A healthy Rafael Nadal returns to the Australian Open hoping to start the climb back up the top of the rankings. And maybe, win a second “Career Grand Slam”.
Nadal fell last year to Fernando Verdasco in a first round stunner, and later suffered a wrist injury which he says hampered him from May until the rest of the year. Fortunately, though, he says he’s ready to fight. He’ll begin against veteran Florian Mayer on Tuesday afternoon in the heat of the day.
Nadal seeded down to No. 9 but comes in with new coach Carlos Moya. And the addition of Moya was a big topic as Nadal met the press today in Melbourne.
Q. How are you feeling heading into the Open this year?
RAFAEL NADAL: Good. I think I am ready. I think I practiced very well for one month and a half in Mallorca. I had good start of the season in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane. I am practicing well this year, the week before.
Q. What have you sort of taken confidence from in your game so far?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am happy with everything more or less, no? I am playing well. When I’m saying I’m playing well is because to play well today on this sport you need to be a complete player, no? You need to be ready to do backhand, forehand, server, return well.
Q. Can you talk us through the decision to start working with Carlos Moya, please, in terms of what did you decide that was something you wanted to do and how that came about?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, Carlos, more than anything, is a good friend of mine. I talk with him often. Doesn’t matter if he stays in my team or not, no? I have a great relationship with him.
Yeah, in December, you know, after knowing that he will stop with Milos, you know, we talked with him, myself and my uncle. For me is a very good option, no?
I know him very well. I know he wants the best for me. He knows my personality, he knows my game, too. Could be a good help for me and at the same time for the team, for the rest of the team, have somebody like him on the team is always something that I am very happy with because is good to have good people in your team.
He’s a person who loves this sport. He’s a person who knows my tennis very well.
Q. Can you even imagine back to a time when players didn’t have a team? Vilas and Borg were the only ones who came with a coach. McEnroe very rarely. Can you imagine what it was like back then?
RAFAEL NADAL: Different parts of the history, no? I believe you need to be comfortable with what you have. I am not a complicated person. You know, is true that I have a big team now. But I am happy with less, too, no?
I am a person who doesn’t like the big changes, who needs to be comfortable, have a big team. But more the real thing is I have the same people from the beginning, no? Now is Carlos. But is not like 100% new thing to me.
He’s a person that I practiced with him during almost all my career since I had 15 until he retired. Even last year sometimes when he was in Mallorca or two years ago, I was practicing, hitting sometimes with him.
Is not a big deal, no? He is close to my house. He live in Mallorca, too. He going to help us with the academy, too. That’s something that I am very happy with, too. Is important for the academy have somebody like Carlos that can be big help for us and for the kids, too.
For me, is very special to have him on the team and I am very happy.
Q. Is there a particular reason why now is a good time for you to bring Carlos in? Why not a few years ago?
RAFAEL NADAL: Things happens. You cannot predict the things. You cannot know when is the right time or when is not the right time. You take decisions. I am not a person who takes decisions like this (snapping fingers). I need to talk.
More than anything, you know, my uncle is my coach. He is a person that is decisive in my career, so I need to talk with him before taking any of these decisions. I will never take a decision like this if Toni is not happy with.
First of all is the stability for me, so important. Toni is happy with. I am happy with that decision, too. Everybody’s happy because Carlos is a friend of the rest of my team. We know each other. Carlos knows all my team because my team is the same one since 15 years old.
Is just like an introduction, but very easy introduction to the team.
Q. You mentioned Abu Dhabi. You played a great final there against David Goffin. A high-level match for an exhibition. Has he impressed you? Do you think he can cause a surprise here in this tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: David?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, David, he cannot give nobody surprise because he’s a top player. I don’t know. He’s 11 in the world. When you are 11 in the world, you are there for a couple of years, then you are not a surprise. You are a great player.
You come here and you fight for everything.
Q. The court seems to be playing faster this year again here. Some players have said so. I was wondering what was your opinion on the conditions.
RAFAEL NADAL: I like the conditions. I don’t see the courts faster or slower. Is true that the outside courts are a little bit faster than the inside courts, the show courts.
There is two things that make that happen. First thing is when the court is smaller, looks like the things happens much faster. Second thing, you know, when you practice and you play more on the courts, the floor gets quicker. That’s why that’s happens.
For the rest of the things, I see the tournament great, as always, and every year better. I don’t see a tournament like the Australian Open around the world that is improving that much every single year. So is great to see how good are doing the things Tennis Australia.
Q. A lot of people would think your next best chance of winning a Grand Slam is at Roland Garros. Do you come here believing that you can win seven matches in a fortnight on hard courts?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s really don’t worries me because I don’t think about it. I think about the first day and I think about the practice of every day.
You cannot say I am ready for it or I am not ready for it. Let’s see. The only thing that I can say is I am practicing well. I am enjoying every practice. I feel myself ready for the competition, yes. Then if that happens during the next couple of days, I am able to compete well from the beginning, you never know what can happen. I feel myself happen. That’s the real thing.
Q. Are you feeling pain-free at the moment? Obviously you had some physical problems last year.
RAFAEL NADAL: What do you mean ‘pain-free’?
Q. Are you carrying any injuries that concern you?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am not injured, no. Pain-free is a long time ago (smiling).
Q. If you’re not able to win the title, what would you be satisfied with?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am here. I am enjoying. I am coming back on the tour after a while. People can think is not that much because he stopped after Shanghai. But being honest and being realistic, after Roland Garros, the only tournament I played with okay conditions, not 100 per cent conditions, was the US Open.
Because on Olympics, even if was a great event, I still had a lot of pain on the wrist. Then I had an edema on the hand. Was so difficult to play, no? I played because I didn’t want to stop again. I wanted to keep trying.
I went to Beijing and Shanghai with too much pain. So during the last seven months, I played just a couple of matches, no? That’s the real thing. I am playing tennis because I am happy doing what I am doing.
As I said a couple of days ago, if I don’t see myself, and if I don’t believe that I can be competitive, and when I mean ‘competitive’, is fighting for the things that I fighted during the last 10 years, I will be probably playing golf or fishing at home. I am being honest with this.
If I am here is because I believe — I don’t know here, I don’t know Rotterdam in a couple weeks, in Acapulco, Indian Wells, Miami, and Roland Garros, I don’t know. I can fight for the things that really motivates me.
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