interview lefigaro

Rafael Nadal: I feel support by the French public


Taking the title in Paris, Rafael Nadal remains on a winning streak over Novak Djokovic in the Rome tournament, last week. Photo credits: FRANCESCA CECIARINI/cord/press SPORTS/press SPORTS

INTERVIEW - Roland-Garros champion, seeking a record seventh title in Paris, discusses the half in confidence. And he speaks of art.

Friday night at the opening of an exhibition of four artists at the gallery Balearic Kartner, we met Rafael Nadal . Black shirt, jeans and an engaging smile, the King of Clay, we talked a lot of tennis and a little art before facing Italy's Simone Boletti Tuesday.

LE FIGARO. -According to you, what was the best of all your Roland-Garros?
Rafael NADAL.- (Without hesitation) 2008. From the quarter final on, I never played better than that year. I defeated Verdasco with a very tight score but then, I had a fantastic match against Almagro. And the semi-final against Djokovic was the best match I ever played in Paris. 

You have are regaining the upper hand against him but did that series of defeats against Djokovic last year and the one in Melbourne at the start of this year make you think that you were finished? 
No. When the match is over and we analyze this into perspective a number of things. At Indian Wells, I played better than him in the first set and early in the second, then I made a big mistake and I lost. In Miami, I lost 7-6 in the third set. At the U.S. Open after winning the third set I had openings in the fourth. In Melbourne, I could have lost in four sets, but I should have won the fifth. I was not far away and even if I played well, I was not at my best. So if I play better, why I would not win next time?

You state that there is no discomfort between you and the Parisian public but didn’t the atmosphere around the lost match against Söderling in 2009 hasn't scarred you?  

Seriously, I do not see where the problem is. When I walk the streets here, Parisians show me their affection. All the time. I also understand when I'm on the court, I had great success here and the crowd wants to support my opponent. This is something I respect. I love this tournament, I love this stage and it's hard for me to express something negative. But I will not lie. This happened in 2009 when I lost was disappointing. I lived a difficult time, and feel that the whole stadium was - not for my opponent - but against me, it was hard. With the exception of that day, the crowd has never been against me in Paris and I'm talking with my heart. Last year in the final against Roger (Federer), I have not felt the public against me. It was split 50-50. And generally, I feel very well supported by the French public. 

You are seen as somebody who is physically very strong by nature but to what point do you have to work to fully gain from those genetic capabilities?  

I always worked hard on court. And Outside, we mostly focus on preventing injuries. But today, it’s not like 10 or 15 years ago when I would grain for 6 hours a day. When I started on tour, if I didn’t train for 6 hours a day, I would lose my rhythm completely. Today, if I don’t touch a racquet for 12 or 14 days, I don’t necessarily have bad sensations when I resume training.

Is that because of your knee that your workouts are alleviated? 
In general, I need less training than before, but it's the same for everyone. We work more when you're young. And when I'm going to train, it is usually a specific purpose, to improve my service return, my backhand, etc.. And Toni discuss is also part of the preparation. Anyway, with him, we will ensure that I play as often as possible.

Do You see an artistic dimension in tennis?  

The image of a beautiful tennis court can be art. In the game itself, the dimension "duel", especially in big games with lots of tension, brings something on an emotional level that is unique and hard to find in another sport. 

You have an appointment in a gallery. Are you an art lover and do you have art at home?

I do not know much about art. I just know I like this and not that, this or that style. For example, I like the canvas that is there from Chiang Ricard (it shows). And I can not really have pictures of my house, because I have no home to me. I live with my parents.

And you as an artist, what are you worth?

The truth is that I suck. I am unable to draw a house. And with the music, it's the same. I am a real disaster. At school, I was just average.

And in which material subject did you get the highest scores then? 

The physical education course and history, too. But I did not have much time to go to school. Three am, two hours in the afternoon. The rest of the time I was on the court or a football field. And when do my homework, I was completely exhausted. But I finished my secondary education compulsory and three months that I had, then I could come and play juniors at Roland Garros. It is only then that I decided to dedicate myself to tennis ... 

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