Rafael Nadal: Novak Played Fantastic
by Tom Gainey | January 27th, 2019, 6:09 pm

It was a tough evening for Rafael Nadal Sunday night as he was blown out by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final.

Nadal loses for a fourth time in the Australian Open final. Despite playing just his first event since the US Open, he made it to the final without losing a set. And that gives him added hope for the remainder of the year.

Afterward, Rafa met the press:

Q. Was that the best that Novak has ever played against you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Difficult for me to have a clear opinion. I think, of course, he played I think fantastic. At the same time is true that when he’s playing that way, I think I needed something else. I was not able to have that extra thing tonight, being honest, no?

Yeah, was unbelievable the way that he played, no doubt about that. But at the same time is true that probably physically I was not able. I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, is true, but probably playing that well, I didn’t suffer much during the both weeks. Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. That something else probably today, I don’t have it yet. That’s my feeling, to compete at this super high level.

I think I was playing great during the both weeks in offensive positions. In defensive positions, I practiced what I practiced. I practiced well, very well I think, but because of the things that happened to me in terms of surgery, then what happened in Abu Dhabi, I was not able to work that much the defensive game. I worked a lot on the offensive game, but not that much on the defensive game.

To play against a player like him, playing the way he played tonight, I needed that defensive game to finally have the chance to be offensive, no? When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%. But probably will be a little bit more fight.

Q. When you’re talking about needing something else against him, is it the offensive game only or other things you need to do differently or better?
RAFAEL NADAL: We are 32. I am 32 and a half. Is not the first meeting that we had. Is not the first time that he beat me that way. The only thing that I said is even if I was playing so well and I had a great two weeks, being honest, I can’t be sad. Will be not fair to be sad. I played against a player that today was better than me. That’s no doubt about that. That’s all.

I have been lot of months without having the chance to practice, without having the chance to compete. And have been two positive weeks. The only thing probably that I need is time and more matches. You know, my feeling was I have been always in offensive position during two weeks, during six matches. Today I know that will not happen. Of course, he played better than what probably he played during the rest of the tournament. Being honest, I saw him the tournament more or less. He probably played the best match so far. Playing that well, is so difficult for everybody, for everyone, when he plays that level, is so difficult to fight for victories against him.

But if I am able to run 100% and to resist every ball, then you find ways. The things that looks easy for him become little bit more difficult when you have to do it one more time, one more time and one more time. I was not able to push him to do it one more, one more, one more every time. That’s my feeling.

What I need is I need time, I need work, and I need more weeks like this one. That’s really the only thing that I hope is to have the chance to keep practicing well and to have the chance to keep playing with healthy conditions. Like this, I believe the level of tennis have been great. Probably the only thing that remained a little bit more to me was normally the best thing that I have. Is something that I am not worried much. Only thing is about time.

Q. Can you explain how you feel against a player who has answers to everything? How is it to be there on that court on such a big day? You tried everything?
RAFAEL NADAL: I try what I had. No, no, is not what I feel. No, that’s the game. You go on court, you can win, you can lose when you face players that are playing that well. You accept that somebody is able to play that well.

Q. Stefanos felt destroyed against you.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, but Stefanos is so young. He don’t have been destroyed enough times to know that that can happen on a tennis court. I am not new on this. I know these kind of things happens. Even to the best players of the history happened. I don’t say I have been destroyed. I have been playing against a player that was at the highest level possible, in my opinion, tonight. A player playing like this is difficult to win.

He was better than me tonight. That’s the sport. We can talk a lot, but when the player did almost everything better than you, you can’t complain much. The only thing that you can say is congrats to the opponent, well done. For my side being very happy, big personal satisfaction about the two weeks, you can’t imagine — is nice and easy now playing the final here, looks always that. But I have been going through very tough moments. After the US Open, I didn’t had the chance to play for three weeks or four weeks for the knee. Then I came back, and two days or three days before Bercy, I felt the feet, that something going wrong. I went to Bercy, had a strain in the abdominal. Then I came back, had to do surgery to the feet because a small portion of the ankle was gone. Is all the time under a tough process of things.

Then when you want to start the season, what happened for me in the thigh at the beginning of the season, is a lot of issues. Even if I always say that I am a positive, believing that the things can go better all the time, that’s tough. That’s mentally tough. It’s painful that you can’t do the things that you need to do to be 100% fit.

If we analyze all this stuff, have been probably better impossible two weeks for me, even if tonight was not my day, because the opponent played too good, and I was not ready to face that level tonight. But I believe that I can be ready in a couple of months if I am able to keep practicing and to keep competing at that level.

Q. You said you need more conditioning, more matches. What will you do with your schedule? Will you pack matches in?
RAFAEL NADAL: I need matches, but I can’t go crazy to play matches. I have my age. I have my calendar. I have my priorities. My priority now is come back home, have some rest. I played good tennis for couple of weeks. Now is the time to be back, to have a good physical work, keep working on the things that worked very well here. Step by step, working on the things that I need a little bit more. That’s the mobility, the defensive positions, the recovery from positions that are difficult to come back. That is something that I have naturally good, but I need to practice and need to be able to do it at that highest level.

Then my next step is Acapulco. That’s my goal. Is a tournament that I like to play. I had some success there. I am excited to come back to Acapulco. I have Acapulco, I have Indian Wells, and that’s my calendar today. The only thing I am sure I am not going to play something before these two events. That’s my calendar today. Then we see. Depend how things go, I keep going or I take a rest to play on clay.

I know that the season is long. My first priority at all, more than winning titles or not, is be happy. To be happy, I need to be healthy. I going to do the things that give me better chance to be healthy more than anything. That’s the priority. If I am healthy, I am competitive, I am happy, I have the chance to win tournaments. If not, things change 100%.

Q. Were you more nervous tonight at the start of the match than you normally are in a big match like this? You seemed to be making more mistakes than you usually make in the first few games.
RAFAEL NADAL: I make more mistakes because he pushed more. That’s all. Is not about being more nervous. I have been normal nerves, like final of Grand Slam. But the things started so quick (snapping fingers). He was pushing me to every ball.

What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position. That’s not nerves. That’s things that happened quicker than what happened the previous days.

I don’t like to say he played unbelievable well because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things very difficult unbelievable well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick.

I really believe that he was able to work very hard on the off-season on his movement. He was moving unbelievable well. I felt that good shots came back with offensive position for me, after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position.

In my opinion, is all about have the chance to increase that step of intensity. As I said before, probably I was not able to make that happen tonight. But I have the confidence that I did a lot of things well this tournament. I have the confidence that I will reach this extra level of intensity in the future if I am able to practice well.

But answering what you say, I was not nerves, not more nerves than usual, no. That’s all.

Q. Does a match like this, the way it went, hurt mentally or is it one that you can forget quite quickly and get over?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, you come back home more proud of the level of Wimbledon than tonight, of course. But in terms of mental pain, is harder the semifinals of Wimbledon than this one. In the semifinals of Wimbledon, I was so close, and I was playing so well, having a lot of matches in a row, winning Roland Garros, playing so well on clay. I had that extra intensity in that moment.

For me, was a big chance lost to win another Wimbledon. Tonight I didn’t have that chance. Is easier to forget, yes. In terms of personal satisfaction, I have a better personal satisfaction about the match of Wimbledon. But overall probably was more difficult to do the tournament that I did here than the tournament I did in Wimbledon, because in Wimbledon I came back after winning Roland Garros with big confidence, winning a lot on clay, winning a lot of matches. Is much easier to play that well. If I am healthy, everybody knows I’m a good player on grass, no?

I have better personal satisfaction because my two weeks here have been more difficult than what I did in Wimbledon. But about the personal match, that’s what happened, that’s all.

You Might Like:
Juan Martin Del Potro: “I Think I’m Playing Fantastic Tennis”
Rafael Nadal: My Knee Was Very Good Today
Rafael Nadal: Roger Will Be A Challenge, He Is Playing Fantastic
Dream Final Set In Halle: Roger Federer v Alexander Zverev
Hewitt Overcomes Federer Spell, Wins Halle Title

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

16 Comments for Rafael Nadal: Novak Played Fantastic

SG1 Says:

He’s giving Novak credit for a great match but being the great competitor that Nadal is, he won’t openly acknowledge that Novak has a bit of a mental (…and perhaps physical) edge over him right now. Assuming that Rafa and Novak stay healthy, it would be incredible to see them fight it out in the RG Final.

Have to say that if Novak wins RG, it will be difficult to deny that he’s the best ever. Holding all 4 majors titles at the same time twice in a career in this era AND having a winning record against Federer, Nadal and Murray? He wouldn’t need 20 majors to be the best ever. Not in my mind anyway.

Of course this is all relatively far off in the distance type of stuff. Nadal had a chance to become the best ever (…in my opinion) by winning the AO final (thereby winning every slam at least twice) but it didn’t happen.

SG1 Says:

Over the past 7 or 8 years, when Novak’s been healthy, he’s been the best player in the world. All of the Big 3 have remarkable longevity and passion for the game.

I have always been a huge fan of Pete Sampras. However, when I look back now, he seemed to be playing for records rather than a true love of the game. I think it’s why he burned out younger than today’s Big 3. There were more majors left in Sampras but he lacked the passion and commitment to press on in his 30’s. He achieved his goal and hung up his shoes. It doesn’t seem like the Big 3 have such specific goals other than to compete and win as much possible.

I suspect that Federer has hung around to try and push up his slam count. He saw how quickly he passed Pete and wants his records to last more than 7 years. Interestingly, with 6 slams more than Pete, his records may not even last that long if Novak & Rafa stay healthy over the next 2-3 seasons.

