But imagine the psychological hurdle of competing against a player so dominant that he is immortalized in a statue outside the stadium?
It’s an unusual tribute to an active player who is still at the top of his game, but there’s nothing usual about Rafa’s run at Roland Garros. His all-time record there is 100-2. The inscription on the statue may as well read, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
The steel sculpture is also far from the first rendering of Rafa, who has inspired some … unusual artistic tributes over the years.
Here are just a few.
Rafa, in steel
The new statue, by Spanish sculptor Jordi Díez Fernandez, is made entirely of steel and stands almost 10 feet tall. It shows Nadal playing with his signature intensity, hair flying as he follows through on his punishing forehand.
But some have wondered whether it’s a little premature, given that the 34-year-old Nadal doesn’t appear close to retirement.
… in bronze
… in clay
The statue was later displayed at a Nike store in Paris.
Some critics noted the racket is in Nadal’s right hand, even though he plays left-handed.
… in wax
This figure of a baby-faced Nadal stands in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Amsterdam. Similar waxy incarnations of the tennis star have been displayed at other Madame Tussaud’s in London and Istanbul.
… in terra-cotta
Nadal posed with this terra-cotta statue of himself in 2007 in Madrid, where he was competing in a tournament.
Even Rafa looks a little unsure about this one.
In Legos. Haha, no, that’s Andy Murray
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club displayed this Lego statue of Great Britain’s Andy Murray on the day of his match against Nadal at Wimbledon in 2011.
If it was supposed to bring Murray luck, it didn’t work. Nadal won in four sets.