Rafael Nadal Interview SPORT/ES

12/02/2010Rafaholics TM

Rafa Nadal, hoping the first day

It is six o'clock in the afternoon in London. The ship must carry Rafa Nadal's O2 Arena to the hotel that hosts awaits him at the dock. The Thames is the scene in which the world number one gives SPORT a relaxed and candid interview in which surprises us once again, by showing humility despite all his successes. He is treated like a star because he is, but he remains the first son, nephew and grandson of Nadal, the guy that when it comes to Manacor is simply Rafael.

Rafa, 2010 has been a season to enshrine...

The best season of my life, no doubt. Could be compared with 2008 but this was much more exciting and I'm more satisfied with this season than that. For me it was my best pending end of the year, it's an important and positive advance.

Positive because, although this year ends, 2011 is just around the corner and with it the Australia Open, the next challenge ...

I can not deny that the last two weeks of January are very important to me. In Australia I want to reach my best to have any chance. It would be great to win the four "majors" in a row. But as with the U.S. Open, it's no obsession.

Winning all four in one go, would you accept to be placed with the best ever?

Of course I like to be part of tennis history and be among the seven who have won all four 'major' or have six Montecarlo, five Roland Garros, the two Roland Garros-Wimbledon, the 81 wins on the ground ... But that measure it at the end of my career. I am 24 years old ...

Yes your progression can be assessed. Has it been steady, does it have a ceiling?

Over the years I have been improving and I hope that this continues. When I get to go training, I get up with the ambition of getting better every day. It is a work of years and the improvement always is shown by winning matches because that's when you gain confidence, you dare to try things and that embodies your progress. The change has been mainly in the faster surfaces.

But the ambition looks the same ...

The ambition is the same as the first day. While obviously there are occasional letdown, as when I won the U.S. Open. You note your head, you 'plop' [huh???] and your physical state. I had won the last really important tournament that I was missing...

Do you see yourself able to repeat or better this year?

I see repeating as being complicated. The difficulty is extreme. Although, if you've done it once can you repeat? Yes, of course, but if I had to bet my money, do not bet on it. My goal is day to day and as you never know what can happen, you must have worked long enough to be prepared if the opportunity arrives.

And is prepared for when things end up?

I think so, I think so. I love tennis, but more competition ... and obviously, I like many things in life outside the tennis world. When you touch me I will say good-bye, proud of what I've done and very happy because I never thought what happened to me. Stop doing what you love but life goes on with many things that are equal or better.

What is the hardest after eight years on the professional circuit?

For me the difficulty is that there is so much competition. Every day stress, every day with the hope of continuing to give the maximum, the routine of everyday life. What's tiring is that after finishing up here (in London) I don't have a month off and another month and a half after good practice ... And so a year, and another and another. There comes a time when one needs to stop. Or stop you or your body stops you. [too tired to figure out]

As it stops for you. How are the knees?

The pain is forgotten but you have to control the evolution.

The last two years have been a 'roller coaster'. 2009 starts strong and then ...

The first six months of 2009 were the best of my life. Then I started with the knee and some personal problems and it affected me in the head. At the end of the year turned out to be difficult, hard, but luckily I ended up winning the Davis Cup with my teammates. It was a positive ending but it was clear that changes were needed, I had to work diligently to get my level.

Were you worried that the titles did not come?

I needed that confidence and that calm to win but was prepared to choose a big way. Retiring against Murray in Australia was a blow to me.

Was that the ugly moment, as your uncle Toni says, of 2010?

It was difficult because I had to overcome a history of injuries which was becoming very hard.

We had been on the back of Australia ...

Yes, but the good thing is that the level was still there... and high. I had a good feeling and although I was not winning, I had the 'feeling' that I could do, something that happened to me in late 2009. On returning to clay, I had more nerves, more pressure, but I ihad a slightly wider margin. In Monte Carlo everything changed.

Roland Garros, Wimbledon, U.S. Open ... It's hard to choose.

I would stay with Roland Garros and U.S. Open. In Paris it was vital, he had a thorn, and in New York I had the chance, I played my best match here and closed a circle.

What about all the praise that's filled your ears?

A year ago it seemed that I would not return and now I look like the best ever. But the praise is not new. And I always say the same thing: the important thing is to accept the victories with the same calmness with which I accept defeat and the bad times. We must find a balance and be clear where you are and how you got where you've arrived, that is working. We must continue to do so while maintaining the ambition.

Do you feel more responsibility now that you're number one?

No, no, the same as it was number two. It is not something that I particularly care about. Yes I wanted to finish the year as number one. I got it. But being number one is not any responsibility for me.

And the danger for you, where do they come?

Of all. There are many oppoentns. Are the usual as Federer, Djokovic and Murray, Del Potro again, which is great, Cilic, who was injured and then rolled himself. I do not think much of them as day to day. I just worry about the opponent that I have to face at that moment and try to win. This is a league (there he reveals his passion for football) and at the end of the year we'll see how it went. In the end, tennis is a very simple sport: if you win you're up, otherwise, no. January 1 will start from scratch, as I have always done. And so far it has worked very well.

Absolutely ...

If anything is clear Rafa Nadal is that there is life, and much, after hanging up the racquet. In addition to his legacy on the track, he and Roger Federer, committed to the sport they love, let the example of the 'cracks' are concerned about the future of tennis and fought together for more rest (seven weeks from 2012) will favor future generations. "We are fortunate to have a very good circuit, which other sports do not. But it is very difficult to change or improve and that makes people have very long careers, there is a long hiatus. It has taken a small step forward. The above we have shown great interest and that is a force that ultimately favors the changes, although a small step for me is not enough. Probably I do not see benefit. I have 24 years, and I do not mean it will stop next year, but the changes are slow and if you have to do more modifications, we know how much later. But no matter. If not for me, at least that future generations can live in somewhat calmer tennis and a longer stroke which, after all, is what we all want. Because we love what we do and the more years we are here the better. We leave it to the age in which, for many, begins working life. I wish I could play until 35 instead of up to 28 or 30 but I do not see myself playing for 35 years. No way ... (We think) but you never know" 

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