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Rafael Nadal Interview
Posted on June 11, 2007
Day 15 - An interview with Rafael Nadal - Sunday, June 10, 2007
Q. In the final set, you are constantly under pressure to hold serve because, you know, that's the only way for Roger to get back into the match, and you had served so well in the fourth set. Would you comment a bit about the pressure you felt to keep holding serve, time after time.
RAFAEL NADAL: Sure, I feel a lot of pressure, no? Well, it was tough moments because you are close to the win, and it is important win, another important win for me. And you lost little bit the edge sometimes when you start the game. When I start -- when I am preparing for serve the first point of every game, I lost little bit the edge.
But, well, I play good my games. He had some mistakes with the returns. That's helping me a little bit. But I play good with my forehand, serving well, serving with good security. It's fine? Security? Okay. With security and one serve in his backhand for try to touch the first ball with my forehand, with just try to have the control the point like this.
Q. You saved 16 breakpoints out of 17. Especially those ten in the first set were the decisive ones, you think, they decided more than the others, because if you had lost the first set would it have been more and more difficult?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, the match continuing after the first set, no? But sure, it's more important to have the first set, because, well, when you win the first set, you know, he need to win three more consecutive sets. That's always is difficult. And I know if I win the first set, well, he has to run more for try to beat me.
Well, I know if I play a long match, I have little bit more advantage -- not more, because Roger is very good physically, too. But my feeling is that. And that's it. That was important moment, sure.
Q. After the match, when you were talking to the crowd, you said you felt bad that you had to beat Roger. Can you explain why you felt bad beating him.
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, I didn't say nothing about that, no. But, sure. No, I say I am sorry for Roger, no, because he lost -- he lost four -- he lost a Grand Slam here final. So sure, it is never easy, no?
So I want to congratulate him, not just for his tournament and for his season, I want to congratulate him because he lost a big chance for him for have the four Grand Slams. And he be always with very good calm, accepting very well the situation. So -- you understand?
RAFAEL NADAL: Okay.
Q. You just won your third consecutive French Open, and you have a 21-0 winning record here, never lost a match. Can you tell us your emotions, how you feel about such a wonderful accomplishments.
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, sure, very happy, no? For me have three Grand Slams is a dream. Well, when I am started the season in Australia, I was playing not very well. And I can't imagine something like this at this moment, no, so winning five titles and three Masters Series, and this one.
So, very, very happy about my game and not only my performance on clay, but on hard, too, before the clay season.
Q. People often think of you as a guy who stays in the back, who plays a lot of points, plays long points, wins points. But, you know, today so many of the points were played almost at Federer's pace, three, four, five shots, and still you were able to win most of those points. Is this something that maybe you were helped by the hard court season in terms of finishing points, or were you just ready for anything?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, that's always depends of the moments, depends of the confidence of the moment. But sure, I say, the last days or the last month, no, I feel better player this year than last year. I am more -- I think I am a little bit more complete. I can go to the net sometimes. Well, here, it's tough, especially against Roger, because he has unbelievable passing shot, backhand and forehand.
But I know I can go to the net and have better chances than before. I can play little bit more aggressive with my forehand. I improved little bit the backhand more, too. So I feel better player.
You never know what's going on after this tournament, no? But sure, I am very happy about my clay season, about my performance this year, because I win a lot of matches, but I win a lot of matches playing well. Last year I won a lot of matches without playing very well.
Q. Was there anything strange about the way he played today? The way he slowed down? The way he was carrying on? Did you sense that there was anything wrong with him or do you think it was just tactical?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think always the finals is difficult play very good, especially, when you are playing final of Grand Slam, and important like this for him, and for me too, no? It's a lot of pressure. So lot of things is going on on your mind when you are playing, no? So it's very, very tough, play the best tennis like this.
The important moments just try to be with the calm. I know it's always is very, very tough, but just try to be with calm in important moments. I just think about that.
Q. It's your third consecutive win in Roland Garros. Is there indifference in the way you feel between first, second, and third? The best time, was it the first, was it the second, or are they all just the same?
