Wednesday, April 10

“I think that 21 titles are not going to be enough”

With an almost British punctuality and accompanied by the 21st major of his careerthe Australian Open trophy conquered last Sunday in an epic final against the Russian Daniel Medvedev, Rafa Nadal, a few hours after arriving in Mallorca, has reflected on what happened in the Antipodes, his personal situation after the demanding tournament played, injuries and future. And, of course, his 21st Grand Slam title, which makes him the first to reach that number.

The tennis player from Manacor, on the indoor court of his academy, does not know where his ceiling is, but he is clear that the big titles he has won now will not be enough for him to finish as the greatest in the history of his sport. “I don’t know where my roof is, I have no idea. Recently he signed only to be able to continue playing tennis. My way of seeing it does not change. If I want to be the one with the most big titles, yes, I like to think about it; but I’m not obsessed with not being. I don’t think 21 is enough to end up being the one with the most, the future will tell, but I feel a super lucky in life. I understand the debate about who is the best because it generates fans, but I live it in a different way. I make my way. I continue with my roadmap and if that allows me to continue, perfect. I’m not thinking about winning the 21st title, I’m preparing to be able to compete. My life won’t change if I win 21 or more, I’m lucky in life, what I want is to enjoy the competition”.

Nadal was clear when assessing what prospects he faced the tournament with: “I didn’t think about winning, that’s the truth. He hadn’t played for six months. He won the first tournament, in Melbourne, the final he played more or less well and it’s a step forward. From there there are several key moments, with training sessions with the best players in the world, I play them one on one, and in the third game against Khachanov I take an important step. It is a great first challenge and I overcome it with very good feelings. I plant myself in eighths and you start to breathe a little differently. Then you know that everything is very difficult, but my feelings were very good”, he commented.

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On what he felt when Medvedev did not reach the last ball of the match, he pointed out: “You don’t think, you are in a moment of concentration, tension, nerves and exhaustion. But at the same time, being in the situation that I was in was an incredible gift. I was nervous before the final because you had something important at stake. Other years I have arrived prepared, but not this year, I have had many problems, the injury, I had Covid. And if ten days before playing a tournament like this I have to be locked up at home for ten days, then the situation becomes dramatic. It is the most unexpected time, I have played with self-confidencewith maximum enthusiasm and joy. I have played infinitely better than I and any of my team thought”, he confessed.

“I’m taking the trophy, the people’s unconditional support, it’s been impressive, and on a personal level, an unforgettable experience. I have been able to enjoy sport at the highest level, and a few weeks ago it was unimaginable. I have returned to compete to the maximum against the best players. It is very important for the future and above all to have fun. The four weeks in Australia training I have been surprisingly well and competitive. Training has a special value and when you see that I’m not that far away. I gained confidence to achieve the objectives”.

Has Australia ever been to a major tournament with less pressure? “I don’t know what to say, it depends on the moment,” she said. “In the semifinals and the final you have pressure. I looked ready to compete because I looked good. But it is a different pressure than at other times, the pressure was whether he could endure physically and tennis-wise. As the tournament progresses the pressure increases because you see chances of success”.

The tennis player has then made a detailed x-ray of the match. “During the game I lived it with the previous illusion, with nerves, with hard moments because the game is going in a very bad way. In the first set Medvedev was better, in the second I didn’t feel inferior to him, but physically there was nothing left over. The second set was very important, both physically and mentally. When I lose it is a very hard blow because I lost many opportunities. In the end I continued, but the circumstances allowed me to get into the match. What you want is not to let yourself go and not lose concentration because at the slightest mistake you go out. Australia has a special meaning because in my career it is the tournament where I have suffered the most. At my age, having won my second title there is very important”.

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He did not want to delve into his scaphoid injury, but he has made it clear that he sees himself playing “With many more options to play than four weeks ago. I have played matches to five sets of maximum demand and the physique has endured. It’s a very important confidence boost.”

Regarding what has been the process for his return to the slopes after six months away from them, he has indicated: “In the end, we hear people before athletes, we go through better times, and worse ones. Everyone has their goals, their ambitions, but I was not fit to fight for my goals. These are times when you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you keep going, some days I could train twenty minutes, another two hours, but I’ve come to train with a positive attitude, I’ve worked well in the gym, which isn’t that I particularly like it. It was about adding and not subtracting, accepting each situation and being clear that it could go wrong”.

If his health respects him, he sees himself playing and competing for a long season: “What motivates me is that I like to do what I do, I like to train and compete, I enjoy what I do even though I know it has an expiration date. I know it’s not forever, but as long as I have the ability to continue enjoying myself, that’s my hope. Winning and losing is part of our lives, but continuing to compete at my age in the best stadiums in the world is what excites and motivates me”.

Once again he praised his work team: “I have the right people by my side and that changes your life. I have always had the support of all the people I have had by my side. And the fact of having the same team all my life helps me, because they are friends, colleagues, and sometimes you need these more than a work team”.

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Regarding the future and his calendar for the season, he said that he cannot dose himself more: “If I play less I stop being a tennis player. Except I can’t play. In the last two years I have played very little. I must analyze how I am. It’s been many months without competing and I have to see how my body responds. Now I have Acapulco and then Indian Wells. I am with the maximum determination to go to Indian Wells, to Acapulco I don’t know, the perspective has changed”.

He has not dared to confirm if the last six months have been the worst of his career in terms of setbacks in the form of injuries and the coronavirus, but if they have not been, he has stayed close: “In 2005 I had the injury, the same as I have now. I have also had problems with my wrists, but it is different because the injuries that have a calendar are easier to arrange. You have a plan of action and you know that you will recover. Then I had knee injuries, between Wimbledon 2012 in Viña del Mar. These are times of many doubts, and after this, my problems are not from six months ago, but since the first confinement ended. I make decisions that you don’t like, I’m not going to the US Open 2020, in 2021 I stopped playing after Roland Garros. I played fair. Injuries are what they are, with incredible moments and bad moments, but they haven’t stopped me from having the illusion of playing”.

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The name of Palma airport

Finally, he referred to the initiative that has been put underway so that Palma airport renamed Rafa Nadal: “I have no idea, if the people who have to decide that think it’s the right thing for the airport, who am I to say no. I haven’t received any news about this, but if you think it’s positive for the island, go ahead, it’s over.

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