Q. You started the fifth set with a break. What do you think happened after that? RAFAEL NADAL: The match is five sets. There is not only last set. He was playing amazing in the last set. If you decide everything in one set, the opponent is ready to hit all the balls at hundred percent, then you are in trouble.
He had a lot of success hitting all the balls full power in the fifth. I have to congratulate him.
But I am not happy about the way that I played the first. In the fourth I was not very bad, but he played better than me, too. I had my chances in the fourth, too, with that Love-30 that he played well. That's it.
He played better than me. He played more aggressive than me. He taked more risks than me, and he won. Probably he deserved.
Q. What do you think you would have done differently? Do you have any regrets regarding your own game through this match? RAFAEL NADAL: No. The match is a tough lose for me obviously. Obviously is tough, especially because is not like last year that I arrived here playing bad and feeling myself not ready for it.
This year was a completely different story. I have been playing and practicing great and working so much. You know, is tough when you work so much and arrives a very important event and you're going out too early.
Is tough, but at the same time, I know I did everything that I can to be ready for it. Was not my day. Let's keep going. That's the only thing.
No, no, there is no more things to do than keep practicing hard, keep practicing the same way that I was doing the last four, five months.
Today I was not ready to compete the way that I was practicing, so not happy with that. That's it. I hope the next time I can compete better than what I did today, because I was playing good.
Q. How do you explain today you didn't compete as well as you thought you would? RAFAEL NADAL: In terms of being competitive, I was competitive. In terms of creating damage to the opponent with my forehand, I didn't. So I was hitting forehands, and he was able to keep hitting winners.
Cannot happen when I am hitting my forehand. The opponent, if he wants to hit a winner is because he take too much risk. In my opinion was not the case of today. I was hitting winners. I was hitting forehands. He was able to keep going for big shots in a not very bad position.
That was the biggest issue for me today. I don't know a hundred percent the reason, to be honest. I was doing that good on the practices and the previous tournaments. Was not the case today.
Q. Do you feel that you deserved a bit more support from the crowd, especially towards the end in the fifth set? RAFAEL NADAL: No. The crowd is great.
Q. Seems like a lot of times in Grand Slams guys have been playing freely against you, with more confidence, Kyrgios, Brown, Fognini. Do you sense in these matches that players are playing more aggressively and more confidently against you than it used to be, or is it something that's different on your side of the court? RAFAEL NADAL: The game is changing a little bit. Everybody now tries to hit all the balls. There is no balls that you can prepare the point, no? Everybody hit the ball hard and try to go for the winners in any position. Game become a little bit more crazy in this aspect.
But the real thing is my mission is make them play with difficult positions. So if they want to go for lot of winners with very difficult positions, the chance of having success is not very high. If I let them hit from good positions and they obviously wants to go for winners, then the chances for success are much higher.
So that's the mistake for me today. Last year was different story, no? Don't want to compare last year, because last year was a different issues.
But this year, the real thing is I was not enough aggressive with my forehand during the whole match. I didn't feel it. I tried. I fighted. I was ready to do it, and I didn't. So I am sad for that.
Q. We're a year on from you saying you were lacking that confidence from a year ago. Is there a different way you're approaching the majors? This is the third one where you've lost fairly early compared to the other tournaments. RAFAEL NADAL: I play majors same way I play other tournaments all the year. All my life I played every tournament putting all that I have there.
When I am playing in a 250 or 500 or Masters 1000 or Grand Slam, when I go on court, I am not more focused. Nothing in general when I am playing the bigger tournaments. I try my best in every single match of the year. That's it.
Sometimes you have success; sometimes you do not. Today it is obvious that I didn't.
Q. Your coach was telling us yesterday that you're trying to change some things in your game to advance it more. Do you think because it's still early in the season you're going to need a few more months to actually see these changes make a difference? RAFAEL NADAL: You never know what's going on in the future. I felt myself that I was practicing great, playing very good.
I was practicing little bit different, trying to be more inside the court. It's obvious that all the changes are not easy and especially are difficult to make that happen when you are competing.
But the real thing is if I am not doing that, then I am dead. I can play defensive or offensive. But if you stay in the middle, finally, at the end of the day, you are not doing nothing.
You cannot be in the middle of being offensive or defensive, because it is obvious that finally you don't have a consistent strategy, then you are lost.
Q. When you are in a long match, like, do you feel when you're not playing aggressive enough, do you push yourself to be more aggressive or you realized that you were not aggressive only at the end of the match? RAFAEL NADAL: No, I detected that before the end of that match. I tried. I was playing a little bit more aggressive after the first set. I won the next two. Then in the fourth the real thing is he had the break in the first game of the fourth. He played amazing that game.
I was able to be back, and I put myself in a position to win the match. But then he played amazing in the last four points of that 6-5. In the tiebreak, he hit all the shots bombs, no?
So the biggest problem was the first set, in my opinion. He was not playing that well in the first set. I should take advantage there, but I didn't. Then you lose the first. You play against a player that has a good potential and he's able to hit the ball so hard and take risk, then you are under pressure the rest of the match.
I could win the match, but I lost because he felt great. In my opinion, he played better than what he was doing the last couple of months, especially in the last two sets. He played so aggressive, and the serve was huge for him today.
I just can congratulate him because he deserved, and I wish him all the best for the rest of the tournament.
Q. Rafa, how have you felt the past few days practicing here in Melbourne, and your thoughts on starting the tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, no, I have had good practices here. Very happy to be here again. Good feelings. Just trying to be ready.