RAFAEL NADAL: No comparison. Always different feeling, different situations, because it's not the same moment of your career. So first year was very emotional because it was the first. Second year was very emotional because I come back after injury. And this year, I am very happy because I play my best tennis here.
Q. Is it possible to explain how difficult it is to come into this event when '99% of the people are expecting you to win, and you do win? But how difficult is that to continually have to win when people are expecting you to win?
RAFAEL NADAL: It's tough. It's always is difficult. But I try always think about me, about how is my feelings, not think about what is the feelings of the people. Just think about myself. I think about find my best performance, my best tennis. And for the rest, I know I'm going to be -- before the tournament, I know I'm going to be little bit more nervous than for other tournaments. I need to accept that for try to play good here.
After that, it is difficult start playing very well the tournament, lot of pressure, and lot of -- well, everybody says you have to play good here. You have to win. It's tough, because in the first matches it's always is difficult play well in anyplace. Because you need little bit adapt, and you have the adaptation when you are playing matches.
And especially in one site like this. The Center Court is very big, little bit wind always. It's always different than in other places. But I know if I can be concentrate and with the best illusion the first days and try to win the first match without playing my best tennis, after that, the confidence is coming back.
Because the best tennis is close. It's not so far, like four months away. Well, four months before, I was for eight months without winning a title. And this little bit more difficult play very good, no, because you are without not the best confidence.
But right now I play very good clay season, very good tournaments in the last three months. And I know that my best tennis is very close. So after the three matches I started playing so much better. Playing very well. I start playing very well against Lleyton. And when I am playing very well, always, the pressure is less.
Q. You've proven that you're the master of this surface and this event, and is even if you never won again here, you would be remembered as a great French Open champion. So does that mean that you are more focused now on winning a slam on another surface? Does it make that goal bigger for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Winning in any Grand Slam always is very important for me, no? But the most important for me always is not winning the Grand Slam, the most important for me is feeling I am improving my tennis, feeling I am playing well. And I know if I'm feeling that things, I'm going to have my chances for win more Grand Slams.
But the thing is I have to play win; I have to play good for try to play and win another Grand Slam off this surface, no, off clay. But always my preoccupation is do the things hundred percent good for improve every day.
Q. Sometimes you seem really unbeatable here. You seem to beat everybody. And do you think sometimes you have now a race with Justine Henin, because she has also won three times in a row, so who is going to win most with this record going on? She won three times in a row; you won three times in a row. Do you sometimes feel you have a race now with Justine Henin's title? Who is going to end up catching up with you? Maybe is your opponent like a 10-year-old who is going to catch up with you in seven years in Roland Garros?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't understand the last question.
Q. The last question is, who is going to end up beating you? Is the guy who is going to end up beating you maybe only ten years old now? How long is this going to last? You're so young. You're so young and at the top of your career, still at 21. You might keep on winning like this.
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, I don't think so, no. If he has 10 years old, I'm going to win for ten more years, so I don't know. I really don't know. So maybe the guy who beat me don't have ten years old. I don't know how is his age. But next year I come back here and I know I going to have very good chances for lose. So every year, every year is different, and every year is very tough.
And, well, I win a lot of matches on clay, that's true. But I always have chances to lose. When I go on court, I'm not 100% I'm going to win. I know I can lose.
Q. You received the trophy from Guga, which is a three-time champion here. How did you feel about that? And you talked about that when you were in the middle of the court after the trophy.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it's very nice for me, no. Guga was unbelievable player. He's trying to come back. So that's very nice news for the tennis. It's difficult come back after a lot of injuries, but he is very tough mentally, no? So, I hope he going to recover and come back to the tour because he's a great champion, nice person.
Q. I'd like to know do you think it's a mental thing or a technical thing, the fact that Roger Federer today missed 29 forehands, which usually is his best shot, and also, that out of the first ten breakpoints, five were unforced errors by him? Do you think it was mental? He was feeling pressure? You were putting more on his forehand for some reason or just a coincidence? What is your opinion about it?
RAFAEL NADAL: I really don't know, no. You can ask him. Because I don't like to speak a lot about Roger, especially if I don't know. So I really don't know. Always is tough.
