On Serve: Rafael Nadal and the Lascaux Cave Paintings

4,500 rpm on the forehand. Borg’s topspin revolution doubled, squared. All that topspin means net clearance, safety, angles. The perfect weapon for clay, its wars of attrition. Not far from the arena of Roland Garros lay the caves of Lascaux. In the womb of their history lay hundreds of familiar, mysterious beasts. Rafa’s afraid of animals, the dark. He sleeps with his lights on at night. Before each match he seeks rituals: chants, mind games, order, control. A cold shower focuses the mind. He wraps six racquets, watches like a boxer as his hands are taped. He stares at the walls, remembers, rehearses. The words of his Uncle Toni: Go without, do more. Endure. Get every ball back. Endure. Do not be afraid to take risks. He sprints back and forth. Vamos, vamos. Let’s go, Let’s go. The plural we is important; his entire family, his team, is involved. He ties on his bandanna, jumps up and down. Anything to deliver the mind from fear. Fear of winning, fear of losing, fear of injury: childhood’s broken bone in the foot, the patella, the tendons, of this knee, that knee. Play with pain, conquer fear. Spill your guts every point. Sweat. Take your time between points. The drip, drip of sweat.


by David Linebarger


This is part of an ekphrastic, non-fiction series from author David Linebarger. Follow the series through Sunday September 9.


Linebarger author photo.jpgAfter leaving a career in music (classical guitar) because of a hand injury, David Linebarger earned a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Davis. Currently a Professor of Humanities at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, his publications include scholarly articles on Wallace Stevens and Modern Music, poetry in over 25 journals, and two chapbooks: War Stories (Pudding House) and Bed of Light (Finishing Line Press). A national tournament tennis player in his age group, his current project includes a series of nonfiction prose poems on famous tennis players.


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