2015 featured

Interview: 'The real success is having friends, having a family, care for them and feel loved by the people'


Photo: Sergio Llamera / Argentina OpenPhoto: Sergio Llamera / Argentina Open

Interview with Rafael Nadal: the human side and the emotions of a sports legend

"The real success is having friends, having a family, care for them and feel loved by the people," says the sports great at the Argentina Open
There are two, three, four security guards with Bulldog like faces. A swarm of children huddle against a fence that two men are holding up as best as they can. There is hysteria, expectation, excitement. Access is limited. Guillermo Vilas, with a green cap, walks through the crowd, but this time another figure is shining in the background. It is Rafael Nadal, who comes on the court with a tennis bag slung over one shoulder, the reason for all the excitement. It is no wonder: it has taken the winner of 14 Grand Slams a decade to return to Buenos Aires to play the ATP tournament here. In February 2005 the Spaniard was a teenager, bold and fierce. He has returned as a legend.
Nadal - the former world No. 1, currently 4th - is an example of perseverance and steadfastness. Again and again he has had challenges, injuries undermining his career. However, time and again he has gotten back up. "I am working on things to do my best. But everything has its process. Ask Juan Martín (Del Potro) after he has returned from injury, if it is easy to play well from the start. And usually you face opponents playing against you with little pressure, with everything to gain, with little to lose. It is logical that you may have the best and worst moments. I do not know another way to try to work things out. The victories give me peace of mind, playing quietly, calmly. I am in the process. I had a somewhat long, strange appendicitis. At times I feel like I lost a bit of inner strength. I can not play all the points with the same intensity, but little by little I am recovering. Generally speaking, after all the years I have been on tour, I do not have to demand more or less of myself, I have to do what I've done all my life, which is to go out on court and if it goes well it goes well, and if it goes wrong it goes wrong. I achieved more than I ever dreamed," said Nadal, sensitive, far from that figure of a gladiator we see on the courts.
For privacy reasons his interview with LA NACION takes place in the players' area of the Argentina Open after losing in the quarterfinals in doubles, along with Juan Monaco, 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 to Federico Delbonis and Andres Molteni. There is a more human Nadal who participates in charity events, trains upcoming players in his new academy in Manacor. Removed from the intensity of the tournament, he separates himself step by step. "Off the court I am a very quiet person who always likes to have something to do. I do not like to be idle, without a plan to do something. But I am calm, I consider myself pretty easy going, I'm pretty close to my lifelong friends. I do not have that intensity that I have on the court, much less."

-Is there anxiety about the uncertainty of what will occupy you without professional tennis?
No, no, no. I have no fear of that. I like many things in life. My life can not be summarized by tennis alone. I am, I have been and I think I will be happy outside the court. I like other things, new experiences.

-What activities do you enjoy?
Well, I like sports in general. My free time is always occupied by sports. I like to play golf, I like to play football, but obviously I do very little of it because of the risk of injury. I like fishing. I have always tried to be active outside the court. I love the sea, I love being there fishing or doing any other possible activity.
-In the future do you see raising children, changing diapers?
Yeah, well. I am quite a family oriented person, my education has been aimed at family. You never know what will happen in the future but I plan to have a family, to have kids, I do not know how many. I love children, but one does not decide by himself, it takes two. I would like to have a few children, but I can not tell if it will be two or three, or four.

-You are known for your mental strength, but there must be things that give you anxiety in everyday life.
I'm not a strong character off the court, really. When I think about my personality, what it means to have a strong personality, I do not have one. I don't get angry easily. I usually get angry enough, I hate fighting with anyone. Obviously health is most important, without health there is nothing else. I like being with people, I do not like being alone. It is not fear, but the feeling of being alone I do not like, I always try to be with someone.

-In Manacor does your mother still treat you like a child?
Well, I was a kid not long ago that she doesn't. But obviously I still live at home with my parents and therefore she cooks, does my laundry (smiles). She treats me like she has treated me throughout my life. I have the freedom to make my own decisions, to come and go with more freedom than when I was 18, of course.

-Tennis players live in a kind of bubble: lodging, private security, transportation. How do you not lose touch with reality?
It's easy: keep it real or reality will hit you sooner or later. Nobody stays in the spotlight for life. Everything has an end. I see no one winning for life and one has to know that success is fleeting. The real success is having friends, having a family, care for them and feeling loved by the people. The public is very important, but what is more important is feeling loved by those who are close to you.

-It is more valuable to be remembered as a good person rather than a sports legend, right?
In the end the sport remains, what you have achieved, and that is fine, but when it ends and you go to the places you will be treated by the legacy you have left, and your legacy is not titles, but the friends you made on the tour, how well you behaved with the public around the world. And I hope that I have behaved well over the years. I think so and will go where people will appreciate me, both tournament organizers and the people of the tour I hope to stay connected to.

-What is the most pleasant and most uncomfortable about being famous?
I think being famous for fame itself is not fun. At the end of the day, being famous has no value. Overall satisfaction comes from people recognizing you for what you have achieved. Fame can make you feel proud and pleased if you earned it by doing well, and not only on court. I have been fortunate. I would be quite arrogant and ungrateful if I complained seeing the circumstances that so many people in the world live in. I have a lucky life with all that has happened to me and with everything I have. I do things that I love and thank all the people who love me in different places. They are very beautiful things and I can only be grateful.

-During your life you suffered many injuries. Did you get stronger through adversity?
More than strength it is the passion and enthusiasm for what I was doing before the injury. Throughout my career I have always had the inner motivation of wanting to overcome these situations and look forward to coming back. All these negative things that have happened in my career have also made me appreciate and enjoy the good times. It is better to have no injuries, but going through bad times also helps you to value the good times.

(translated by Chris Boardman for Rafaholics.com)

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