So Roger sometimes play very, very aggressive, especially with his forehand. But anyway, for me, he has the best forehand of the tour, no? But, yes, the truth is he had some mistakes today, more than usual.
Q. Compared to Hamburg, in your loss against Roger, have you learned specific things just before playing against him today?
RAFAEL NADAL: I just really believe about me. I just try to play my best tennis. I am not worrying about something special for play against Roger, no. When I am coming here, I'm going to say the same right now like the beginning. I am not thinking about Roger. I think about Del Potro in first round, after Cipolla in second round, after Montanes in the third round. So I am working about try to find my best performance and my best tennis, just this.
Q. Two things, one, from the first match till the last match, do you think this was your best Roland Garros? And second, what is nicer, a comeback Real Madrid win or Roland Garros title?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, for me Roland Garros. For him, Real Madrid. Well, yeah, playing my best Roland Garros, maybe. I think that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish, please.
RAFAEL NADAL: Thank you.
Q. Well, I just wanted to make a comment. If you'd lost against Federer today, maybe you would have given him the clue, and he would have understood the way you can play?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, this is not a problem. You know, there are people who can play better on some surfaces than on others. And had Federer won here, I would have finished a very beautiful season on clay. And it was totally possible somebody like Federer could have won, especially here in Roland Garros.
Q. When we asked Roger what he thought about the difference between the ten points when you won, the breakpoints you won, and the match in general, he said it was your physical condition that made the difference. That you were very fit today. So would you say that the major difference was that you were very fit and you managed to play very good tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, really, I don't know. During the entire match, I fought on each ball. I was perfectly aware of the fact that he had more opportunities at the beginning, because he had more breakpoints and he could serve better than I did at the beginning. But then I was fortunate. I made no mistake otherwise. And I managed all this quite well.
I didn't make mistakes either. And he had this breakpoint that he lost on my forehand, and he lost the first set. And I think it was important for me to win the first set. But, you know, his level of tennis was very good, and anything could have happened today.
Q. I think you said in English that it's very difficult to play a final in a Grand Slam tournament than on any other tournaments because of what you have in your mind at that moment. So what did you have in your mind during this final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, no, I said it's before the match. Because you have a dream, you have this dream of winning. And not just here in Roland Garros, but it's something which is quite difficult, you know, three titles in a row. You have this pressure, this dream about winning, so you have more pressure.
And I guess it also had an impact on him, because he had this dream of winning the four titles in the same year. So, you know, we all feel these different pressures for different kind of reasons.
And it's true, a Grand Slam tournament is different, and the final is different from the finals of any other tournament. So, as for tennis, I think, you know, that there are matches which are more beautiful than others.
Q. The breakpoints that you saved, do you reckon this was a turning point of the match or else, when did you think you were going to win the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I knew I was going to win when I won the match ball. But it's also true that at 40-Love, I was thinking, "Well, no, you should win it."
I was very much focused. I try to think about nothing else. It was very important, the breakpoints in the first sets and at the beginning of the third. He'd won the second set, and I wanted to make a difference immediately at the beginning of the third set.
Q. How did you feel when people walked up, applauded you when you walked on the court, and then you heard them applaud even more when Roger walked on the court?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, nothing, really.
Q. Did you expect it?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, of course I expected it. He was fighting for something absolutely historical, and he is No. 1.
Q. Did your tactic insist in changing Roger's game to make him make mistakes?
RAFAEL NADAL: My tactics was to play my best tennis and do what I could. Then to play his backhand, and make him feel he had to shoot on that side to win points. Then I tried to open on my right, but each time the court was getting more narrow.
Q. Your service percentage was exceptional, and I was going to come back on the third set, as well, because you played more on his forehand. And this was noticed by people like Conchita Martinez when you were playing?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, you're right. That's true. Of course, you know, at the beginning you can play with this margin, a very small one. And then little by little, this margin increases, and I can play on his backhand. And as the match goes on, I'm no longer running on his backhand.
But, you know, when the court is very small, and all you can do is hit the ball back, you just play this way. And, mentally, he started making mistakes.
