World No. 1 Rafael Nadal returns to tournament play today for the first time since his quarterfinal loss to David Ferrer at the Australian Open in January. Nadal took a few weeks off to recover from a quad injury he sustained in the defeat, and then won both matches last weekend in Spain’s first round Davis Cup win over Belgium.
Rafa opens his Indian Wells campaign Saturday against Rik de Voest. Nadal has won Indian Wells twice during odd years in 2007 and 2009.
Q. Can you talk about your experience at the University of Oregon and the exhibition, how much fun it was?
RAFAEL NADAL: It was fantastic, I think, no? It was very, very nice event, I think, so the people there was really fantastic. Unbelievable crowd.
The event I feel like Nike was really unbelievable, so thanks a lot to Phil Knight, thanks a lot to Nike, because I arrived there on Sunday night and everything was really fantastic.
Q. Can you talk about the player party last night? Any impressions?
RAFAEL NADAL: Very good party, I think. Is very good of the organization, my opinion. And good I was there with the friends, and enjoying a little bit the evening, for sure.
Q. You played doubles so well. Why bother with singles?
RAFAEL NADAL: Better. I think I play better doubles, no?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. So I enjoy a lot playing doubles with Marc. But, yeah, it’s better life if you play doubles than singles, that’s for sure.
But that’s not the case. Tomorrow gonna be difficult match on singles. So I have to be ready for the singles, and the day is a little bit more important for me.
Q. Can you just take us back after the Australian Open, the injury, going back home, how you were feeling, what you were thinking, and moving through Davis Cup.
RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing. That’s part of the game. Last year I won a lot of things and I was healthy for almost all the time. This year I started the season with a little bit of unlucky because I get sick in Doha, and I was playing really well.
And after that, I think I didn’t felt the ball perfect in Australia the week before and the first week of the tournament. I think the virus stays there already, so…
But anyway, I passed the first round, the first week, and I was in the second week. Second week I was in a good position, because against Cilic I started to play much better physically and I was playing good tennis. So I had very good match against Cilic there.
Very disappointing against David Ferrer second game I felt the leg. That’s what happened. I tried to recover very fast and practice in Mallorca, so that’s what I did. I played Davis Cup last week, and I’m here to try my best.
Q. You have many, many matches obviously with Roger, but you’ve also, especially recently, spent a lot of time doing the exhibitions, enjoying each other’s home towns, laughing a lot. What makes Roger special for you as a person? Why do you like him so much?
RAFAEL NADAL: You always do difficult questions to answer. But, no, seriously, I think Roger, for sure he’s a good person, but at the same time he’s a good friend of mine at this moment, no?
We spend a lot of time together, exhibitions in December, exhibitions last years, this year already in Abu Dhabi, we played in Doha, too. Not exhibitions, but we are there and doing events for the ATP all the time.
For sure, our relationship is getting closer and closer all the time, and I think we are feeling comfortable together. So I don’t know. What can I say about Roger? I said everything 100 times. But if you want me to say another time, I think he’s a normal person, and that’s the most important thing, no?
We love competition, but we understand outside competition is the relationship of outside of the court. Doesn’t affect nothing on our performance on court. That’s the most important thing. At the end, we have a good connection together, and that’s why we are always open to do exhibitions or events for our foundations or anything together. That’s why, I think.
Q. Del Potro is coming back strong. Do you feel already he’s a dangerous player?
RAFAEL NADAL: When he is playing, always really dangerous player. He won a tournament. He’s now in second round here. For sure.
Q. So you’re No. 1 now. What is your goal for this year since you already are on the top of the game?
RAFAEL NADAL: The goal is the match of tomorrow. That’s the first goal, no? We will see. I say before, but I felt I was in very good position to try to start the season very well. My feeling before I start the season was better than ever, but sometimes you didn’t feel that well, and finally the things go fantastic.
