Transcript of Rafa’s presser after the Rublev match.
Q. You played already 37 times with Roger Federer. You may have to play him for 38 times or no? Play him, mean you are going to stay No. 1 for a while.
RAFAEL NADAL: You don’t need to explain. I know everything. To be short.
Q. Well, is it better for the world’s general expectation? What would honestly excite you more, to play him or not to play him? You cannot change your opponent.
RAFAEL NADAL: I cannot change my opponent. Of course I cannot change my opponent. I’m excited to be in semifinal, most of anything. Happy the way I played today, and let’s see what’s gonna happen tonight and let’s see which opponent I have in that semifinals.
If it’s Roger Federer, of course I am excited to play that match, and of course is special to play against him here in New York for the first time in our career. That’s something that didn’t happen before and is something strange, because we played couple of times in all the important events of the world, so will be excited and I will be very excited to play that match, of course.
Q. After some early tournament struggles, you talked about the first rounds, and you dominated the last two rounds. Whether Roger Federer or whoever, Juan Martin, it’s bound to be a difficult match. How important is it for you to have two relatively easy matches coming into this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Only important thing is I am in that semifinals, no? The result is positive already. You know, when you start a tournament, what you don’t want is to lose an early round, and then you come back home with the feeling that you didn’t compete.
Now the feeling is completely different. I already won five matches. I am in that semifinals. I am in a good round. And everything is to win. Is the moment to give my best.
I think I have been improving during the whole event, and I have been doing step forward match by match, and now is the moment to do it, another step forward, a little bit higher is possible, too.
So I think I have the attitude to try to make that happen. I am excited about that semifinals. I know I gonna have a very tough opponent in front. And I need to play my best.
So since tomorrow morning, because today I gonna enjoy the few hours off that I have (smiling), enjoy the fact that I am in semifinals. But I wake up tomorrow morning knowing that I have to do something more, and I gonna work hard to work in that way. Mentally, I know what I need to do, and I gonna try to do it.
Q. In your long history of playing against Roger, what do you consider most special from the matchups with him?
RAFAEL NADAL: In which way?
Q. In the way of your experience or what people get to see, the personalities. What do you consider most special?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, of course, the most special thing is we created a classic match that people expect to see this kind of match. Combination of styles.
Of course, we can talk about things, but what really makes this match special is we have been competing for the most important events for, I don’t know, 10, 12 years, and we have been solid there, fighting for these things.
So we repeat this kind of match, these kind of finals in a long time and a lot of times. Of course that became a tradition. At the same time is even more special when we are, of course, at the last part of our careers.
Q. People are obviously fascinated by the rivalry. What do you admire most about Roger on court and what do you admire most about him as a man off the court?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t want to look like I gonna be his boyfriend, no? (Laughter.) We don’t want to talk these kind of things before important match.
Well, we have a lot of respect for each other, no? We played a lot of times. I think we did important things for tennis. We appreciate that. We always had a good relationship. We played for our foundations.
I think he always have been a great ambassador for tennis and for our sport, with good image, of course, and representing, I think, good values.
One important thing that is a great example for kids, no, after a lot of years and winning more than nobody, he still have the passion to keep doing what he did during all his career, no? And doing unbelievable well and doing with the right attitude and with the right passion and love for the sport, no?
So that’s something important for me and something that I admire him, and inside the court, I admire of him the same, as you can admire, because everybody knows how complete is him, and he’s able to produce all the shots.
So let’s see. Of course I think I answered already.
Q. What was your strategy coming into this match, and how does that set the tone for the semifinals?
RAFAEL NADAL: Study for what match?
Q. For this match against Rublev.
RAFAEL NADAL: Today? The strategy is always the same. That is play very well (smiling). If you play well, you have good feelings and you can look for strategies or you can look for the small things that you can adjust. Depends on the opponent, no?
Let’s see. Of course today I tried to change a little bit the rhythm of the point. I know he likes to hit strong with good rhythm, so I try to play sometimes a little bit higher balls, combining with slice. And then of course try to not let him play from easy positions, changing directions.
