Despite suffering a one-sided loss yesterday to main rival Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal was upbeat in his post-match presser, saying that he feels after an injury-marred 2014 he’s close to returning back to his old self.
Nadal picked up his first Top 10 win since the French Open Friday beating David Ferrer, and showed some glimpses of his old self yesterday against Djokovic.
Nadal will now head to Barcelona where he is a 9-time champion, but lost last year in the quarterfinals to Nicolas Almagro.
After his semifinal loss, Nadal, who will move back to No. 4 in the rankings, met the press.
Q. It is a defeat, but is not a terrible defeat.
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I think I played well for moments. Remain to be played a little bit more. As I say yesterday, maybe I don’t know if was too early. I was able to play at the right level for moments to compete against very, very tough player, best player of the world like Novak is today.
But I get a little bit tired and little bit too early. Then when you get little bit tired, you play little bit shorter. Then is impossible against him, no?
If I’m able to play like the beginning for three hours, I can do it, then is a different story, no?
But in general, I think I was not that far. For moments I was playing at very high level. Him, I think he played great. Just congratulate him for the way that he’s playing, the way that he’s winning almost every match of the year.
For me is a very positive week ‑ the most positive week of the season, without any doubt. I think if I am able to keep doing that in the next tournament in Barcelona, that I have a tough draw, I will say that I am very well again.
The way that I played yesterday and for moments today is the way that I want to play. Just with more matches playing like this, I will be enough confident to play. That level will not be the exception, will be the normal thing. That is the thing that I need to make happen.
But in general, from where I came one week ago, two weeks ago, after what happened in Miami, I go to the next tournament with the feeling that I make a big improvement in my game, in my mental part.
I hope this tournament is a key moment for my season.
Q. Do you think the game at 3‑All in the first set was kind of a turning point because you started very well. This game was super long, amazing.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, that game was very important. Yes, is true. I had a breakpoint that he played unbelievable. That’s it.
Was 6‑3, 6‑3, but can’t be much closer. I know that. I think he knows that, too. Everybody knows that. 3‑All in the second, 40‑Love for me, too, for 4‑3, and let’s see.
But today was 6‑3, 6‑3. Just congratulate the opponent, congratulate Novak, accept. I know without a doubt if I’m able to keep going the same way that I was doing this week, I going to have my chances.
Q. Just looking at the numbers of this match, I notice that he played 12 winning forehands, and you just six.
RAFAEL NADAL: David or Novak?
Q. Yes, Novak. On the unforced errors with the forehand, you made 14 and he made nine. I want to know if you had the feeling that your forehand was today a little more problem than other times or not?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I was hitting great the forehand. I had some mistakes when I lost little bit the intensity of my legs. When I was the right intensity, when I was playing with the right intensity in my legs, I was able to control the point all the time.
But when I lose little bit that speed, that extra movement on my legs, he’s a fantastic player, no? He’s phenomenal the way that he can move the ball to everywhere. If he take advantage from inside the court, you are dead. That’s what happened, no?
I had more mistakes, yes. I had less winners than him, yes. But at the beginning of the match, I was having enough winners with my forehand. I was having enough times the control of the point. That’s the way that I need to play.
No, I think was more in terms of movements. The forehand, in particular, I am happy the way the forehand moves. I was able to play, again, with that high topspin, changing directions.
Remain little bit more, but definitely I think the forehand is close to be back.
Q. How do you explain the drop in intensity? The fact that you are not used to playing big games since the beginning of the season?
RAFAEL NADAL: Probably. And I play a very tough match yesterday. We cannot forget that I get injury last year for six months. So for six months I didn’t play no one match of intensity because when I came back I played three tournaments ‑ well two tournaments. Shanghai we cannot count. The rest of the tournaments is the first come back after four months. Is difficult to have a feeling on that.
Then Basel, having that appendicitis, probably is like I was not playing also. So six months without. I started the season without playing that kind of level matches. Only once for me. That was Indian Wells against Raonic. That is a different story, different style, different thing. But was a long match, high‑level match, only that one. Then yesterday, before yesterday, two more. That’s it. Today another one. Even if it was 6‑3, 6‑3, the level of intensity and the level of tennis has been high again.
That’s what I need. I am sure that if I am able to keep going, as I said before, in Barcelona, keep playing at that level, I will have a chance to be competitive again. If that happens, will be a big improvement for the season.
Q. Don’t you think that the change of racquet at this stage of the season affected your game at all?
RAFAEL NADAL: Positive or negative?
Q. I’m asking you.
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I played the best tournament of the season this week, so I don’t believe. If I am having mistakes, it’s me, it’s not the racquet. I was having mistakes with the racquet that I was playing all my career the last couple of months.
The racquet is helping me. But the most important thing, what’s helping me really, is I am with the motivation, the right motivation, to play tennis, the right motivation to work hard every day, and with the right attitude. That’s why I was able to play better this week than the previous week.
I am working hard since I came back. But, you know, everything is a process. Arrives the moment that is a very important moment in my season, and I need to make that click that I need to be competitive again at 100%. This week was the first very positive news of my game after my comeback in the beginning of the season.
So the racquet, I don’t need to talk about the racquet. The racquet worked well. I was able to play at a very high level with that racquet.
Q. Compared to last year’s French Open final, do you think Novak has changed a little bit his way of playing on clay, or was it the same player you faced last year?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I don’t know. I am not in condition to answer that. Let’s see how the things are improving during the whole clay court season.
Always when somebody wins against the others, and the opposite is always the same thing: the opponent changed something. Novak was able to beat me in 2013 here in the final, too. He beat me in Rome last year, too.
He’s a fantastic player. He can beat me all the time. But I am confident that if I am able to keep playing at that level for more matches, I will have my chances in the next couple of weeks. I going to try it.
Q. How much would you be surprised if tomorrow Berdych is going to beat Djokovic?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, one player is winning everything. That player lose, always going to be a surprise.
Q. But for you.
RAFAEL NADAL: I answered you. I don’t know how much. Oh, what a surprise! I don’t going to be like this (laughter).
But Berdych is a fantastic player. He’s playing very consistent. Almost in every tournament he is there fighting for the final rounds. But is obvious that Novak is the favorite.
Q. You said yourself in the beginning that Novak is winning pretty much every match at the moment. He’s won the only Grand Slam, all the Masters, on his way to another here. Is it possible for one player to win all the Masters and all the slams in one season?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes.
Q. Do you think it’s possible in this season?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, always is possible. Difficult, but possible (smiling).
Q. Will you be 100% for Paris, 100% fit?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t know what’s going to happen in three weeks, one month. I cannot predict the future. I am not that arrogant to say yes because tomorrow anything can happen in life. You have to respect all the things that can happen in this life to answer yes or no.
The right answer is that we’ll see. I will do all the things I can to be ready for Barcelona, then for Madrid, then for Rome, then for Paris, if I have the chance to do it. Every tournament is very important. We’ll see what’s going to happen.
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