Q. Can you talk about your first round. You're playing someone you know well, you played doubles with him.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, very tough first round. Not a lucky first round, I think, for me. For him either. Will be a tough match. I need to be ready to play a very good tennis if I want to be through.
Q. Rafa, your match with him here in 2009 was a pretty spectacular match. Where does that sit in your memory?
RAFAEL NADAL: Obvious that that match gave me the chance to win the only Australian Open that I won. That was an unforgettable memory for me. I think was a huge level of tennis there. Some spectacular points. A lot of people always talk me about that match, no?
I enjoyed that match. Was tough one. Was a great experience.
Q. How are conditions of play this year? Same as last year, faster, slower?
RAFAEL NADAL: It's not fast, not slow. It's not unbelievable fast. But I think the outdoor courts, the outside courts are faster. I played in Margaret, Hisense and Rod Laver. The courts are not slow. A little bit faster. But okay, not bad. Good feelings.
Q. Rafa, how do you feel about playing another left-hander? Do you think you're better against a right-hander? How does that affect you?
RAFAEL NADAL: I can tell you that on Tuesday after the match (smiling).
I played a lot of times with lefties. We'll see, no? Is not about playing against a lefty, is about playing against a player that has a huge potential, is able to reach a great level of tennis. If you are not playing your best, is very, very dangerous match.
Q. Rafa, we talk in the media a lot about the big four, maybe the figure five with Stan. Do you think with the way Novak is playing now, the way he played last year, is Novak in a league of one above everybody else or do you think there is still that big group of four or five players who can still win big tournaments?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know, no. Is your name, big four. Big one is your name, not my name. I really don't care much about it. Just the only thing that is true, is Novak is playing at better level than the rest of the players now. That's obvious, no? The way he's playing, it's difficult to see him losing matches.
Just can congratulate him for made that happen.
Q. Can I ask you about your academy? What is the particular philosophy behind it? Is it to find the next Rafa or to sort of teach people about life and tennis and everything else?
RAFAEL NADAL: The next Djokovic or the next me or the next Andy or Roger, you know, is difficult to find that, no? I think these players are a natural talent players. It's difficult to teach them. For sure, it's important for all of us to have the right people around us during the years that we grow. But the natural talent has a big impact on all of this.
But in my academy, we really hope to have the right team to help the kids to bring the tennis at the best level possible. The tennis academy, that should be the main goal, just have the better team possible to help the kids to become better and better tennis players.
But that's something that is the key, but in the other hand, for us, and for me personally, I don't understand that without the right education, the right values. For us is so important to have the right people to help the kids to grow with the right values, with the right education. For us is important the studies, the school. That's why we have international school inside academy. We have a medical center inside academy, with nutritionists, with everything.
We going to have all the things together inside the academy that makes the life easier for the kids, but at the same time to try to help them in all aspects, to prepare them for the future, even if they are professional tennis players or like most of the players that are going to come are not going to be professional tennis players, that happens everywhere, because the percentage is very small. So prepare them for university. At the international school, we going to help them make that transition to the best universities possible and prepare them for the life.
Sports, education and values I think are together. If we can have the right combination, for sure is an unforgettable and great experience for the future of these kids.
Q. When you finish playing, do you think you will be much involved in the academy? Will you do some coaching?
RAFAEL NADAL: Never say never. I cannot say what's going on on the future. For me the academy, it's obvious that I going to be very involved. That's why we build the academy in my hometown.
For me the sport is a big passion, not only tennis, but sport in general is a big passion. Have an academy that we have the facilities to receive sports teams in almost all the facilities, all the different sports. It's something that for sure motivates me a lot.
I am sure that I going to be, I don't know if traveling like a coach, but practicing and hitting balls with the kids in my academy very often.
Q. Do you plan to change your schedule at all because of the Olympic Games?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know if you know my schedule, but I play here, I play Rio de Janeiro, I play Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros, Queen's, Wimbledon, Toronto, Cincinnati. That's my schedule.
If I lose more than you expect, then you play more. But if you win more than you expect, you play less.
Q. When you said Novak is playing at a level where he doesn't look like he's going to lose too many matches, how quickly can that change? When other people are trying to catch up, how quickly can things change?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. Good thing of Novak, the better thing, is he's an amazing player. Second good thing is he never has injuries, so that helps a lot to have full confidence on yourself, and to don't lose the rhythm never.
When you are in the top, you have injuries, is tougher to recover that confidence and that level of tennis. So going to be decisive if he keep going that way with no injuries, that he has the chance to practice an play as much as he can, that matches he wons. That's something great for him, very positive thing.
And then I hope to be there fighting to be closer to him. I am sure that the rest of the players wants the same than me.
Q. What do you remember from being a young player having to learn English? What challenges did that present you when you were younger doing interviews, on-court presentations?
RAFAEL NADAL: For me was much more fun before. I don't care about what I was saying. I only had a few words, that's it (smiling).
Q. So it was fun not knowing English?
RAFAEL NADAL: Was good fun but was not good.
“The Australian Open is one of my favourite tournaments and it’s great to welcome this year to Melbourne my partners at Cosentino to celebrate the upcoming opening of the Academy as well as their ongoing success in Australia and internationally. It’s always important to keep improving your game and my fellow Spaniards at Cosentino continue to work hard to achieve excellence. I’ve worked hard to arrive at this year’s Open in good condition and I’m looking forward to having the Cosentino team cheer me at the tournament!” -Rafa Nadal