Rafael Nadal Interview - French Open, May 25Posted on May 25, 2010
6‑2, 6‑2, 6‑2
THE MODERATOR: Questions in English, please.
Q. Can you tell me what was your reaction, your feeling on court for the first match this year? You had lost last year. What was the feeling, in general?
RAFAEL NADAL: I played really bad. (laughter.) That was today.
I was practicing really well all the days, but I played very well three tournaments. But, you know, first day here is always a little bit more nervous than usual.
I think I played bad, but I won anyway, without problems, so that's always important and positive thing. But I think I can do it much ‑‑ a lot of better, much better next round.
Q. What did you know about your opponent before the match? What do you think of his game?
RAFAEL NADAL: Not much. I didn't know nothing before the match. I think he's a good player. He can play well in the future, but you never know. Sure, he has good potential with good serve and he's fast. That's very important.
And later from the baseline I think he can play well, but we will see. Sure, how old is him?
RAFAEL NADAL: When you have 18 and you can play, so for sure he gonna has his good chances to be in the tour very soon.
Q. Did you ask other players about him before, or did you just play?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I didn't ask a lot, no? I know him a little bit. I asked a few ones, but I didn't ask a lot. I didn't know a lot about him before.
Q. Coming into this tournament, everyone says that you are the man to beat. Basically it's gonna be you winning the fifth title. What do you think about that? Are you the clear favorite of this tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: You didn't ‑‑ you wasn't here the first day in the press conference, no? No, because every day is the same question.
For me I told is the fifth year in a row I answer the same question, no? For me, the favorite or no favorite ‑‑ I know you have to write something ‑‑ but the only favorite is the players who gonna be in the final next Sunday, no? Or after two Sundays, no?
But right now is very difficult to speak about the favorite. I know sure I am one of the players that if I play my best tennis I gonna have chances to play good tournament, but a lot of players think the same than me, I think.
Q. Were you disappointed not to play on the central court, or do you think you would have been even more nervous?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. The nervous for me doesn't matter to play in the center court or in the court 16. For me, the nervous is because of first round of Roland Garros. Always the feeling is a little bit more different, and I have to pass this day.
I remember the four times that I won here. I always had first matches really bad matches, no? For me, I'm not worry about that. That's the true.
For me was a little bit surprised to be nervous like this, because for moments ‑‑ other the years I didn't practice well before the tournament because I was a little bit more nervous to play here, but not this year.
I practiced really well, so probably I hope is only a little bit accident today. But I think I am playing enough well. Not play in the center court for me doesn't matter. I play where the organization want me to play, and if I win matches, I gonna have the chance to play there.
Q. Your uncle Toni was a little critical about the crowd here last year when you went out. Did you feel that they were supportive to you today?
RAFAEL NADAL: You can ask my uncle, not me. (laughter.)
I didn't criticize. I didn't say nothing against them, the crowd. Not one time. You can ask Toni.
Q. But today...
RAFAEL NADAL: I played against the French. When I played Madrid, the crowd support me. That's normal thing on the sport, and that's good for the sport.
Q. How was it for you today? Was it easy? Have you been surprised by Gianni Mina?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, wasn't easy. Never easy. I was surprised, no? I was more surprised about myself than him, because he's a good player, a young player, and always young player have good potential and nothing to lose in big match like today.
So for him is a perfect history and the perfect moment, I think, no? But I play worse than I thought before the match, but that's happen. (Smiling.)
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish, please.
Q. I had the impression that the balls were lighter. Could you practice on center court?
RAFAEL NADAL: I practiced two days on center court. I don't know about the balls. I think they were perhaps a wee bit heavier. Well, of course they were new balls, but I practiced two days really well. There was no problem with the balls.
I managed to win or to go through three tournaments with the same balls, no problem.
Q. You've just said that you played badly. Can you tell us why technically?
RAFAEL NADAL: I played poorly because I made a lot of unforced errors. Ball was not doing what I wanted to do. I didn't play well. That's the truth. That's why I couldn't play my game as usual.
I did things in such a way that I couldn't play well compared with what I usually do. It's true. I'm a bit nervous or stressed. You know, it's the first round. The first round is always difficult on this tournament.
