Rafa: 'I've been a player too predictable'

1/10/2012Rafaholics ™

 "I've been a player too predictable"

INTERVIEW: TENNIS - The best Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal takes stock of world tennis number two and winner of 10 Grand Slam tournaments
JUAN JOSÉ MATEO -Manacor-26/12/2011

We're in the lion's lair. Rafael Nadal (Manacor, Mallorca, 1986) sits on the terrace at Manacor tennis club, where he started playing when he was a kid, and can't avoid his gaze straying to the match being played by a pair of forty-year-olds while he talks to EL PAÍS. It is frigid. He's wearing a cap. The conversation starts from one of his favorite songs, Vuela Alto (Fly high), by Julio Iglesias, with lyrics tailored his personality of iron, its vocation to self-criticism, his brilliant career and results of 2011, which has seen him crowned at Roland Garros and the Davis Cup and defeated six times by the Serbian Novak Djokovic.

Question. "Reaching your target is costly / hard to get there / and when you're there / remaining is harder / Try not to be taken off guard / or look behind / or otherwise all you managed / will be removed from you" Do you see yourself reflected in that?
Answer. I love that song and Julio Iglesias. The lyrics are good. He says interesting things, they have a good meaning ...

Q. "We do not give away anything / everything has a price / every step you go up / step that must be paid for," says the letter. What mental toll has been paid for your losses to Nole?
A. Over the years you lose a little intensity. The intensity of faith in oneself, concentration, being positive, believing that things will go well ... are in the mind. Over the years you'll lose a little. You'll burn with the competition. I have seven years without losing the first two of the world, practically. It's like when you say that I get hurt a lot. I do not get hurt much. I've had problems many times, but those who have been injured much Del Potro, Tsonga ... I, with seven years without losing the first two of the world and how it works in tennis, it is impossible that I've hurt a lot. Always the same. They talk the talk. Many people write from the statistical sense and not pure. I have had hard times, problems, but not harsh injuries ... and it seems that I get hurt a lot.

Q. "I was asking about the mental part, not the physical. "
A. It is the same. The head has been good during the first half of the year, not perfect, because I lacked a little bit more in the matches against Djokovic. But it has been good: I have accepted [the defeats], I returned to work, to fight ... but of course I've missed a tad more level tennis. When you do, your head responds better. I needed to play less predictable. I have been too predictable in many moments of the season. Those are things that must be recovered by 2012. What perhaps for January I can't get that back? Maybe not ... but I have to get it back by April. 

Q. You are very self-critical in public. Roger Federer isn't.
A. Everyone has their way of looking at things and trying to recover from situations. He has a mentality, a way of playing and some weapons different from mine. Mentally, he's been very good, though he's not distinguished for that but for his brilliant complete game. However, I on the other hand, am distinguished for my concentration, for my high rhythm of play, for a very high level of mental capability to overcome circumstances... and that, which is the best I have, is what I can't lose. At one point I can lose the forehand, but what I have actually better is my drive, leg strength, concentration and the spirit to go a little further. That's what I lacked in specific moments. What should I take back options if I want to win again.

Q.  I suppose you're referring  to winning majors.
A. I am referring to winning. Not to depend on others. To depend on myself. I've noticed that this year I have won many games,  but in more of them than I should have been more dependent on myself, rather than my  opponent. Many times I had the feeling that I had no control of  my opponent. I missed a tad of intensity in everything: legs, shots and mentally.

QThey used to call you 'Triturbo'. Are your legs at the level they were in 2010?
A. No. They've been worse. At a lower level of intensity. I attribute it all down to my head and my form of training. These last few years I've had some knee problems, and the foot problems. All my life, till I was 19 or 20 years old, I always practiced at a very high level of intensity. Because of all those things, you start taking precautions. You end up practicing with more care. This gradually takes away a little bit of your intensity. That's not the problem I have at the present moment, because I've been doing it for five years and I do it perfectly. The problem is to up my mental level and that of my legs.

Q. Djokovic has done many good things. What wrong things have you done against him?

A. Not to have gone more further.

Q. Explain.
 A. I failed in our first match at Indian Wells, where I should have won because the match was up to me  at all times, until I started to play very badly. Winning that match would have taken away the anxiety in many of the others. In Miami, I had heatstroke and in spite of that I fought till the end. I was very close to winning. The final that hurts is the one in Rome. What did I do badly? Not to go that extra bit. I did go the extra bit in the third set of the US Open final. I went to the limit and I made him go to the limit. In fact, it was because my hamstring got really tired, where I had that cramp after the match against Nalbandian, which left me hobbling a bit all tournament... I took him to the limit. If I had been fine at the start of the fourth set, we'd have seen what would have happened. I had him to break him straight off when he served first, that would have changed the match. He was groggy. Then he won that game, broke me..

