THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Really solid performance today. What was your game plan for taking on Dolgopolov? What is your preparation now that you know who your opponent will be in the next round?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, thank you. I think I played a solid match, obviously. Not many mistakes. I don’t know how — I didn’t see the statistics, so I don’t know how many unforced errors I had, but my feeling is not many.
So I feel that comparing to other days, I feel more calm on court. Is true that I was able to have the break earlier, but really I felt more comfortable from since the beginning, no?
Most important thing is more times I had the control of the time of the point, you know. Not many balls surprise me. I didn’t hit a lot of balls earlier than what I thought or later than what I thought, something that happened in the first couple of days.
And that’s very good news, no? Because when that happens is, of course, the previous round had been a step forward for me and today another one. So I’m playing a little bit better every day.
Now I have a tough opponent, Rublev, next round, and I need to continue to play well.
Q. When you’re playing someone like you had noted had beaten you a couple of times in the last few years, are you more locked in when the match starts maybe than the previous matches when you had opponents who hadn’t had success against you?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I always go on court always respecting opponents. I am not worried about what happened in the past or not. I just think about what can happen now.
I know Dolgopolov arrived to this match playing great matches here, competing well and winning against good opponents. I went on court with the feeling that could be a very tough match, but I don’t think if I lost or I had success in the past against him because the situations between years or since the beginning of the year till today change a lot, no?
His form, my form, everything can change. So I just try to be focused on what I have to do well.
Q. Did it help playing in the warmer conditions for you today? Did it change the way the ball was feeling? And also, is Arthur Ashe playing any different in speed to previous years, in your opinion?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know, no? I feel the court is in good conditions to play good tennis. Of course if you ask me what I prefer, I prefer these conditions than indoor, than indoor. I feel more comfortable hit like this.
But at the same time, I tell you probably if I play indoor today, I would be playing much better than what I did in the previous matches, too, no?
So I think is not only about playing indoor or outdoor. Is about my level of tennis and my level of confidence, and that’s important that all these levels are increasing every day.
Q. I remember you saying earlier this year that you had found playing on grass more difficult in recent years because of your knees. I wonder, do you find from the physical point of view from your knees, is it easier to play on hard court now even than on grass?
RAFAEL NADAL: Probably, yes, because I don’t have to slow down that much. But is true that this year on grass I felt good, no? I felt that I was ready to do important things. I lost a match to be in the quarterfinals with not match points but lot of break points in the fifth that almost was a match point, no? I played great three matches to be in that round.
Yes, if I have to answer, yes, for me is a little bit easy to play here than on grass. But at the same time, being honest with you, I feel that this surface is much more aggressive than grass or clay in all aspects, no? For the hip, for the knees, for the ankles, for the back.
Is true that the players are playing longer, but at the same time, young players are playing a lot on hard, and I don’t know if that going to be very healthy for the future, no?
Is something that is difficult to change, because is true that the tournaments on this surface is probably easier to maintain and probably less expensive for the organization, but at the same time, is — yeah, is not for me today, but is the most aggressive surface for the body.
Q. Your next opponent, Rublev, said that he respects you so much and he feels that he has nothing to lose when he plays. Can that be tricky from your point of view when you’re playing somebody who has that kind of attitude and maybe is just going to go for things? How does that affect you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, of course he’s young, but at the same time, he’s in quarterfinals. He has a chance to be in the semifinals for the first time of his career, and I have been there couple of times.
So of course he has things to lose (smiling). And of course I have things to lose and things to win. But I tell you one thing, no, this sport is about victory. This is not about defeats. No, at the end of your career, nobody remember your defeats, your losses. People remember the victories. For everybody is everything to win, you know. And that’s it.
Of course he’s young, and when you are young you feel that everything is new. But he already won a lot of matches on the tour. He’s not a kid that he came now in this event. Of course not. He’s on the tour for a while. He’s playing well. He’s a solid player on the tour. Yeah.
Of course I understand what he said, and he’s a great guy. He have been in Mallorca practicing with me a couple of years ago. But overall, I have been here for a lot of years, and when you are young, sometimes you have this point of view, but at the end of the day, of course you have things to lose.
Q. I have been attending a few of your games from the beginning, and I notice that as you keep approaching the tougher rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals, your performance improves. Is this something you do unconsciously, or this is some type of strategy for you to study your opponent or confuse your opponents?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. I cannot choose. I am not that good (smiling).
Things works how it works. Sometimes you play well from the beginning; sometimes not. Of course is much better if you’re able to play the highest level possible from the beginning, but every tournament is different.
Important thing is find a way to be through and find a way to keep fighting even when the things are not going the way that you want or you expect. Then you have more chances. I gonna try my best to keep playing better and better, and I feel that I am ready.
Q. Do you remember what it was like to be 19 and what was the best part of it?
RAFAEL NADAL: 19? Rublev is 19?
Best part of it — yeah, of course if I can come back to 19, I take it (smiling).
RAFAEL NADAL: That’s the best part, because normally you have — I’m 31 — a lot more years to enjoy the tour, a lot more years to enjoy the life. Of course, better be 19 than 31. My opinion.
I always wanted to be young. Even when I was 8 years old, I was not very happy to when I was, my birthday, to be 9. Still the same. I am 31, and I am not happy when my birthday going to be 32. I am happy being young, no? I don’t want to get older.
For the moment, I didn’t find the way to stop that watch (smiling).
Q. You were not too satisfied how you played in the first three rounds, and today it was a better performance. Is there something specific that you do and if you can do during the tournament to make sure that you play better? Because there isn’t much time between one match and the other. What do you do to try to improve your performance?
RAFAEL NADAL: I tell you, I have been practicing unbelievable good the previous week, the week before the tournament start. I have been playing at very, very high level during all the practices.
Then arrives the tournament, and probably because since Wimbledon I lost a match that was tough, and then the same in Montreal I lost a match that was tough, 7-6 in the third again, with a lot of chances. Too many, maybe. And Cincinnati obviously is an event I normally don’t play very well.
So few tough losses in a row that, you know, makes you feel a little bit more stressed when you are competing. That’s probably the only reason, because in terms of level of tennis, I have been playing very well, no?
And then of course was not perfect, but in every match happened a little bit the same. When I was able to have the break and take some advantage on the score, I was playing much better immediately.
So that’s the good news. It’s about being a little bit more relaxed. Every victory, every set that you win is more confidence. That what’s I am doing. I am fighting when the things are not going that well and trying to keep going when the things starts to go the way that I want.
Today was a positive match, of course, but I say the other day, the other day was a very possible match for me too. And I am in quarterfinals against a tough opponent now. I need to be ready to keep fighting and play better than today, and that’s my goal and I gonna try to have the best practice possible tomorrow and try to be ready for it.
Q. As you say, you’re in the quarterfinals. Just before the tournament started, everyone was so excited looking at the draw and seeing the possibility of you and Roger meeting for the first time at this tournament in the semifinals. You said, all things considered, you would rather have a different opponent, possibly an easier one. As that match potentially draws near, what are your thoughts?
RAFAEL NADAL: I gonna repeat. You said what I say after, and I gonna repeat the same thing. Remain one match for me and two matches for him. You can ask me about that in two days if I am here with victory, and I will answer you with a lot of great pleasure if that happen. I will be very happy to be in that semifinal if that happen.
But now always the same. Now I have Rublev in front. Maximum respect for him and going to be a tough one. He played already great matches, winning against Dimitrov, against Goffin in straight sets. Is not a moment to talk about Federer for me.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports