China Open: An interview with Rafael Nadal (October 5, 2013)

Photo: China Open
Photo: China Open

R. NADAL/T. Berdych 4‑2 (ret.)

THE MODERATOR:  Questions in English, please.

Q.  Obviously we would like to know your feelings today since you will become the new world No. 1. 
RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, something that is present after a great year, one of the best years of my career without any doubt.  Was sad to make it this way because Tomas had to retired, so I hope to see him recovered for Shanghai.
For the rest, sure is special be back to the top position of the ranking after more than a half year without playing tennis.  I have 13 finals this year in 14 tournaments.  Is just something that I never did in the past.  So something very, very special for me.
Here we were with the situation that I came back to the No. 1 today.  That’s important.  But at the end, it’s just a number.  What made me happy is all what I did to be back where I am today more than be what I am today.

Q.  When you look back and you remember how you were maybe the same day one year ago, how you were for your first match in Vina Del Mar, how did you feel about that? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  I think that’s all a process that can go the right way and can go the negative way.
So at the beginning was hard.  Even with very good results was hard situations.  Then the level of tennis was much better than what I ever thought can be in that short period of time.
Because in Acapulco, I played great.  That’s the real thing.  And in Indian Wells, too.  I never thought I will be able to play that good in just three weeks, but it happened.  I felt during all the season very excited every time I go on court.  Emotional situations, playing in big stadiums again, and probably very fresh mentally.  Very excited to compete again and compete well and feel myself competitive against everybody.
That’s it.  I worked hard every day with the right attitude I think.  And because of that, I am today in this situation.  But it’s not everything done.  Remain a match tomorrow.  Remain Shanghai.  I am No. 1 today, but it’s not done for the end of the season.
It’s something that will be a great finish of the season if I am able to finish the season on the No. 1 spot.  For that, I am sure I need to win more matches if I want to be there at the end of the season.

Q.  If you look back in the past few months, what do you feel is that one quality that has stood by in getting where you are today? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  One quality in which way?  It’s very difficult to say one for the last couple of months, because since I came back after Wimbledon in the US Open, I think I played well tennis in general.  It’s not that I played amazing forehand or amazing serve.  No.
I think if we’re talking about tennis in general, I did almost everything very well since I came back after Wimbledon.

Q.  Can you compare become being No. 1 today to the last two times you took over the No. 1 spot?  Is this time a little more satisfying given the nature of your injury and what you had to overcome to be here? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  No.  At the end, I will repeat the same:  The personal satisfaction is not because I am No. 1 today; it’s because all the work that I had to be where I am today.
So at the end, the real thing is I don’t feel myself better player now than five hours ago.  That’s the real thing.  I don’t going to go to sleep tonight feeling that I am the best player of the world.
That’s something that I never thought, and I don’t going to think now today.  I think that I played well.  I played a very complete season, and that’s why I am the best in the ranking today.
But what makes me happy, and I repeat it hundreds of time, is feel myself competitive every time when I go to a tennis tournament, feel that I can win and lose against everybody.  And be healthy.  Without health, nothing is possible.

Q.  Some people were saying one of the reasons you play at such a high level is you take a long break to have your body well rested.  Do you have a plan to play a lighter schedule next season, to focus more on bigger tournaments? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  No, I don’t have that plan.  But every opinion is valid.  I feel that is not only one way to be success.
I didn’t had the chance to play tennis for seven months, but was not a rest for me.  Was a hard period of time.  Was not my decision to stop for six, seven months.
So when you had to stop because you are injury, you work every day hard to recover.  You find solutions.  So it’s not the same when you decide for yourself I going to have a break in my career and I going to rest for four months without playing tennis and then I going to start the next three months practicing progressive and I will be back fresher mentally.
Was not my case.  I don’t feel that way.  And for the next season, as I did during all my career, I going to do as much as I can in every match that I going to play.  In tennis, you cannot prepare‑‑ you can have an idea what you would like to play, but it’s not the number of tournaments.  It’s number of matches what makes you feel tired our what makes you adjust your schedule.
If you are winning a lot of matches you can play less.  If you are winning less matches, you need to play more tournaments.  That’s all.

Q.  Today we are having a very high level of pollution in the air.  Could you feel it when you were playing?  Do you feel any influence? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  No, I don’t feel that.  It’s true that was raining few days ago and then the next two days the conditions were nicer.
Yesterday and especially today again the pollution is here, so that makes the feeling, you know, not beautiful.
But if you talk about if I feel when I am breathing, no, I don’t feel.

