Interview with Rafael Nadal – Madrid Open 2014 (May 11, 2014)

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

R. NADAL/K. Nishikori 2‑6, 6‑4, 3‑0 (ret.)

THE MODERATOR:  Questions in Spanish, please.

Q.  Congratulations for your fourth title.  Maybe it’s a little bit bitter because of the Nishikori’s retirement.  Happened the same thing to you in Australia, or is it tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL:  No, no, it’s not tennis.  There are circumstances, and sometimes those things can happen.  I’m sorry for him.  I’m really sorry.  Of course when you have the dynamic that he’s having, when you suffer something like that, it’s really tough, he’s hard.
Well, obviously I suffered a similar situation, nearly the same, in Australia this year.  So I know what I’m talking about and how bitter is it, especially when you’re playing an important match.  So for me it was that day was, and for him it was this day.  That’s the way it is.  All of us have a moment have to face it, and today it was his day.  He had to face it today.
Of course for me it’s a really important title.

Q.  Congratulations for another Masters 1000 for your career.  I wanted to ask you about Nishikori.  Seeing how he played the first set and the rest of the tournament and Barcelona, too, do you think that that potentially he can be No. 1 of the world? 

RAFAEL NADAL:  I don’t know.  I have no idea.  To be No. 1 is pretty complicated.  At the end, you know, I don’t like to put someone so high very fast, or when someone is not playing is well just throw them to the ground quickly.  You have to keep your feet on the ground in every moment and think calmly.
Kei promised a lot of things, promised a lot a couple years ago, and he’s still very young.  He has had a couple injuries.  Whenever you suffer injuries everything is really complicated.  I’m sure that he’s going to be within the best.  I’m sure if he keeps playing that level he’s going to be a clear candidate to be up there.
To be No. 1 he has to show if he’s capable of playing with high regularity all year and being able to win on all surfaces.
To be No. 1 today it’s quite expensive.  There are some players that play few matches, and to be No. 1, you cannot commit any errors.  You have to commit very few errors, and the correct place.
If not, it’s really tough.

Q.  Before he suffered, did you see another possibility to come back to the match?  What was the percentage?
RAFAEL NADAL:  You know I never look at the percentages when I’m playing.  I just looking at the next point.  That was my percentage, the next point, then the next one, and on and on.  That’s all.
You know, I went through a really complicated moment in the first set.  I think I played a really high level with the first two points.  I played with aggressiveness, and then I was blocked.
There was some moments where, I don’t know, I couldn’t find myself.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play or I was missing intensity, I was just mentally blocked.  I had to go over that block.
It’s also true that I had some moments to go over it, and I couldn’t do it, because at the beginning of the second set he played really well.  He did a break and we were playing quite well.  I missed two returns and he did an ace.
So there are circumstances of the match that strike you all during the match.  When you’re blocked, you just need a spark to go out there and compete again.  I think the most positive thing for me is that in the second set, suffering, having a bad time out there, I managed to find the way to compete.  You know, I was competitive on the second set.
I was being competitive.  I had to to get back into the match and I think I was getting closer.  I think I was.  I think when I broke him, I think he was not that bad.  I think.  I’m talking honestly.  I try to speak honestly whenever it happens to me and when it doesn’t.
I think when I managed to recover from the break in the second set he was playing normally.  I think I saved a couple good points.  I battled with a lot of points to play aggressively.  It’s true, after going back and doing the break that he was just gone.  He was going down and he couldn’t play anymore.
So I was being competitive.  I don’t know if I would have been able to win the match.  I’m not trying to think on that.  In this moment I’m pretty happy because of my attitude.  Within the negativeness that was going on in the match, I was still with a lot of illusion.  I still had the energy to keep on trying, even though it was pretty tough.
In the end, I was also thinking that I just‑‑ after the match that I lost in Barcelona, after the match that I lost in Australia, the match that I also lost in Indian Wells ‑‑ I was also pretty close to winning in Dolgopolov ‑‑  in some way I wanted to think that this year, you know, I just deserved something.
I was just fighting, because if I had the option I was going to be there to pick it up.  It’s for sure that if I didn’t fight that tennis wouldn’t have given me that prize.