Q. You just said it was your best Roland Garros, but the three tournaments you played were three victories. So what have you improved, and how can you tell this was the best one?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I've played many other good matches. Well, you know, the match against Hewitt was great, against Carlos, it was great, Djokovic was a beautiful semifinal. And today, given everything that was at stake, I played a very serious match.
Q. So you're still improving your tennis, and now we'll start wondering who can defeat you?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, that's not true. You know, I lost in Hamburg. And against Hewitt, we had a tiebreak. So, you know, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Q. When you arrived here, you said you were a bit tired, after Hamburg, you were tired with the routine of the tour. And after 15 days here, you've won, and now you're going to fly to Queen's to play again. So, will you take time to relax?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, this is the tournament that I've played with the greatest happiness and joy in all my life. So I'm now going to play on grass, and this is going to be a difficult tournament. And I don't know what the draw is by the way. Do you know the draw? No, I'm just talking to Tom, because it would have been difficult had it been against Johansson. So I don't know. I'll look at the draw. I don't know.
But any of these players are favorites for this tournament in Queen's. So I have very little time ahead of me. I'll get there tomorrow, and then I'll do what my body allows in terms of practice.
On Tuesday, I'll play a double with Felix. And I'll play one match before I start my simples. Then I'll try and do something that will be useful for Wimbledon.
Q. You also said it was your best Roland Garros tournament. So was it better, the level of the final? Was it better this year than last year?
RAFAEL NADAL: I can't tell you, because I didn't watch the match. So I can't tell you. It's very difficult for me to answer this question today.
Q. Your coach is your uncle, what's different in terms of relationship between the coach and the player?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, nothing. Nothing special. Nothing particular. My uncle is my coach, that's true, so it helps me be a better tennis player.
Q. At the beginning of the clay season, you said it was very difficult to win these titles, and win Roland Garros. It would be difficult for you to win Roland Garros this year. What is your feeling now that you've achieved that?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I never lied here. Winning this title three times in a row is not something unfeasible, because I did it. But it's almost impossible. And in my mind, it seemed very big.
Q. And it would be impossible to do it again?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I've done it again. So I've played at a very high level for six, seven weeks to achieve that. I was close to losing one match, but I won. So it couldn't be better, and I'm very happy with all this. I'm very happy with everything that's happened over the last weeks and over the last month. And I'm even more willing to practice so that the end of my season is even better than that of last week.
Q. Federer is probably the best player in the world and he's won all three Grand Slam tournaments last year, except that of Roland Garros. Do you think this is something that he can achieve one day?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, what Federer has done is something that almost nobody has done in history, so what are you going to ask of Federer? What he does is exceptional already. He's played 18, 19 tournaments last year, and he came in final in all of them except one, the one when he lost against Murray. So I know how difficult it is to be playing Toronto, and Cincinnati with the heat and all this. It is the fourth year when he'll try and be No. 1. He's been No. 1 for three years. And last day I was watching the number of points that Sampras had when he was No. 1, I think he had 5500 -- I think it was 4800 points, and Federer has scored 8,000 points. So, I think I don't need to say -- there is no need to say more.
Q. You're going to play Wimbledon now, what are your expectations. Would you like to make it to the final?
RAFAEL NADAL: I'm not going to go to play the final in Wimbledon. I'm just going to play Wimbledon, and then progress as the tournament goes on. You need to be in the race. So I'll go there, try to do my best.
But playing a final again is very difficult. You're talking about a surface that is, obviously, not my favorite surface. But I want to do my best, and get in Wimbledon with the best possible preparation. And if I don't succeed, I'll go back home happy, because I've done what I could.
I'll be arriving in Queen's in a few days. We've rented a house so that I can practice. It's very nearby the tennis courts, so I'll have time to practice. It's going to be a difficult tournament, but I have great hopes and great expectations as well.
Q. We're halfway through the season, two Grand Slams, and the hard season that's going to start. So you're catching up with Federer. Do you feel closer to him?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, figures say that this is true. I can't remember how many points there is between us, 700? Almost 700. So, I don't think that's enough. Yeah, it's true that this year we're very close in number of points. But, you know, he is the favorite for the hard surface season anyway.
Thank you very much.