Rafael Nadal reflects on his quarter-final with Kei Nishikori as he looked to claim his eighth win in nine meetings against the Japanese No. 1.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Did you feel it all change when you held serve fifth game of the first set after facing two break points that you had been down a double break?
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, for sure later, after the match, we can say that was a key moment, no? But at the same time, winning that game still break down, no?
So for sure was an important moment, but then I asked for a challenge, a good challenge for me, and it was important one, too.
So had to break back. After having break back I felt it was very, very important moment.
Q. Do you think everything is clicking back again?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I feel that I am — as I said from the beginning, no, I feel myself strong mentally. I feel myself with the right energy. When that happens, the rest is a little bit less difficult, no?
I am able to fight for every ball. I am able to keep going during the whole match, believe in myself again, and that make me play with more energy, less nerves. That’s so important for me, no? It’s the way I play during all my career, and that give me a lot. And this week is being very, very positive for me. Very important.
Q. Could you talk about what you’re thinking about the beginning of the match? Obviously Kei started off very good, so did you think maybe it’s impossible for Kei to keep playing at this level or what was your mindset?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, I never thought impossible for Kei playing at this level. He’s an amazing player, one of the best players, and he’s able to play at highest level, no?
He started so quick hitting all the balls very well, very aggressive, and serving great, no?
Then I think he started to miss some first serves and I was returning very well the second set serve, returning very aggressive. That was so important, I think, in my opinion. The development of the game, no?
So my return was so important, and at the same time I think I served — my serve was enough good for this match.
Q. Can you talk about how important going to the next round it is to have a win like the last round against Sascha where you had a battle, and then a win where you were able to win in straight sets against a high-quality opponent? How important is it to get these kind of wins to go into the next round? Please talk about who you might possibly play.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know what’s gonna affect to the next round the way that I won the last two matches, no?
Every day is different. But, you know, for me is being very positive tournament, winning against great players. I had a tough draw from the beginning, and be able to be where I am today in that semifinals, and especially with the victory of today against top, top player, that’s something very important for my confidence, very important to believe in myself, too, and winning the way that I won.
So that’s give me a lot, no? Let’s try my best tomorrow. Let’s keep playing with the same energy. And we’ll see what’s going on, no? I know Novak is playing unbelievable so it’s so difficult, but I am here to keep enjoying, keep trying my best, and keep playing with the right energy.
Q. If it is Novak you’re playing, how do you bounce back after that Doha final? You played him a lot of times, but that match was not close.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, for sure was not close. Was easy for him, no?
But at the same time, was great points. I think the result was so easy. The game was not that easy, no?
But is obvious that Novak played unbelievable, and when he plays that way, so difficult to stop him. Nothing to say about that match than offer congratulations to him. Tomorrow is another day. He’s a clear favorite because he’s winning all the matches almost every time.
So I am here to, as I said, enjoy the match of tomorrow, to enjoy the victory of today against a great player. That’s something important for me. Semifinals before the tournament start is a very positive result for me. Tomorrow is an opportunity to play against another top player and enjoy that fact.
Q. I want to ask you about your evolving relationship with Novak. The picture of you and him from the tunnel is kind of very, very popular on social media. His dad gave a very nice interview to Newsweek where he said how the rivalry with you actually improved Novak both as a person and as a player. I wanted to ask you how do you see in the last, in ten years or so, you’ve evolved, you know, with him on the tour, as well?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think Novak improved in all aspects, no? I think he’s a good guy. At the same time, you know, he learned a lot from the beginning on court and outside of the court in general, no? I think, as I said before, no, he’s smart and he’s very intelligent. He knows how to do the things. He’s doing the things good in all aspects. That’s it, no?
I really have a great relationship almost with everybody on tour, no? I hate to be in a bad way with somebody. Life is better and easier if you have good relationship with everybody. You feel happier, for sure, if you are not tension when you are in the locker room.
And at the end of the day, as I said hundreds of times, that’s the game. That’s sport. That’s sport. Relationship and friendship is more important than everything.
Q. When you’re playing a match like that and things are going so well, you’re striking it beautifully, jumping in the air and all that, what does it actually feel like for you when you’re on the court playing like that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, sometimes I miss it, that energy on court, because I was playing with some anxious last year and so I couldn’t cheer up to myself. So something strange for me, no?
At the end of the year last year I start to feel again that I can do it, and now I feel that I can do it. That’s important for me, because that make me play happier. At the end of the day that’s the most important thing for me, no? Be happy on court and be happy outside of the court, no?
Playing with this energy make me feel happy, and playing in a beautiful tournament like this one in a great atmosphere in conditions that normally are good for me because I had a very positive results here. Not talking only about winning the time that I won, but being in semifinals a lot of times and being in a final another.
So having a tournament I had success and I love playing here. Really good energy for me here.
Q. Many athletes look at their careers and say, Oh, I would not change anything. But if you could go back as a boy or a young professional and give yourself a piece of advice or two, what would you say to yourself as a young boy or as a young athlete on the tour?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it’s obvious that for sure I will change a lot. I don’t know if a lot of things, but for sure I will change things, no? The people who say I will not change nothing in my life, I always consider these people so arrogant. (Laughter.) That’s the real thing, no? Because something bad you did or some bad positions for sure you take.
I don’t consider myself these kind of people, no? For sure I gonna change things. Is true that I think I tried my best almost all the time in my career. I practiced hard way during all my career, but you always can do more. That’s the real thing.
But in terms of knowledge, for sure, we practiced clay, hard, clay, hard, changing surfaces all the time, and that’s bad for the knees. For sure we didn’t know that when we were kids. So I had a lot of problems later with the knees. For sure I would change that.
The drastic changes on surfaces are not good for the body, and I did almost every day. (Smiling.) So something that for sure I gonna change. I want to go back home and play some holes of golf, so I not gonna tell you all the other things I gonna change.
Q. Novak’s first significant result was here in 2007, and you played him in the finals. Do you have recollections of what you thought of Novak that first final? And then maybe the next year when you played him again and how much he improved from 2007, 2008? I know it’s a long time ago.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, it’s a long time ago, and he always was so good. But it’s obvious that like all the players, even if you are so good — even myself when I had 18 or 17 or 19, even Roger, even Andy — everybody has a process, and if you are smart and if you love the game and you have the right people around you and you don’t get injured, the process should be positive.
For sure he made the perfect process, no? Because he always have been improving. And that’s why, after almost nine, ten years, he’s at the top level possible.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports, Videos: ATP World Tour, BNP Paribas Open