This, from overnight at the Australian Open, is delightful because Rafael Nadal offers a charming insight into the mania that goes into being a professional athlete. Nadal, like many of us, and like many more pro athletes, has a few peccadilloes that help him function. One specific habit, it's not a superstition as Rafa will explain in his own words below, is his water bottles. He's very particular about his water bottles; there are two of them, and he takes alternating sips from each and then puts them back in very specific places.
Here is Rafa, some four years ago, writing about his pre-game ritual before playing Roger Federer:
Once on court, I sat down, took off my white tracksuit top, and took a sip from a bottle of water. Then from a second bottle. I repeat the sequence, every time, before a match begins, and at every break between games, until a match is over. A sip from one bottle, and then from another.
And then I put the two bottles down at my feet, in front of my chair to my left, one neatly behind the other, diagonally aimed at the court. Some call it superstition, but it's not. If it were superstition, why would I keep doing the same thing over and over whether I win or lose? It's a way of placing myself in a match, ordering my surroundings to match the order I seek in my head.
Which brings us to last night, when at some point you can see one of his water bottles is laying down on the ground. It looks like there was some wind and it got knocked over and began rolling on the court and a ball boy was dispatched to fix it. It also looks like it came at the request of the chair umpire, not Rafa himself, probably because he didn't want it interfering with play should it continue to roll. The care the ball boy takes in facing the labels just so gives everyone, including Nadal, a good laugh. After the match, Nadal said it wasn't bothering him, it's just one of the "very stupid things you do after a lot of years competing."