Q.  The first day that you sat here you said that you had some doubts.  How do you leave Madrid to face Roland Garros?
RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, much better, of course.  Of course whenever you winin sport, well, it’s something basic.  It’s a vital part of sport.
Because whenever you win, you see things more clearly.  You see again how to play.  You are calm once again.  You know how to strike the ball properly in the key moments.
Even though I think that today I did a not so good first set, I think I did a great tournament.  This is the reality of the situation.  You know, I didn’t do this in Monte‑Carlo or Barcelona.  It’s true in Barcelona against Dodig I did a little bit better.  Against Almagro, I played a set and a half pretty well, but without being secure in what I was doing.
That security here in this tournament, I’ve really had it here.  I have felt again that I had that‑‑ well, you know, it’s really complicated to explain.  It’s a feeling that you have when you’re in the court.  You know, the feeling of being secure.
The feelings that the things that you want to do you’re doing, that things are going in the line you want them to.  I think I did that with Berdych and Nieminen, and with Bautista I did it for a long time.
Overall I think I did a pretty complete tournament.  For me, you know, I should have maintained the level that I played during the first two matches during the whole tournament, which was the ultimate match for me to close this tournament.
I also have to face a complicated match and know how to battle them.  That makes you stronger.  I also needed to suffer and face complicated situations.  I needed to go over them.
In this situation I hadn’t gone over them in the previous tournaments, and here I have.  I won here, and it’s a pretty important tournament for me.

Q.  Rafa, are you working on going up to the net?  Today you didn’t do a lot of that, but it was very effective.  The second serve, sometimes people that return well, they attack it.  Are you working on those things? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  The second serve, you know, I served that way because of my general block.  You know, my second serve was because of my confidence, because of my mental block.  When going up to the net, you cannot go to the net when you are two meters behind the line returning.
Whenever you striking the ball, if you don’t have the confidence that it’s going to go in the court, you cannot go up.  You do it three or four times and you see the space and you go up.  That’s basic and logical in tennis.  You cannot go to the net when you’re striking a good ball and then you throw three balls out of the court.
You just cannot go up.  To go up to the net you need regularity.  That’s what gives you the opportunity to go up to the net when you have opportunities.

Q.  Two questions:  First all, the crowd was of course supporting you.  But as you just said, you were a little bit blocked.  Was the crowd a support?  And then secondly, you said that you are no longer 20 years old and we have another generation of tennis players coming.  Which point do you think you are in in your career now? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  First of all, in my life I’ve had the feeling that the crowd, whenever I played, goes against me whenever I play home.  And when I say that, the pressure is more than what the audience gives me.  True that today whenever I had that negative feeling, whenever you’re playing home, maybe makes you a little bit more blocked because you want to do things properly.
You don’t want to disappoint all the people that are supporting you.  You just want to do things well.  But at the same time that I say that, thanks to the support of them.  In the second set I was capable of competing again.
With what I was doing, the crowd just pushed me a little bit more and gave me the rest.  So if you ask me, I’m always going to choose to play with the crowd supporting me, in my favor, of course.  Obviously.
And talking about my career, I don’t know what you want to know.  I am where I am.  I’m 27 years old, nearly 28 in a few weeks.  I don’t know.  How many years have I been on the tour?  12?  That’s a lot.
But I’m where I am.  I’m competing for the tournaments that I’m competing for.  I feel well physically.  I’m feeling better and better physically, better than a year ago.  This is the most important thing.
Mentally I still have the illusion for what I’m doing.  It still makes me happy.  I still feel fortunate for doing what I’m doing.
So those things make it worth it for me.  Just doesn’t make me think on which moment I’m in my career.  Just makes me think next week I’ll play in Rome and the next one, Roland Garros.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions in English.

