn’t share the dressing room; he prefers to be alone, playing music to his liking.

Nadal always goes out with 6 rackets and walks from the hallway to the court behind his rival, unless his opponent is Roger Federer.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.