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Rafael Nadal's Secrets for Success

The No. 1 world tennis champ talks about his childhood, his training, his diet, and the sacrifices he has made for his sport.

Rafa: My Story

As if playing tennis were not enough, Nadal has a book coming out in late August, an autobiography titled Rafa: My Story.

While his memories of his earliest tennis days are hazy, he does recall the excitement and nervousness he felt at his first competition. In all the years since, Nadal says, that is one thing that hasn't changed.

"It is still exciting and I still get nervous these days!" Nadal says.

It's not surprising that Nadal took to sports at such a young age. From the day he was born, he was surrounded by professional athletes, including two uncles: Miguel Ángel Nadal, a former soccer player, and Toni Nadal, a retired tennis pro.

"I was very much in the world of sports through my family," Nadal says. "I loved soccer and tennis and knew a lot from both sports, thanks to my father and uncles."

It was Toni who introduced his nephew to tennis, and he has been Nadal's coach and mentor ever since the young prodigy took his first steps onto the court.

"My Uncle Toni loved the sport of tennis, and he is the one who showed me about the sport and transmitted to me that passion for the game and the respect," Nadal says. "My uncle was always with me, and he supported me and motivated me. My father came to a lot of my matches as well."

Nadal's Spirit of Sacrifice

But most of his motivation came from within. Nadal says that he frequently -- and willingly -- sacrificed time with friends, missing parties and giving up his weekends in favor of tennis.

"Yes, sure, I did make some sacrifices that we all know you have to make, but still I love to play tennis, I love the competition, I have passion for the sport, and that compensates," Nadal says. "I did what I liked, so no real sacrifices."

One sacrifice tennis did require Nadal to make was giving up soccer (or "football," as it's known outside of the U.S.). As a kid, he was a very promising player, but for him to excel at one sport and to leave time for school, his father told him he had to choose.

"I was always playing sports, always running around with a football to play soccer or with a tennis racquet. Sports has always been everything for me. I love it and always did," says Nadal.

"At some point I had to choose between soccer or tennis since I was also at school and there are not enough hours during the day to do everything I wanted to do. So, at the age of 11, I had to focus on my school and my tennis career and leave soccer aside."

"I think I made the right decision looking at how things went for me with tennis," he says. It's hard to argue with that.

He still loves soccer, and he roots for his two favorite teams, Real Madrid and Real Mallorca, but he is cautious about the time he spends on the field. And he sometimes passes on occasions such as playing in charity events to reduce the chances he might be injured.

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