SG1 Says:

One thing’s for sure. I doubt the world will ever see an era of tennis like this again with three champions of such incredible quality. Just have to take it in and enjoy it while it lasts.

skeezer Says:

Agree SG1
To me, this was the most interesting and insightful interview ever by Rafa Very articulate and detailed about the match and where he is at. No hiding behind generalities and “almost impossible”
Well done Rafa best of luck the rest of the year.

Daniel Says:


Fed’s record already lasted more than Sampras. He beat that record in 2009 Wimbeldon and that record will last at least untill next year, tgat if Djoko and Nadal win majors these year. If that doesn’t happen it will last at least till 2021 abd if Fed doesn’t add anymore.
So, at least he had a 10 year longevity.

So far, someone will have to beat it. Nadla will turn 33 in ealry June and Djoko 32. They still play a very physical game iut of the blue something can linger, vis Murray.

Another record of Federer is that he passed the test of time, sublimely. Winning a Slam at 36 and a half. Djoko and Nadal most likely wom’t top that bu they can use the most of their skill now where they still are head and shoulders above the rest.

I want to see another Fedal on HC, maybe one of IW/Miami where Fed can draw Nadal in QF.
To see if the Nadal prior Djoko in AO will rever the last 5 defeats to Fed.

But don’t want to see them play on clay anymore, specially with Fed at 37

SG1 Says:

I’m just thinking that Federer will want his final slam count to last a while. If Nadal or Djokovic don’t catch him, his record may last 100 years or more. I still don’t believe that his number of 20 will be passed. Djokovic has to win 6 more to pass him. That’s a lot of slams for a guys in his 30’s that plays a physical game. I don’t believe Rafa’s going to win 4 more either. Wouldn’t surprise me if there was a tie though. However, in terms of the GOAT debate, if Novak wins RG this year, I think the GOAT debate is put to bed. Particularly if he beats Nadal in the final which is a highly likely match up if both players remain healthy.

Daniel Says:


He may play Nadal sooner in RG (semis). There is a slight chance Zverev can reach #2, but he will need a better clay season than he had last year, semis, final and title and Nadal losing early in a few Masters, or not winning anything (hard to see). Even so will be a 50-50 if Nadal drops to 3 and lands in his side.

I don’t agree with just another RG double career Slams making him GOAT with 16, 4 Slams is too big a difference and Fed could still win more, I think if Djoko wins this year RG, he will need to reach 18 to be GOAT, or stay 2 behind Federer to go with his other achievements, other #1 stats that will follow.

Federer is considerar GOAT as the body of work, longevity and tons of records. If Djoko reaches or 20 or close (can di it 2020), more year end #1 (can do it this year) and more weeks as #1 (can do it 2020) plus the double career Slams (can di it this year or next), than there won’t be anything left for doubt.

But agree that if he wins all remaining 3 this year for 18 with 6 in a row including the Calendar Slam debate is gone. He will surpass #1 records next year and doesn’t even need to reach 20.

Czarlazar Says:

As Mats Wilander said, how can a player be considered the GOAT if he has a losing record versus his two main competitors? Furthermore, you have to put his 20 GS titles on a weighing machine versus Novak’s 15. Novak’s five fewer titles are heavier, with a recurring dose of Fed, Nadal and Murray as finals (and semi-finals) opponents — compared to Roger’s much lighter fare of Philipoussis, Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Gonzales, Baghdatis, (35 yr old) Agassi, Soderling and Cilic. All Djokovic has known is the Strongest Era ever, he’s been the best player during this Era, and is already the GOAT even if he retired today.

Wog Boy Says:

Czarlazar, I wouldn’t be paying attention on “the GOAT” discussion, they are famous for moving the goal posts as the things are changing.

Czarlazar Says:

I’ve noticed that, WB. Facts or logic don’t mean much when someone’s mind is made up. Of all the royals worldwide, “His Highness” has the most loyal subjects.

Willow Says:

Just wanted to say that Rafa and Xisca are engaged, and have been since May, and plan to marry in Autumn this year, congratulations to them both, thats all ;-)

Willow Says:

Apologies for hyjacking the thread ….

SG1 Says:

It’s about time those two tied the knot. Good for them!

chrisford1 Says:

Rafa and his GF have been together for 14 years. There were some hilarious caption pics in 2015 of Xisca in the stands “reacting” to pictures. Of Feds marriage to Mirka with joy, with a little angst when Nole married Jelena, with impatience as Andy and Kim got hitched, then with eye-rolling exasperation “reacting” to a picture of Rafa inspecting his water bottles “Xisca, this is wrong! One bottle has a label lower than the labels on my other bottles”.

So, finally….congrats to the most patient woman on the planet!

Now Rafa has to walk back his regular response that he was deferring on marriage until he was done playing tennis.

Daniel Says:

Hope that are some babies humble soon;-)

Willow Says:

Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn have been together for 34 years, even though they aint married, have a couple of kids, and even they dont care that their parents arent married, just proves that when your in a loving commited relationship, a piece of paper doesnt make one iota of difference what-so-ever ….

Top story: Spain Sweeps Canada For Sixth Davis Cup Title