In his biggest victory in 11 months, Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic to capture his first title since the French Open at the Monte Carlo Masters. Nadal had lost to Djokovic seven straight times until his 63, 61 win yesterday over the World No. 1.
Nadal’s title was his 8th successive at Monte Carlo where he’s won a record 42 straight matches. Rafa now turns his focus to Barcelona this week.
Afterward Nadal hit on topics including his phenomenal play in Monte Carlo, his knee, his availability for the September Davis Cup tie against the U.S. and of course his big win:
Q. Do you think you played the perfect game on serve and return today?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think never nothing is perfect. That’s the true. I played a very, very good first set, in my opinion, very solid after he start very good in the first game. He had 15 30. The second game, the serve was very important. The three serves saved my game in the second game.
After that I’m happy how I played the first set. My serve worked very, very good. Sure, I had a few free points with the serve. But most important thing, after the serve, I had the chance to go inside with my forehand a lot of times, so this makes a big difference, no?
First set for me was very, very important. I played a very high level. Second set he had much more mistakes than usual.
Q. Nobody would like to take anything away from your eight wins in Monte Carlo, which is a great achievement. But today didn’t you feel that Djokovic wasn’t the real best Djokovic?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, Djokovic wasn’t the real best Djokovic. In other finals that I played against him, I wasn’t my real best, too. But the real best are both. My real best is when I play well and when I play bad. The real Rafa is not only when I play my best. The real Rafa is when I play well, when I don’t play that well.
If I take that for myself, the same for the others.
Djokovic had amazing one year and a half, having always perfect, no mistakes. Today, yes, he had more mistakes than usual. I won 6 3, 6 1. Win 6 3, 6 1 is for sure not normal to win against the best player of the world today. But happened. Very happy for my victory. Sorry for him. But that’s sport. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you play fantastic, sometimes you play normal, sometimes you play worst.
Today I played a very good first set. In my opinion, he didn’t have a very bad first set. In the second, yes, but not in the first.
Q. It seems to me that you put more speed on your first serve. Do you agree with that?
RAFAEL NADAL: I had the right feeling on the first serve. I served a little bit more wide than usual. The speed was between 178 to 198 almost every serve. If you have the right percentage, that’s enough. If you put the balls to the right places, is enough speed. And today was a very high percentage, in my opinion, very good directions, no? So I’m very happy.
Q. What is the secret, you have won many tournaments, but you win one tournament eight times? What is the secret about Monte Carlo? You have wind, soft ground. Is this the reason you play every year on such a high level?
RAFAEL NADAL: I always loved this tournament, seriously, since I was a kid. One of my dreams was play here. Is a historic tournament that you see all your idols when you are a kid playing here. Is a tournament that I think everybody wants the right to play.
To have eight victories, the first thing that must happen is lucky because you have to be in the right way, no injuries, perfect conditions for eight years in a row. That the first thing.
Second thing, you have to be playing almost perfect to win eight titles in a row, especially in a Masters 1000. Best players of the world play always. You have to win against the best. If you see the finals I win here, all the finals are against probably top six players. That’s something that makes the victories even more difficult, no?
So a few facts must be unified finally to happen this very special situation, and happened, so very happy. Just can say thank you very much all the organization, all the people who came here support me year by year, all the people who make possible this tournament. Is fantastic because probably is one of the best organizations of the world.
Q. In what time during the final did you feel you were going to be the winner?
RAFAEL NADAL: With the 5 1, 40 15. That’s the feeling. But when you lose seven times, when you are in Australia have 4 2, 30 15, easy backhand down the line, that stays in your mind, no? So to break this confrontation about the seven loses, you have to be very focused all the time, no?
Even with the 5 1, before the game, I didn’t know if I going to win. I know I am in a very good position to win, but always with the humble, with the calm that everything can happen.
Q. You have a lot of reasons to be happy today. What is the biggest reason for you to be happy? The fact you beat Novak or that you won this tournament again?