Q. Your Conclusion?
A. That I have to go beyond to play more inside the court, to overwhelm. There I overwhelmed him at times, when before I had the sensation it was him who dominated the point all the time. There both of us did. It was a grueling match.  I can win or lose, but at least I need to go to the limit. To get to that point I have to do the same in the other matches, be more aggressive in those other matches, so that this is my level, so I don't have to play above it. There have been moments in 2011 when I've lacked a certain extra something. It was the second time in my career that I got to the final of three of the season's Grand Slam tournaments (In 2010). That must be accounted. How many seasons in my career have I made 10 finals? In addition Spain ended up winning the Davis Cup. It has been a good year, but the level demanded of me, both personally and from outside, is very high. The first seven months were very good. Then there were many ups and downs. After the US Open, I found it more difficult to go on. You have to be self-critical, accept what you have done badly... but you shouldn't be too self-critical. You have to be self-critical, without all the drama of it. If not, you enter into a spiral in which nothing is ever enough. It's a good mentality, but it shouldn't make you unhappy with what you do, but rather make you ambitious.

Q. What excites you in 2012? 
A. At the end of the year, which has been very good,  I felt very bad Against Tsonga. Not an absolute disaster. But I did not win [in the Masters Cup] because of being too anxious.But the match returned to be mine for the taking, without me being myself....and he's the world number six! I said to myself: "If I do a bit more, I'm close to returning to winning anything". That's the lacking motivation. Retrieving that extra desire that makes you a little more like yourself. To get back into that cruising level, and to get to a higher level than before if possible.From Indian Wells to Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in London, is where I have to get my best.

Q. Also looking to the future. What values would you want your children to inherit from you? 
A. The most important thing in this life, before anything else is to be a good/decent person, with well manners & good education. It's not for me to say that I am, but I try to be. It's important to dream about things, be involved, not someone who has no cares. For example. there are people who go to soccer matches and well, don't run. I don't understand it. The same if you're at school and you have an exam. I'm not saying you should be a phenomenon but at least show real interest in what you do. Get to it. Make efforts. Do these things with love. I don't understand things any other way.

Q. This season you've withdrawn from the Davis Cup. "They have legitimate reasons for abandoning the team, but not the ones they have given," wrote Antonio Martínez Cascales, Juan Carlos Ferrero's coach.

A. First off, I haven't retired from Davis Cup. I am leaving all these political issues behind, I'm tired. I am dedicated to tennis, which is what I do just as well.

Q. Sometimes it seems you get into all the controversies, with Pedro Muñoz, president of the federation, the Davis, the blue clay they want to use the Madrid tournament ...

A. Not that I get involved with them all, but I say what I think about what I think is wrong and can be improved.  I feel compelled.Somebody has to say it in the end, and if the others don't say it, I feel compelled to do so. Normally, if I'm the only one that thinks it, I don't say it. But if the great majority of people think it, usually I speak out. I don't get into any messes. Take the Davis Cup: before saying it publicly, I went to speak to the International Federation and explained the situation to them: "You are committing suicide." It's the truth, and I'm not saying it for my personal benefit. It's for their benefit : the reality is that things are bad and not in the favor of what is a very special competition. They don't make the effort to improve it. It can't be understood. It's not just a question of money. Why don't they have a Davis Cup spread over two years? Two rounds in the first year and two in the second. Well, because it doesn't interest them economically. When a competition is played so many years after another, it loses a bit of its value. If all the best players don't compete, it loses value. That's what they are promoting, and they don't realize it. That's my theory.

Q. What is your solution?
A. Played over two years and get the sponsors to pay more,  because you'll probably be able to get them to, as it will be more exclusive. They are the ones that complicate the situation. I'd like to play ... but I have to find some space for it Me, this one, that one, and the other.In the end, there is no room. Same with the ATP calendar, just everything. What can't be is that the tour progresses, such as in the level of the players, the physical and mental demands, the aggression with which it's played, that it's better than 10 or 15 years ago... and on top of that you have to play more. Before it was played more on the clay, more grass and is now played on hard courts.Much harder for body fitness! It's worse! We favor the tour in being harder. There is no no logic in that. It's a clinical issue. It's a health issue. That's my fight: not earning more money. It's better for everybody for the players to have a longer career. It's been demonstrated that when there are drastic changes in the ranking, people lose interest. In recent years, Federer, Murray, Djokovic and I have always been there each time. That arouses interest, because it creates rivalry, the feeling that those are special matches. People get hooked on something that already has a tradition. There have to be favorable conditions for this to happen, in my time or for those that comes later.

Source: ElPais

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