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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.

Nadal's Training Regimen

He's far from immune to injury. In fact, anyone familiar with his aggressive playing style might wonder whether he courts it.

To say that professional tennis is a rigorous, physically demanding sport is an understatement. And it has taken its toll on Nadal. He's suffered from tendinitis in both knees. A stress fracture in his left foot kept him out of competition for months in 2004. For two years, injuries have upset his chances at the Australian Open: In 2010, he was sidelined by a knee injury, while this past January, the blame fell on an injured hamstring, which required 10 days of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory treatments before he was ready to play again.

"His heart is too hungry to let his body get in the way," Wilander says. "Sometimes he oversteps his boundaries. Will he last 10 more years? I have no idea."

But what hurts him more than his injuries, Nadal says, is being forced to sit on the sidelines.

"I had a foot injury when I was supposed to play Roland Garros," Nadal recalls of the 2004 Grand Slam tournament commonly known as the French Open. "At some point a doctor told me I was maybe not going to be able to play tennis again on a professional level. I was watching tennis on TV at home and started to cry thinking about the words of the doctor. This is the worst, not to be able to compete."

Needless to say, Nadal made a full recovery. "Everything went well, and here I am playing tennis," he says.

That, too, is an understatement. He won the next four French Opens.

Rafael Nadal's Diet

Nadal's body has certainly felt the hardships of the game. Mentally, though, he says he is totally at ease with its demands."I don't think it is stressful. We have tension at some point, but in the end it is only a game," he insists.

He takes an equally laid-back approach to his downtime. For him, a satisfying night off involves staying in his room and watching movies or playing video games. Otherwise, he's out with friends at one of his favorite Japanese or Italian restaurants, wherever he can get good seafood. "But, of course, Spanish food I think is the best."

He says he makes sure to eat the right things before a match or in the days leading up to a match. Simple foods are what he prefers, such as grilled fish served with pasta and vegetables. But he's not without his guilty pleasures.

"Chocolate! Nutella! French fries," Nadal says, listing some of his favorites before adding, "But I eat them when I am not close to a match and never abuse any of those."

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