RAFAEL NADAL: The first thing for me is I win Monte Carlo. The Monte Carlo is the more beautiful 1000 tournament for me. To start the clay court season winning here is amazing feeling. I said before, but this tournament is very special for me. That’s the first reason.
Second reason, my level of tennis was high during the last four matches, since the second round. My level of tennis was very high. Today the first set was the higher moment during all the week, no? For that reason I must be very happy.
Sure, the last win against Novak in final after a few ones losing is for sure important result for me.
Q. You’ve had to withstand quite a few upsets in finals recently. How satisfying is it to beat the world No. 1 and win one of these trophies again psychologically going into the rest of the year?
RAFAEL NADAL: Sure, is important, very important break the bad (losing streak). So is important to break that situation. Is important to win the tournament another time. Especially what tournament is. Is not same one tournament than another. Break that situation, winning Masters 1000, one of my favorites, is everything perfect today.
Tomorrow will be another day practicing in Barcelona to be ready for the tournament. Very happy for that. The only thing that can give me this victory here is the positive energy to keep working hard, to keep try my best every day.
Right now just start the clay court season better than possible without losing a set. But next tournament, have a tough draw in Barcelona, a lot of good players there. Have to be ready for that. I have to try.
Q. You came into the tournament a bit worried about your knee. Do you feel totally happy with the knee now?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am very happy because my knee is not limiting me no one movement. I can run 100% of conditions. That the most important thing. I still feeling little bit. You have pain, but you feel you can run to every ball, the pain never is a problem. Today, that’s the situation, and I’m very happy.
Q. Do you plan to train more light for the upcoming weeks?
RAFAEL NADAL: I plan to keep practicing like always usually. Normal practice, try to be ready for next week. Going to be important week for me. Always play in Barcelona is a special feeling. Try to have just little bit of practice tomorrow and a good practice on Tuesday and try to be ready for Wednesday.
Q. Six wins in Roland Garros, eight wins in Monte Carlo, what stands out more first? Today when you broke Djokovic five times, he never reached deuce. How do you explain this?
RAFAEL NADAL: I said before, if you want I repeat, but my serve worked well.
Q. On his serve.
RAFAEL NADAL: Okay, I didn’t understand the question.
I said yesterday in the press conference that I have to return a little bit more aggressive, I have to return a little bit longer. I did. I did a very good backhand return, very long ones. After that, against his forehand, try to not opening a lot the court. When you open the court to him, against most of the players you are in a good situation, but against him not, because he’s able to open you more later with the next shot.
So try to hit long, but more to the middle. Then I try to have the control of the point with my forehand. Understood that he didn’t serve perfect, but when I was able to return the ball, my returns was almost every time very good, no? The few important ones very high, along with my forehand against his backhand, in the advantage position. After that I felt that I can change the directions.
Q. Yesterday you said it was a little bit too early to face Djokovic. Actually it was not too early to face him.
RAFAEL NADAL: Finally not (smiling). But that was my feeling yesterday. I am not lying you. I told you what I really feel, no? I felt that against Simon I played very long points and I felt a little bit more tired than usual because I didn’t practice a lot my fitness for the last three weeks. That was my feeling.
But today I played aggressive. I had a few long rallies. But at the same time I tell you the match against Wawrinka and Simon helped me to be more fit for the next matches because play long points, your body does better.
Q. Have you made a decision if you want to play for the Davis Cup?
RAFAEL NADAL: Remain a lot of months to play the semifinals of Davis Cup. I cannot think about that having the Barcelona tournament next week.
Q. You will make the decision later?
RAFAEL NADAL: I will make a decision. My body will take the decision. I was thinking to play maybe in the second round against Austria at home, because was a great week for me to prepare the clay court season, practicing one week there with the best players. But my knee says not.
I cannot predict the future. I don’t know how I gonna be after the US Open. Let’s go day to day. If all the situation are the right one, hopefully I will be there. But depends on a lot of things.
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