Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rafael Nadal: 'My Year In Review'

by Savannah

What follows is a translation of an interview Rafael Nadal did with Spanish newspaper El Pais. The link to the source, in Spanish, is at the end.

The translation was done by AMC.

I'm a better player, but I can't run

Rafael Nadal sprints kicking a ball 10 metres throughout Qi Zhong stadium's ailes. After that, he enters the locker room and starts juggling with Roger Federer. Nothing shows that the Swiss has just beated him 6-4 6-1 in the Master's semifinals. Nadal, who says he's done the best season of his life, take the ball and starts playing with the feet. "You are better than Maradona!", cheers Federer. Then, the number two in the world greets with his name the Chinese chauffer of his Mercedes and meets this newspaper.

Q: You've played all the year without preparing the fitness.

A: I've never said this because it sounds like an excuse. I don't like to talk about injuries. I prepare my fitness every day, but I can't run. Now, on the pre-season, I'm gonna try it. Since my foot problem in 2005, I'm more cautious and I avoid running. This is evident. I have to get the fitness by playing matches and it's difficult because I don't have a point of origin, a base.

Q: How have you offset it?

A: I swim, I run inside the swimming pool, I row, bike, eliptic machine... From experience, I know it's not the same as running. It doesn't get you the same confidence. It's hard.

Q: That's why you don't do anymore the running counterattack that gave fame to you?

A: It's all about daring to support your feet. I always got a high ball, long, that it was the best that I had. Unconsciously, my game has adapted to this little problems. Now, I don't do it so aggressive, I take shorter steps, trying to not force that much. Psychologically you are down. You tell yourself "What a fucked up situation! if I could be as good physically as in 2005, with the better tennis player that I am now!"

Q: You've always played thinking on the number one. Now, Novak Djokovic threatens you for the number two.

A: I've always been more preocupied with the ones behind me than in front of me. Federer has always been far away. At certain point of the season, the press started printing that I could be the number one at the end of the year. In the year classification I ahead of him and he had to defend lots of things. The key match was Wimbledon's final.

Q: What happened in the locker room after it? There are some gossips out there...

A: I handled the ceremony well to not act as a brat. When I arrived to the locker room , I sat down and, as it's normal after losing the final of the tournament that you dream on winning, against the number one and with lots of chances, I started to cry of anger, of sadness. It's been the only match of the year that I've cried and one of the few in my career. It was a really close match. I was 20 or 25 minutes there. When people started arriving, I sat down inside the tub. They were cheering up me. I thanked them and I asked for being alone. I don't like people wintessing me crying.

Q: Your uncle and coach Toni even asked you if he should stop coaching you.

A: This year, when things were going bad at the beginning of the season, he suggested it. I said no. He was not the problem. I had enough courage to change the situation without needing another coach. Toni is and will be my coach.

Q: What have you learnt?

A: To be more patient. I have more experience. It's important when things don't go as good as expected. When things go wrong, I get nervous, but I know that the normal is that I have to end up playing well again. If it's not tomorrow, it will be in two weeks, a month, or three or five. Once you've been in the top and you've demonstrated to yourself you can... For something exists the number two. One doesn't go from the top to the bottom. It's the most important of this year. I was 8 month in titleless and I was anxious. When I won in Indian Wells, I began playing at a high level. Lots of times what you need is a "click".

Q: Have you changed your game to obtain it?

A: On clay, I've gone a lot more to the net and I've changed my style a little bit but always with the base being my fighting and high intensity. Now I can go to the net and volley with more guarantees. I've also improved my serve. I still need a bit more acceleration and that confidence that you get when your serve is 10-12 km/h quicker.

Q: You also need to be more aggressive in the rest.

A: I forget it a lot of times. It's something I have to work on because it's not easy for me. Until I see that I do it really badly, that I'm playing too defensive, I don't realise that I have to be more aggressive.

Q: Are you more questioned than others about doping?

A: I don't feel more chased than others, but I feel battered. I find lots of things ridiculous. When I finished Ferrer's match I had to be until 00 there because I was not able to pee. I ate in the ground.

Q: Now a doping positive will be sanctioned with 4 years.

A: A Fenadol, a Vick's Vaporub... it's doping. We have to be conscious that a little error is doping. I don't know if Martina Hingis took cocaine. Do you think it can help her? Not for me. And, however, her public image is destroyed. I despise drugs, but there are things that can't be. Players should be more supportive and all together, that's when we have power, and protest. We need unity. I leave all December and I have to tell day by day where I'm gonna be. It's ridiculous. You tell yourself, "Who am I to be treated as a delinquent?".

Q: Why it looks like Federer is injury free?

A: Due to his calendar and the way he plays. Federar has innate conditions, and I'm sure that I do too, but with a lot more hard working. I don't feel that I get more injured than the others. I feel that the minimal problem is translated into a huge problem. This year I only missed Marseille's tournament.

Q: Didn't you play injured Roland Garros' final?

A: I played all Roland Garros with a numbing foot, infiltrated and with anesthesia. I didn't want to go to the hospital to not have a small doubt in my head. I knew it was nothing serious. It was painful. I went to the hospital after the final and I had a small contusion.

Q: In 2005 your foot injury affected you. This year you've been resting 1 and a half month due to your knees. Did it affect you in the same way?

A: It's different. I was seeing an exit. I knew what I had. I played because it was US Open, but I was not fresh mentally. I had some analysis in Mallorca and everything was quite bad: iron, defenses, ... The doctor gave me a one week rest and I went to Ibiza. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

Q: What did you think when Federer lost to González?

A: That it was a miracle.

Q: Is it a problem that the clay season is so concentrated?

A: It's a big disadventage. I spend two months playing thousands of matches with the pressure of winning. Federer is different. He has a lots of weeks with nothing. I, without clay points, wouldn't be in Shangai. I've done a very good season outside clay, but if something happens during it, I'll be bad all the year.

Q: Do you feel saturated?

A: I arrived too exhausted to Hamburg. There was a moment when my head exploded, even more against Federer. I was playing a final every week for 4 or 5 weeks, with very hard matches and pressure. All the day I was thinking about the same. There's a moment that you are tired.

Q: Chinese were suprised about your quiet personality and the aggressive image you have.

A: I don't do anything else to be different than any other guy in his 20s. I'm a boy, a normal guy.

El Pais


oddman said...

Thanks for posting this interview - it's wonderful. Just reaffirms why I love this kid. Vamos forever, Rafa!

Tennisfan said...

Thanks for the post. It was a nice read. I am sure all Rafa's fans would already knew Rafa's Wimbledon and US open 2007 blog. But just in case,..