This time I felt perfect. I was unlucky in the beginning of the season, so just trying to find again the performance of the beginning of the season. I have to be playing similar that I was playing before start of the season when I practice in December in Mallorca. The finals of London I think was very high level for me, and I have to try to be at this position another time. I’m trying my best every day practicing. And for sure winning matches, if I am winning matches, everything gonna be a little bit easier.
Q. Why do you feel Novak has been playing so well the last six months? Djokovic, why has he been playing so well the last six months since the US Open forward to today?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he — well, he always was an unbelievable player, and I think probably he’s serving another time fantastic, and his confidence is high because he had a fantastic results.
When you are winning, it’s easier to keep playing well. So that’s why, no? He always was there. He was a little bit unlucky, but now he won in Australia, so that’s big confidence for everybody, winning a Grand Slam.
That’s why he’s probably the player who is playing better right now on the tour.
Q. Are you planning to play a similar schedule to last year, or are you lightening things up to avoid injury?
RAFAEL NADAL: Less? Less than last year?
Q. Or same.
RAFAEL NADAL: I cannot play less than — is impossible to play less than last year. Last year I only played obligatory tournaments and a few tournaments to prepare the big tournaments. So play less is impossible.
That’s not gonna happen this year if I don’t have injuries. I gonna try to have the same exact schedule for sure. And we add Barcelona.
Q. Obviously the French Open has been really important in your career, obviously. Are you glad that it’s staying in Paris, or would it have been all right if it went out to the suburbs outside of Paris?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think the important tournaments and historic tournaments, like Roland Garros, should stay at the same place, because that place (indiscernible) tennis and there is a history of tennis. I never thought about — I never imagine about this tournament can go to another place.
Q. How good was your level at Davis Cup? Did you feel like you were playing well?
RAFAEL NADAL: Normal.
Q. So you weren’t tested too much? It was hard to tell?
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s completely different surface of Davis Cup than here. Every day I’m playing better here. Every practice I am improving.
I have to play well tomorrow to be in the second round, the third round. So that’s what I gonna try. If I win tomorrow, I gonna have another chance to play better after tomorrow. If not, I will have that next chance in Miami.
But that’s the sport, and when you try your best, that’s all that I can do. Sometimes things go well. Sometimes the things are not the same. It’s impossible playing perfect all the time, but I hope to be playing well this week.
I don’t have any reason to not play well, because I was playing really well before the injury and I came back. I need adapt a little bit to this court, because I think the bounce like crazy and the ball is very fast.
But I always love this tournament, and I always played well in this tournament.
Q. The clay court season is approaching quickly. That’s the surface where you’re the dominant figure. A lot of ranking points to defend for you. What are your thoughts about that?
RAFAEL NADAL: About what?
Q. Defending a lot of ranking points.
RAFAEL NADAL: Is the same like every year. (Laughter.)
Q. Do you like the challenge? You like that challenge?
RAFAEL NADAL: Even if I like or I don’t like, that’s what’s gonna happen. Always the same. I don’t have to defend no one points, because every season start from zero, and I am focused always.
And when I am playing in Monte-Carlo, if I do quarterfinals for me, I won, I don’t know, 160 points, not I am losing 800 points. So that’s how I approach every tournament, no?
For me here, I defend semifinals; and if I do quarterfinals, my approach is am I losing points? No. I am for sure having more points than before, because until the same time, defend or not defend, doesn’t matter.
If I don’t have to defend that points, for sure today I’m not gonna be No. 1. So I never — I don’t believe about defend points or not. You know? I believe in play well and try to win. You play well, you have chances. If you are not playing well, doesn’t matter if you don’t defend nothing or a lot. You not gonna win.
Q. What were the pluses and minuses of playing here? What’s hard and what’s not so hard about playing here in the desert at this facility?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think is one of the better tournaments for the players, one of the best tournaments for the players, because a lot of facilities, the organization is fantastic. We have enough practice courts and enough time to relax and not have this all-the-day pressure. You have time, you have everything.
And if we talk about technical points, I always love to play here because the ball bounces high. The ball is fast. The court not that fast, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s my vision, but this year I see everything a little bit faster than years before. But I like the fast courts, for sure.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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