Q. What was your first thought when you heard Bernard Tomic was your first‑round opponent?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, good start (smiling).
No, just is not the best round I know to start a Grand Slam, playing against a player who is local and who is young, who played great in the past here, and who is playing well. He’s in the final of Sydney.
Is a tough start. But what I thought is just I need to be ready and just practice with the great tactics every day, try to do the right things in every moment to arrive in the first round with the competitive. That’s the only way.
Q. Do you think you’ll have much crowd support?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think the crowd here is great. I played against him here in Australia. I played against Lleyton here few times.
Australian crowd is one of the best. I really have fun all the time when I was able to play on this fabulous court, Rod Laver Arena. I think they understand about tennis. They respect always the opponent. I not worried about that. I’m sure the crowd will be great.
Q. What is your memory of playing Bernard Tomic last time you played him at the Australian Open?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t remember very well. It was in three or four. Was a tough one. During the second or during the third he had advantage on the score.
But always a challenging player, no? He has a big talent. He has a good serve. He’s able to play with very good control from the baseline. He has a very good talent on where you going to hit the ball.
He’s a good player to start the tournament. To be through in that first round is because I’m ready to compete well. If not, I’m going to be ready to be practicing at home. That’s all.
Q. How much a better player do you think he is now than when you played him last time?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. The normal evolution of the young player is that they really improves every year.
Q. Will you be watching the Sydney game?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know what time is it.
Q. How are you feeling physically?
RAFAEL NADAL: Hopefully fine, yeah.
Q. How are you finding the speed of the courts so far? There was a lot of talk they might be faster than in years past.
RAFAEL NADAL: Completely different conditions than what I remembered of this tournament. Faster conditions that I ever played here in Australia.
Well, I really don’t understand very well why they change because the last couple of years, Australian Open had amazing matching, long ones, good ones for the crowd. I don’t know why the people who decide to make the conditions that fast.
I am not sure for the show is the best thing. But they decide and I’m just a player to try to be competitive from the beginning. I am practicing every day as much as I can and with the right intensity, the right attitude.
I arrived one week before. I think that I am practicing better a little bit every day. I hope to adjust my game to these conditions.
Q. You think the difference is very big from when you were here last two years ago?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes.
Q. How do you think that affects your game?
RAFAEL NADAL: I tell you in a couple of days (smiling).
Q. Does that make it harder for you to win the title than in the past?
RAFAEL NADAL: Last year I don’t remember (smiling).
Q. The last time you were here.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I was able to play well in fast conditions in the past. But is true that I need to play my best to really have chances to be very competitive here against everybody because the conditions are a little bit faster than usual.
But we’ll see, no? I think during all my career I was able to play well in any condition: fast, slow, different surfaces. Important thing is try to be ready for the action from the beginning and be fresh mentally ‑ something that I hope I am.
I’m going to try to find the feelings, positive feelings. If that happens, I hope to be competitive.
Q. You’ve won every major except for this one twice or more. In your mind, does that make this one any more important?
RAFAEL NADAL: Not more important. All the tournaments are very important when I play. Every tournament, even if is Grand Slam or Masters 1000 or 500 or 250, I play every match with the same intensity. It’s not because I’m playing a Grand Slam I’m going to play with more focus or more intensity. I try to be always the same, highest level possible.
Is true that is important to give me another chance here in Australia in the next couple of years starting for this one. Win both, every Grand Slam twice, will be something really difficult. I going to try to do it in the next couple of years, but knowing that always is a big challenge.
I was not lucky in this tournament in the past. I think 2006 I couldn’t play the tournament. I get injury twice. Against Murray I have to retire. Against David couple years ago, well, I didn’t retire, but I had broken ‑ I don’t know how to say ‑ a little bit the muscle in the second game of the match.
Q. A tear?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes. Last year I didn’t have the chance to play. Is really the Grand Slam I have the more trouble during all my career.
Real opportunity is to play and compete well in this Grand Slam. I have 2005, 2007, 2008. After that, 2009, for sure. 2010 and ’11, I get injury. 2012, I was able to compete at my 100% again. I lost the final against fantastic player with a great match.
But is true that I going to try my best. A tournament I really love so much. I like a lot the people here in Australia. The tournament is easy one for the players. People are very nice with us here.
Q. Physically do you feel as well as you have in other years coming into this tournament now?
RAFAEL NADAL: Important thing is feel yourself well. Physically is not a problem, I think. Important thing is play well. If you get injury, then is a problem.
Sometimes in the past I felt right and then I get injured in the tournament. I feel without problems, but you never know what’s going on. Hopefully will be still healthy for the whole year. That’s the most important thing for me.
Q. You had a good finish to 2013. How important is the No. 1 world ranking to you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Not much. Something that I’m not worried. Most important thing for me is be able to be competitive in every tournament that I going to play.
When you are getting older, thinking about the No. 1 ranking is tougher. You have to take care a little bit more about your body, your health. For me the main goal is try to be here for a long time, for not only one more or two more years. So my priority is try to play as long as I can in my career.
If that makes me lose maybe some tournament to protect my health, you know, from consequence you will have less chances to be in the top position of the rankings.
Is not something that worry so much for me. I have been in the top two positions in the rankings for a lot of my career, so is not something that is a priority today.
If that happens, like happened last year, because I played fantastic in every tournament, very happy and great. But is something that I will not try to find. If that happens because I am playing great, very happy.
But most important thing for me is keep happy playing tennis, enjoying the tournament, and be competitive in every tournament, especially the important ones.
Q. Which part of South American tour was the most exciting for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Every place was different. I was able to visit places that I didn’t visit for a long time or never. So was a great experience for me. The fans there are so emotional. It’s very intense. Was a very special moment for me there against David, against Novak, against Nalbandian, too, in his last matches.
Having a crowd that speaks my language, too, that makes the relationship closer. I really had a lot of fun. Was be like holidays. I really enjoyed visiting all these kind of places, and for sure visiting Perito Moreno was one of the more spectacular things I visit.
Thank you very much. Happy New Year, everybody.
Source: ausopen.com // Photos: AP Photo/Aaron Favila, EFE/EPA/FRANCK ROBICHON