What a draw handed to Rafael Nadal. The 9-time French Open champion was not only placed in Novak Djokovic’s half, he was put in his quarter! He’ll have to face his rival in the final eight just to make the semifinals. Otherwise, Nadal, who is ranked No. 7 but seeded 6th, could fall out of the Top 10.
Rafa, though, is still upbeat and hopes to return to the winners’ circle and pick up his first European title in a year.
Nadal is 66-1 at the French Open and he’s 89-1 in best-of-5 matches on clay. But this season Nadal says he’s been improving, with fewer bad days.
Nadal will hope have not have one of those bad days on his June 3 birthday, which could be the same day he plays Djokovic.
Here’s what Nadal said about the match and the tournament to the press today:
Q. Just curious as to since you’ve come from Rome sort of your feeling on the clay here and being back in Paris and how practices have gone the last few days for you.
RAFAEL NADAL: Good. I just arrived on Wednesday. Trying to practice a little bit stronger these few days before competition start and all good.
Q. Your reactions to the draw? Obviously you were there this morning. How do you see your draw sort of shaping out and what sort of thoughts do you have on facing Novak should that match come up in the quarterfinals?
RAFAEL NADAL: I would love to arrive to that match. Yeah, that’s my reaction, no? That match is in quarterfinals and I didn’t start the first round yet, no? I don’t see an easy way to arrive to that match. I am focused on the things that I have to do before that. If I arrive to that match, we going to have two days to talk about.
Q. 11 Roland Garros over ten years. Did it seem to you it went fast or it went slow?
RAFAEL NADAL: Depends on the moments, you know. In some moments you see that the time goes so fast; some moments you see the time goes a little bit slower, no? When the good things are happening, time go quick. That’s it. During that ten years, most of the time happen good things in my life, no? Went fast that. But as always, try to enjoy every year, try to enjoy every new experience, and I think I did. Here we are 10 years later. Is not bad news.
Q. You have set incredibly high standard for form coming into a French Open for your career. Sometimes you have come in no losses on clay, one loss on clay. It’s been a good clay season for you, but lower than your usual standard that you’ve set. Is that…
RAFAEL NADAL: Can you repeat the last thing?
Q. This year you have had a good clay season, but not as good as the standard, the very high standard you have set in previous years. Does that affect how you feel your level is coming into the French Open?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, obviously I didn’t have the best clay season the last couple of years. It’s obviously that I had more up and downs. Even like this I was able to play semifinals in Master 1000, another final, and one quarterfinals. It’s not terrible, but if we compare with other years, obviously looks bad, no? That’s always gonna happen when you achieve a lot in the past. Always going to have the comparations, but that’s it. My feelings are good. Obviously when you lose more than other years it’s obvious the confidence is a little bit less. But the positive thing is I started again in January after tough second half of the year last year. And since January, day after day, I think I improved a lot. I having less bad days than in the first few months. I am a little bit more consistent, I feel. Let’s try my best here. Let’s try to play a great tournament here. I think I can do it. Then do it is another thing. I’m going to try my best, and I think can happen. And if not, we are going to continue the season. It’s important for me to have a full season playing tennis. It’s important to try to keep playing in the season with no injuries, and we will see where we finish and how I finish.
Q. What do you think about the conditions of play here? Because I have heard Roger said it’s completely different from the previous weeks with the balls and it’s a big adjustment to make.
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what’s happened with the courts. A little bit worse than usual, but I don’t see a big adjustment. No, no, I don’t feel that way. I feel that is another clay court season. Is obvious that the center court here is a little bit tougher to play than other center courts because is so big. There is wind always there. But I think for us, it’s not new. We know what’s going to happen here and the conditions that you’re going to find. That’s all. It’s true that you need to adjust, but as every year.
Q. You always are very honest in your assessment of how you’re playing, how you’re feeling. Early this year when you were talking about having some fear, other players don’t do that. I don’t think you would ever hear someone like Roger or Novak saying that they were frightened or fearful of, you know, what was happening. Do you think being honest is always a good thing for you, you know, when you’re talking about your game?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. (Smiling.) It’s myself. I don’t know. I say what I feel. I said a lot of times in my career I’m not gonna lie if it’s not 100% necessary. (Laughter). And that’s it. Yeah, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but at the end of the day you can lie here but you cannot lie on court. If you say that you are great and you go on court and you play against a good player, you don’t gonna lie him. Then you gonna come back here and gonna say, Okay, I was lying before. (Smiling.) It’s fine. You know, I am not new here. I spend a lot of years on the tour; 13 already. At the end of the day, the real thing is what I am saying here or what we say here, my feeling is not gonna affect what happen later on the court, no? I don’t need to lie to create better expectation or to let you or the people know that I am in one way o I am in the other way. I am being honest. When I say I don’t know what’s gonna happen, I really don’t know what’s gonna happen. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have confidence on myself to try to be ready for it. I have to think that I am ready for it. But I know sometimes that it’s tougher to be ready for it. But seriously, my last couple of weeks have been much more positive than what the results said. Probably in Rome I was playing much better than the result was, no? So is a court that I like. Is a tournament that I love. I am gonna try to put my game in a position that gonna give me the chance. If I am able to do it, I have enough experience here.
Q. What stands out about the clay here? What emotions do you feel when you walk out on to it?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is always that we are in the most important place of my career, without any doubt, no? The emotions that I had here in this court are difficult to describe. Every year have been a special one. Even the year that I lost, you know, was an experience, too. Was a bad experience, but it was an experience. I tried to learn of everything. I tried to enjoy all the experiences and live all the experiences with highest passion possible. Always when you are back in a place that you had certain unbelievable success, always is special. But past is past. We are in 2015 here. What happened in the past today doesn’t matter. Gonna matter when I finish my career that obviously winning nine times here is difficult to equal.
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