To retire a champion

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

Carlos Alcaraz, a 21-year old tennis player from Spain, just won the 2024 French Open men’s singles. It was a tough 5-set game against an equally tough player in Alexander Zverev. Zverev gave it his all. He lost the first set but fought back to win the second and third sets. In the third, Zverev came from 2-5 down to win it 7-5. But in the end, the tenacity, resilience and all-around clay court brilliance of Alcaraz got the better of Zverev. Alcaraz won the fourth and fifth sets, 6-1 and 6-2.

As dramatic as Alcaraz’s win may have been, the real drama came earlier in this year’s French Open.  During the first round, Zverev had to play the great Rafael Nadal. Nadal had previously won the French Open 14 times in his younger days. He was unbeatable at clay. Now 38 years old, he probably played his last French Open this May. Nadal, with his extreme western forehand grip and run-after-every-ball style of game, has entertained fans to the point of adulation. With his iconic head tie and game-on face all the time, he looks more like a Spanish warrior than a tennis player on court.

But there is more to Nadal than his game. It is the person behind the famous tennis player.

In one of his games, while in the heat of exchange for a crucial point, Nadal accidentally hit a ball girl when he mis-timed his forehand. He immediately ran to check on her and kissed her on the face. After the game, he again checked on her and made sure she was okay.

Nadal has announced that he will be retiring this year. But coming off from an injury, he went through an arduous physical training and conditioning to play and give it one more shot at the French Open. He wanted to win the French Open perhaps for the last time.

During his first round match against Zverev in this year’s French            Open, Nadal who must have been desperate to win the tournament he most loved, had conceded points to Zverev when the latter’s shots were called out. Nadal checked the marks on the clay and overruled the umpire by calling the shots in.

In the end, Nadal lost to Zverev in three straight sets. But he left the stadium with a standing ovation and head surely unbowed.

Both Alcaraz and Zverev grew up watching Nadal. He is their hero. Now watching Nadal about to hang up his tennis racket, it must be a poignant experience for them. Playing Nadal and beating him would surely be a case of wanting to win, but wishing Nadal to win.

Despite having won the match, Zverev had to yield the court to Nadal by saying: “It is his (Nadal’s) moment. It is not my moment.”

In life, we, too, meet our own heroes. We aspire to be like them. They inspire us to become better.

Then again, sometimes we may not know it but we are other people’s hero. They look up to us as their role models. They look to us to show compassion and humanity.

Similarly, lawyers are often reminded that their duty is not only to their clients and the courts. They also have a duty to the community. It is not about winning every case at all costs. Rather, it is winning on the merits. It is ensuring that every tennis ball does not go beyond the lines of the court.

True, we all are warriors in this life. We have to fight for every hard ball that comes our way and swing our rackets back. There are always rivals who are waiting around to get the better of us. Then we too get tired. Sometimes we get injured. Climbing back to our usual form is most too often an arduous task.

And then there will be a time when we know that every fight in us has been expended. It is the right time to turn our back on the battle. The time to retire.

Going back to Nadal, surely, Zverev has retired a champion by beating Nadal. But in everyone’s heart, Nadal retired as a true champion.

            (The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor, bar reviewer, MCLE lecturer and a law book author. His website is