R. NADAL def. E. Gulbis 7‑5, 6‑4
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Well done. Do you think that’s your best performance so far?
RAFAEL NADAL: This year, yes (smiling). No, yes, it was my best match today. I think yesterday I played better, and today even I played a little bit more.
So happy to win against Ernests. If you are not playing well it’s very, very difficult, no? He’s a very dangerous player. He’s able to hit winners from every part on the court.
Was great to come back in the second set after 3‑0. Until 5‑3 I think I played a very high level, playing the way that I had to play, playing aggressive without losing the court and going for the shots when I had the ball with the forehand, no.
So very happy. It was an important win for me today, and to be in semifinals is a great start.
Q. What helped you to bring your level up? Is it just that you have played a bit more tennis now?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I’m practicing one week since I arrived to Abu Dhabi, I don’t know, one week and ‑‑one week. Last week. One week away.
So I practiced tougher. I spent a lot of hours on court. I practiced more than what I usually do to play a tournament, but I understand that’s what I needed to prepare myself for the competition, not only for here, for the next tournaments, too. But that’s the way to be ready for here, too, no?
So the matches give me the opportunity to compete, to get the rhythm and to get the confidence today. Break points I played much better the break points today than what I did yesterday. That’s good news and a good signal. So happy for that.
Q. What do you know about your semifinal opponent? He told us before that at the US Open in September he actually asked you for an autograph. Do you remember that?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. But I saw him play. He’s playing good. He already won three good matches here.
When you are in semifinals, doesn’t matter if you ask me for autograph a few months before. I know he gonna go on court trying to win, and I need to play my best, continuing playing better and better every day. Tomorrow is an important match to try to be in a final again, so I gonna try to go on court with full concentration, full motivation, and trying to play aggressive, no?
I saw him play today. He can play very well, and winning ‑‑ I think he won begins Kohlschreiber, no? So winning against Kohlschreiber is because you are able to play at a very high level, so he should be dangerous.
Q. How different are the conditions here compared to Melbourne, particularly in an evening match here when it can be quite cold?
RAFAEL NADAL: At the end, most important thing is we are playing with the same ball. So that helps. Then I don’t know which conditions I gonna find in Australia this year. Somebody told me yesterday it was very quick, is very quick. So we will see what’s going on.
Normally I played here and then in Melbourne few times in the past, and when I arrive there I don’t see a very big difference, no. Probably because the ball. But at the end I am practicing during the day here too. And is true that during afternoon it gets colder, but there I arrive one week before the competition, so small adjustments that you need to do.
If I am ready to play well, is more than enough time to adjust.
Q. Do you actually quite enjoy finishing off a match with a serve and volley?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, not serve and volley.
Q. Well, backhand volley.
RAFAEL NADAL: Serve forehand and volley. That was too risky, serve and volley.
No, is great to finish on the net any point, is a good feeling, is because if you are finishing points on the net is because you are in ‑‑you are under control in the point and because you are playing inside the court and with a favorable position.
So I think that’s the way that I have to play, because when I played well on these surfaces, I went often to the net because I take the ball early and I was able to change directions with my forehand, moving myself, dynamic.
The last point was very good point because it was under pressure point, just 40‑30, so you only have one. And I was able to play with the right position, so a good forehand I’m going to the net to decide as a termination, that’s the way. Happy for that and I need to keep doing.
Q. We’re always looking for the guys that are going to come through and challenge the top 4, if you like, the big 4. Do you think if Gulbis really, really concentrates on his game he has the potential to do that? And who are the other guys you see as possibly breaking through to threaten?
RAFAEL NADAL: At the end of the era that we are having for the last couple of years, at the end is a little bit strange because is not very often that happen that few players are very dominant and for a long time.
So if we take a look in the past around the history of our sport, always come back, people play from behind, younger players, and are able to improve the level and to come, you know, to overcome against the players that they are already on the top, no?
These things are not happening for the last couple of years, but I don’t know if this year gonna happen or not. I cannot tell you the players that can do it.
You know exactly the same than me, that the players potentially can do it, but then you have to do it. So it’s true that one day will happen. I don’t know when. Hopefully not that soon. But is true that our, you know, our condition of Big 4, as you say, it is not forever.
But only thing that I can do is work as much as I can and be ready for when that happens. Then I know even if I work as much as I can and I try to be ready, one day I will not be ready, but I try to make that happen as late as possible.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports