Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rafael Nadal - My Year In Review

What follows is a translation of an interview Rafa 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 enteres 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 needin 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 monthin 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 garanties. 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 that 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 Vicks 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 exploited, 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


Helen W said...

Savannah a big THANK YOU for posting that.

I've been quietly worrying about Rafa ever since he was done in by the AELTA at Wimbledon. I really hope he now has the time he needs to get himself physically back into top form.

I can never read anything that he says without liking him even more. Straightforward, humble, sweet, playful, ....

oddman said...

Oh, helen, same with me.... this just reaffirms why I love this kid so much. Thanks for this, Savannah. Nice to be able to read about some of his thoughts, etc, from the year. Vamos forever, Rafa!

tristann said...

Thanks Savannah. Nice article. Eventhough he is happy with his year, there is a melancholy feel to it. I am sure he was hoping to achieve much more this year. I realize he had just come off a disappointing loss, so that may have colored his feelings at the time of the interview. I deeply hope that 2008 turns out to be his breakthrough year. He deserves it.

Helen W said...

What a welcome corner of the Internet this blog is for those of us who love Rafa! Where else can we read a story about Rafa and know that the comments will not contain derisive remarks about him tugging at his pirates or adjusting his socks or such like.

Here we find a haven for those souls who have come to be profoundly touched by Rafa the person and his family.

Savannah, thank you.

Savannah said...

I get so sick and tired of the insults and snide remarks hurled at Rafa I don't know what to do.

Because this is a blog about tennis and not just a blog about Rafa I try to keep my fangirl tendencies at a minimum but with about six weeks until real tennis starts again I think I can let them show just a little.

The actions of the AELTC towards a professional tennis player, ranked number two in the world, should be remarked on at every opportunity. They took the rest of the year from Rafa IMO but Wimbledon is "Wimbledon" and they won't be called on it. I was there when he collapsed on court unable to continue but all you read and hear about is Djoke's "imitation" of him.

So I do what I can for Rafa and will continue to do so.

tristann said...

Savannah, I know how you feel. I do not even think that posting this article is giving in to fangirl tendencies. Rafa has been the second best player going on three years now but in reality we hear precious little about him in any depth. He has become something like a carboard cutout in the story of Federer, the 'nemesis' or 'rival'. Even during the French Open, most of what I read concerned Roger's "quest" and his failure to achieve it, and what he needs to do better next time. He is the #1 player, but it is also nice to learn more about others.

In spite of its somewhat melancholy tone, this interview does a nice job of fleshing out Rafa and allowing us a glimpse into his thoughts. I always prefer his interviews when they are conducted in spanish as he is able to reveal so much more in his native tongue.

Have a nice Thanksgiving all!

Savannah said...

Don't even mention that "nemesis" garbage to me. Another hatchet job on a guy people want to make into a stereotype.

oddman said...

Re: the AELTA, absolutely right, Savannah. I'll always have a bad taste in my mouth over that fiasco. Scumbags!
This is not 'fangirl' stuff - it's very enlightening, and a great story. I hope Rafa can start running again next year, or figure out an alternative way to keep fit that won't stress his body.
I love how open and honest he is about things.

tristann said...

Sorry if my comment hit a nerve, Savannah. I also am sick and tired of the way that Nadal is portrayed by the mainstream media. Federer has talent, but does nothing for me and for many other fans. There are other players besides him, and the best one right now is Rafa. His record is pretty amazing for his young age and having suffered injuries. Yet, as I mentioned, he has become little more that a one-dimensional villain in the story of Federer.

Rafa has always shown a lot of maturity but also a lot of naivete. Yet in this article he sounds like he has reached a new level of maturity. I feel like 2008 can really be his breakout year, if he can keep himself healthy.

I appreciate the articles and posts about Nadal from a fellow fan.