Q.  Asian players are built smaller than Europeans and Americans.  Do you think that is something that hindered Asians from dominating or playing really good on the men’s tour? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  I’m not 100% sure on that.  In my opinion, probably the tradition of tennis in Europe and in Latin America is high; here the tradition in Asia of tennis is more new, the passion for tennis.
That’s not the work of two, three, four years.  That’s a work of longer period of time.
I’m sure if they find the right people, do the right things in academies and find the right people to work on the kids, in the next 20 years Asia will have great champions of tennis.
THE MODERATOR:  Chinese questions.

Q.  First of all, congratulations to be back to No. 1.  My question is, previously you said that before the match you have to know who is the opponent, then you will work out a very detailed strategy in practice and on the court.  Probably tomorrow you might fight against Djokovic.  Are you willing to share with us your practice plan either today or tomorrow?  Thank you. 
RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t have a practice plan.  I practice the same way if I play against one player than against the other.  When you go on court you have to adjust a few things when you play against one player or you play against another.
But in tennis, you don’t have the possibility to make big changes.  If you try to do things that you are not doing often, you will not have success.
For me personally, I’m not that good to change my game completely to play against one or another player, no?
I know tomorrow I going to have a very tough opponent in front.  I need to play my best, playing aggressive, playing without mistakes, being solid with my serve.  If these kind of things are not happening, I will not have chances.
So I know what I have to do.  Then it’s very difficult to do it, because the opponent, the level of the opponent is unbelievable.

Q.  In French Open you repeatedly said that you were not the potential to even win the title, but eventually you did.  Today you said that you will not feel to be No. 1 in the world.  Now you are No. 1.  Will this kind of attitude help you to be No. 1 in the world?  You always keep it low‑key. 
RAFAEL NADAL:  Is not an attitude.  It’s what I feel.  So it’s not something that I come here and I say to you.  It’s something that I really feel.  I am being honest when I am in Roland Garros and when I am here saying the way that I really feel.

Q.  Now you were No. 1 in the world.  Either tonight or after China Open are you going to celebrate this moment with your team?  How will you celebrate? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  After here I am going to go to Shanghai, so playing on Tuesday or Wednesday I think is not the right idea to celebrate nothing.
Celebrations are for the end of the season, not before.  At the end, tennis is a sport that the negative thing is when you achieve something important, you don’t have time to celebrate.  In a few days you will be another time playing and competing and playing against a player that is trying to beat you again.
The positive thing is when you lose, you have another opportunity very soon.  But is not my time for celebrations.  It’s time for keep being focused.  The season is not over.  My work is not over.  I need to keep playing well.  That’s what I going to try.
At the end of the season, even if I am No. 1 at the end or not, there is a lot of reasons to celebrate the season, because one year ago we were in is completely different situation.  (Smiling.)

Q.  On the way to being No. 1 in the world, you had a short week of No. 1 in the world.  You have every good potential to be the No. 1 in terms of titles you won for the Grand Slam.  Are you more happy to be No. 1 or to win more titles in Grand Slam? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  The things are going together.  If you are able to win important tournaments, you will be able to be No. 1.  But at the end I fight for every week.  I fight every match.
At the end of the season, we’ll see if I am No. 1, No. 3, No. 5, or No. 20.  That’s the real thing.
If you ask me what make me more happy, win Grand Slam or be No. 1, first thing I will say make me more happy is the work of every day, and then have the success knowing how hard was to arrive there, how hard I had to work.
Second thing, always the feeling when you win a tournament is very special.  For me personally, makes me a little bit more emotional winning a tournament than what happened today.  Today, seriously, I am happy, yes.  I am No. 1, yes.
But at the end, it’s different than when you finish a tournament or you win an important tournament.  For sure if I am able to be No. 1 at the end of the season, then, yes, that’s like an important achievement because I will be the best of the year.  That’s an important thing.
That’s something that really motivates me.

Q.  John McEnroe commented that when you recovered you have become stronger in terms of physical energy and the skills.  Do you agree with his comment and what kind of change did you make? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t feel stronger physically for sure.  It’s not something that I am feeling.  I know I am not.  Talking about tennis, I was able to play great tennis for most of the time this year.
But always the memory is short.  People forget that in 2010 I played amazing tennis; 2008, too.  In 2012.  Last year, I was playing great tennis for the half year.
This year I’m playing another time fantastic level of tennis.  I’m playing at very high level, yes, but I don’t know if it’s something new that I didn’t make it in the past.  I’m playing well, very well.  Happy the way I’m playing.
It’s difficult to compare.  But in the past, in 2010 I won three Grand Slams; in I won two; 2010 I won two and the Olympics.  Was a very good result to say that I am playing better than ever today.
Only thing I can say today is I am playing very well and that’s it.  Very happy for that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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