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So when did tennis become so hot? The answer? In a word–Rafa.Rafael Nadal #5

No other player creates the kind of stir that Rafa does when the shirt comes off.images-16 11.45.20 AMimages-20

When Rafa burst onto the tennis world, he looked like the proverbial bull in the china shop.

Who was this ill-mannered brute who pumps his fist, sprints to his side of the court after the coin toss, and aggressively thrusts his pelvis forward after winning a match?images-25

Nothing the tennis world had seen before was anything quite like Rafa. Sure there had been guys who wore headbands in an effort to tame unruly hair.

But when Rafa walked out onto the court in sleeveless shirt and pirate pants, he looked nothing like a tennis player. He was wholly unexpected, even unimagined.

So was his swashbuckling style of tennis.images-22images-24

The lasso-whip might as well be called the Rafa-whip.Uf136fBv3htZLYOU1wp34C_TYTEraDHgl5DeTSFcI3UNGMAMhgxbLsNoc8A9zpCWNRISrAQ=s85

It had been done before, but not as consistently and never with as much bravado as Rafa. No one had ever given this much spin to a shot. His average? 3200 revolutions per second. The most spin he’s ever managed? 4900.

To put this into perspective, players like Sampras and Agassi hit forehands spinning about 1,800 to 1,900 revolutions per minute. Federer? 2,700.

Explosive and relentless, he played each and every shot as though his life depended on it.images-5 1.33.20 PM

He is a master at converting defense into offense. It seems as though at times he literally wills the ball to drop within the lines.

No one works harder. To win on grass and hardcourts, the undisputed King of Clay knew that he needed to employ some first strike tennis and improve his serve. He did so and went on to win Wimbledon twice, the US once and the Australian once.

But as it turns out bulls can be quite delicate. By lifting three legs and leaving just one hind hoof on the ground, a bull can turn sharply in one quick motion — much like a pirouette. So a bull actually does quite well in a china shop.images-6 2.35.37 PM

That’s sounds just like Rafa. His style of play and presence on the court may be bold and brash.images-1 2.41.59 PM

But off the court he is anything but. Soft-spoken, humble, even self-deprecating; there is something almost incongruous about him.images-3 2.41.59 PMimages 3.30.41 PM

With all of his bulging biceps, rippling abs and raw physicality, he has a boyish charm. images 2.41.59 PM

If he is a savage, he is a noble, sensitive one.

Enter the strapping young Scotsman Jamie Fraser from Outlander.images-2 11.46.07 AM

What? A Scotsman? What about Andy Murray?

How can a muy caliente Spaniard be the red-haired Scottish soldier raised to be the future Laird of Lallybroch? Perhaps the most famous romance hero to ever wear a kilt. Well believe it or not, Rafa embodies the spirit of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.images 2.35.37 PM

(And don’t worry, we’ll get to Murray later.)

Jamie is disarming, principled, self-deprecating, honorable, and muscular with strong able arms. As a romance hero he is a strange and unique blend of a commanding Alpha warrior and a pure innocent at heart.images-7 2.35.37 PMimages-1 11.46.07 AM

We missed Rafa at the Australian this year, got him back in stellar form during clay season and the French, only to have to miss him here at Wimbledon when he lost in the 1st round. It’s given many a tennis fan a wistful kind of feeling, knowing the day will come when he’ll leave the game altogether. When that happens I could see him uttering words similar to those Jamie said to his great love Claire. Straightforward, heartfelt and guileless.

“When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

…and, might I add he’s mighty dangerous with a blade (or perhaps I should say racket).images-3 3.30.21 PMimages-5 11.45.51 AM