Q.  Can I get your assessment of the way you played today and what it means for you to have won this tournament four times playing in front of your home crowd in your home tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL:  Always win at home is more special than wining anywhere.  Have the chance to play in front of your crowd and enjoy the feeling, the full support, is unforgettable for me.  This city give me a lot.  Give me everything.
The feeling that it gives me to play in] Spain, and Madrid in this case, is very difficult to find this feeling away from here, no?
So a very important victory for me.  Very sorry for Nishikori.  I really hope that it’s nothing too bad and he will have the chance to compete very soon again.  He’s very important for our tour.
Japan is a big market.  He’s a good guy.  He’s a fantastic tennis player.  So he’s doing everything great, and I want to congratulate him for everything.

Q.  Maybe somebody ask you in Spanish, but you said something on court after the match that he was kind of crying.  You go there to say something to him.  Could you tell me what you said to him? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  Just I was asking to him where was the pain.  I thought was the back.  He told me that was the leg.
I just tried to hurry up him, to give my support to him, because I know how tough is have these problems on court in front of a big crowd.  Happened to me a few times in my career, and I can tell you that this is not fun.
These moments are tough to accept, and I felt very sorry for him.

Q.  Maybe this also you answer, but could you just tell me your impression of Kei Nishikori, especially in the first set? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  No, he’s an unbelievable player.  He’s a player that he will fight to be in London in the Masters Cup this year.  I am sure of that.  I really hope that the injury is not too bad and he will be able to compete in Roland Garros.
And he’s doing fantastic things since the beginning of the season.  He’s playing at his best level of his career, and that’s great.  I am really happy for him.  It’s good to have a player like him on the tour.

Q.  Congratulations on another victory.  What was it that surprised you most about Kei’s performance in the first set, if there was anything that surprised you?  And even when you were losing it did you feel you could still come back and win the match? 
RAFAEL NADAL:  Normally I am a positive guy in general, so I always believe that I can find a solution.
But it’s true that for moments it was really tough, because I really didn’t have not one good feeling.
So was frustrating for moments during the match, but it’s true that I was fighting and fighting mentally.  Physically always is a little easier part.  Mentally is the most difficult part.
I was trying to fight a lot mentally to change the direction of the match and to change my personal feelings.  That was the thing that I was focused on, because I know he was playing great.
Okay, nothing to say with that.  The thing that I had to do was play better on me, no?
I need to forget about the pressure and forget about the bad feelings and try to find my game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


  1. Congratulations, Rafa for your well-deserved victory in Madrid. I agree that winning a
    tournament is a culmination of winning several matches in order to “reign” in the end.
    Although Nishikori played inspired tennis in the first set and into the 2nd set, his body
    gave out. So much can be said for physical self-preservation when playing in a battle.
    You do have to pace yourself. I couldn’t help thinking that you almost have to kill yourself to
    beat Rafa especially on clay. (I remember the commentators said that Darcis hasn’t played
    since beating Rafa at a Grand Slam 2 years ago!) Stamina is such an important part of
    the winning process in sports!

    I had a feeling Nishikori would come out swinging and killing it in the 1st set just like Halep did in her first set against Sharapova. Both these underdogs demonstated amazing talent and skill but Maria said it best when she stated that the match isn’t over until the very last point. That’s what champions do; they find a way to keep fighting and fight back especially when behind. It had to be overwhelming pressure for Rafa to also compete for the title in front of his beloved country. I was glad he came through for them! Can’t wait for the French

  2. Rafa, I hope you are finally going to try and change your tactics when you play. Djokovich started and now others are following the pattern too. Nishikori unfortunately completely outplayed you on Sunday – forehand and backhand and I’m really really sad to say that if he had not been injured and if you could not have changed your game or tactics he would have won. I have to admit that even though I’m your fan. Realize that the other players have changed their tactics so that they can play and win against you. Please try to counter attack them. Don’t be complacent and say that you can’t change or play differently. Wish you all the best for Rome and the rest of the year.

  3. I find it rather amazing that the conservative and (usually) humble Nada, probably for the first time, did not attribute his ‘victory’ (?) in Madrid to luck. Surprising and uncharacteristically, in all the post match interviews, he never said something like ” No, I was very lucky to have won”

    • Amigo,
      I guess he did say something like that. ..
      Nadal has said “gracias a un semi milagro he podido ganar” (thanks to a semi miracle I have been able to win).
      It is the title of an audio fille at the site ivoox.

  4. I was in Madrid and let us recognise that Nosikori is a talented player and very athletic. The first set was worrying but I felt that Rafael was still in the match despite the injury to Nisokori. He kept fighting and was gradually finding his form. I never like to see any player injured but let us appreciate that Rafael did win and hopefully will push on from here. He was gracious and sensitive in victory, a great champion and an impressive person

  5. +Great article Miriama. Rafa is a GREAT human being. I cannot believe the questions he is asked. People are so insensitive. Rafael Nadal is the most sincere, genuine guy on tour (or close to it). He is so insightful and caring. He WILL conquer his insecurities. I hope he focuses on the fact that his incredible work ethic and will to improve brought him to 13 grand slams (and counting). Maybe Rafa cannot believe his good fortune and sometimes becomes a little intimidated by it. If that makes any sense? It saddens me greatly when I read some cruel remarks about him. Why are people so hateful. Some may disagree, but I truly believe in my heart that he would have been the winner of the 2014 Australian Open if it were not for his back pain. He really worked hard to get to that final and if all of you remember, he had a really tough draw. I really wish him the best for the rest of the clay court season; and I hope he plays through his “mental block” and is victorious. Love you Rafa, God bless you and good luck too. Marylynn

  6. Such honest, realistic – and pragmatic – answers to these questions. The guy doesn’t have a hidden agenda. He is thinking about every moment, every second and trying to find a way out. You are all alone out there, and I can imagine in front of the home crowd, you feel even more pressure to be the best you can be. Incredibly down-to-earth and open about it all, and he really did feel Nishikori’s pain.

    • completely agree with you amy…how refreshing is it to hear such transparency, such honesty about his game, and his feelings and his approach to his career, and his empathy for his opponent…he never ceases to amaze me…

  7. Well we all know u got it just needs to find it again. We b here waiting and hope nishikori recovers. Love u rafa xx

  8. Why do you reporters hound RAFA so much, I dislike the way he gets asked so many questions when he is obviously not playing at his best, and then if that is not enough, he gets hounded about NISHIKORI’….AND SO ON what do you think of him as a player, RAFA being the polite and humble person that he is, will always take the time to answer, but he must get sick of having to go through the same scenario time after time…I actually think he gets more pressure then anyone else once he loses, or does not play well. NOVAK DJOKOVIC got put out in the AUSSIE OPEN I’m sure he didn’t get as harrassed as RAFA did, he was not playing well at all, and lets face it he would not have beaten STAN that day no matter what you think with or without an injury, this was STANS time to win.
    His challenge is to continue playing as well as he did to win his first AUSSIE OPEN, and maintain that standard from here on in, not easy to do, that is what separates the best players from the rest, that is why RAFA NOVAK ROGER ANDY and DAVID are up there in the top echelon because they continually play excellent tennis….DAVID has never won a grandslam yet? but he has reached the semi finals, and has won somewhere close to almost 30 million in prize money, amazing indeed…..he is a fighter, and always looks like he wants to win every game, that is how he plays and good on him….as for our RAFA he is struggling with his mental game, physically he is well and strong, so lets hope he can carry on from here, continue to improve at ROME and be better prepared emotionally and mentally for .

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