But I know I have to refocus and calm down and move forward. I think I will have no problems in continuing and moving forward.
Q. Tell me if I'm wrong, I think I remember that you didn't really play well during three games.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, he won a number of games, that's true, because I didn't play well. I made a lot of unforced errors. I think I didn't really serve well and I was playing too much from the baseline and I couldn't really move around the way I wanted to because I was too nervous.
I was playing shorter balls or shots. I didn't have time to change directions when I needed to, so this is one of the reasons why his game was made easier.
But each time, as I say, my first round I played badly.
Q. I think I read somewhere that you had practiced and you had trained...
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, this is what I said. Well, I was asked if this week would prepare for Roland Garros, and I answered, Okay. It's not the week in Rome like this week is a practice before Roland Garros. Rome is a full‑fledged tournament just like Roland Garros is.
This being said, practice is not just three days. It's about training and practicing all the time. I was ready for Roland Garros. Three days will not suffice.
Q. After today, after this experience, what do you think you should do to impose your style?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think I should continue playing the way I've played for a while now. Today unfortunately I couldn't really play the way I wanted. I was a bit tense, more than usual.
To tell you the truth, I feel really at ease when I practice, so I should hit more strongly and I should let myself go for these shots.
Q. Recently you've talked about the work you had to put in to reach this level and to live up to your own ambitions. I suppose that at your age, you're 23, this is good. By that I mean this is very positive. You're very young. Still, though, in addition to this there is motivation plus all the other tournaments you've won. What are your motivations?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I'm almost 24, absolutely. I'm always, always motivated; otherwise it would be a pity if I had no more dreams at 23 or 24. I'm very competitive, and my ideal is to be the best. Not against the others, but I want to be better compared with my own self.
You know, last year I had some problems. I was injured. It was a bit complicated. This was truly a challenge for me to catch up and to reach my best level. This is a genuine personal satisfaction.
When I win Roland Garros or Monte‑Carlo, I'm so happy. It's happiness which is immediate, but it's the climax of a series, a streak of events and tournaments. Of course I'm very happy. If I win Roland Garros, of course I'll be very happy.
If I lose, I'm aware that at least I'll have done my best. I think that last year helped me considerably to move forward.
Q. What is it that you have to do to win? Because you said you didn't play well and you were nervous.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don't know. I think there was a difference of games and levels between myself and my opponent. It's the first time for him, you know, playing at this level. I think there's some stress.
He could have played really poorly, but, well, maybe he didn't play his best tennis. I think that if it had been a tougher opponent I would have played better. Maybe I thought I had enough leeway to play this way, and this is it. It's the way it is.
Q. Next round is against Zeballos. Do you know him? Does he play as a left‑handed player?
RAFAEL NADAL: I know him a little because I have friends who know him. I was told he serves pretty well, that he hits very strongly. Therefore, I have to be more regular and more consistent.
I'll see if I can read his game, but we'll see in the future. I trust I'll play well. I'm quite prepared for this. Well, at least to try and win the match.
Q. What about the circumstances in general, or the weather conditions, rather? In Madrid it was sometimes warm or cold. What do you prefer?
RAFAEL NADAL: The sun. I love the sun. The sun is like happiness. When it's a bit like a dull‑type of weather like this, I don't really like this type of weather. When I play tennis I'd rather play in the sun.
The ball bounces higher. When it was really sunny, I can tell you the balls are a lot lighter. Today it was a bit heavier, so I didn't play really well.
Q. I'd like to know something out of curiosity. Has it happened to you to be faced with a player who serves that strongly?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, usually when people play on my backhand, no problem, because I play backhand, and I can play crosscourt. He didn't do this, but he's young. Young players have their own shots that are a bit novel shots.
So he played on my forehand, as well. So anyway, I know him well.
Q. Usually you play one day out of two. One day every other day. How are you going to manage this time off?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I'm really happy in Paris. I have colleagues at the hotel. We enjoy it. Paris is so pretty. We walk around. Tomorrow I'll be free. I'll walk around. And.
Like having a day off to unwind, to calm down, to sometimes watch tennis, as well, and to just relax and enjoy it.
Well, of course, I'll practice for one hour or one and a half hours.