I think I did well. I changed the rhythm. I returned aggressive. Is true he didn’t serve — he doesn’t serve very well today. That helps, of course. And I have a lot of opportunities on the return, and I converted, no?
In general terms, I’m happy, I should be happy the way that I played today. And that’s it.
Q. If it is Roger you play, who do you think the conditions here favor the most?
RAFAEL NADAL: In 48 hours, I tell you. I don’t know now, no?
I don’t know. Of course he had a lot of success here. I think I had success, too. I already played, I don’t know, six semifinals here? Of course is not a bad record.
So I think it’s a tournament that works well for both of us. Of course, on hard court, he’s a little bit more specialist than me. That’s it.
Q. Everybody’s asking you about Federer. Could you tell us how Russia was supporting him today? Could you tell us what’s in the future for Rublev and what kind of future do you perceive, what kind of player?
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s difficult, 19 years old, do what he did. He won against great players, competing very well. For the last six months, I think he improved a lot. That’s so important, no?
If he continues with that improvement, he gonna fight for the most important things that we have in our sport. I think he has the right people around. I think he’s working well. He has passion for what he’s doing. He’s a good guy, humble. So that’s important for the improvement, no?
Because if you believe that already, you know about everything, is tough to be enough humble, to work, wake up every morning, going on court and thinking about things you need to improve. So I believe he’s a hard worker, and that’s the most important thing.
Of course the talent is so important, but when you have a good talent, the most important thing is that you have the passion to improve every day and not consider yourself that good to feel that you know about everything and is just a question of time that I gonna be there, because I’m young. No.
The thing is, even if you are young and you are having success, you know that you have to keep doing things that make you better player.
I think he’s doing that, and that’s the most important thing in our sport.
Q. If it’s not Federer and it is Juan Martin, could I ask you to look ahead to the possibility of that matchup, what you think might be the key against Del Potro for you. And your thoughts on him working to win tonight and return to a Grand Slam semifinal after the injuries he had, what your thoughts would be on that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Juan Martin is a top player, no? Is true that when he’s playing well, it’s difficult to stop him. Probably the forehand is maybe the fastest on the tour. And of course to win tonight, he should be serving well. If he serve well and hit well his forehand, he’s a player that have the chance to win against, of course, everybody.
If I play against him, of course I have to play my best tennis. I need to be very focused with my serve and play aggressive, because if you let him play from good positions with his forehand, you are dead, because he plays super-aggressive, hitting so hard.
So probably he’s unstoppable from that positions, no? I need to play long, I need to play against his backhand, and then open the court, no?
These kind of matches, we can talk about things, no? Doesn’t matter if it’s Roger or Juan Martin. The end of the day, we can be thinking or talking about what I have to do or what I don’t have to do. Sport is not that difficult. The players who plays better that day is the player that gonna have better chances.
Then there are small adjustments, if you can do it, yes. But the most important thing is play at my best level. If I play at my best level, I believe I gonna have my chances against everybody. If I don’t play at my best level, the chances will be much less.
Q. You had a chance during your career playing Davydenko, Safin, a couple of guys from the Russian school. This year, you met Khachanov in Wimbledon and today you played a new generation. Talk about the differences from the old Russian school and today’s new generation.
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know about Russian school or not, because Safin used to practice in Spain too. And Rublev and Khachanov, they are practicing in Spain, too. They play aggressive. Of course if they are from Russia, I suppose that they played a lot indoors when they are kids. So of course they hit flatter, they hit quick.
But at the same time, I think is so important to play on clay when you are young, too, no? Not because clay — I know there is more tournaments on hard than clay in our tour, no? But when you play on clay, you understand a little bit better our sport, no? Because you have more time.
You play in terms of tactic, in terms of mentality, in terms of understand a little bit more the sport. So I think a lot of good players that are good players on hard and specialists on hard, they played a lot on clay when they were kids, and that helps a lot, no?
The same for Karen or Andrey both in Spain. I think they are doing well. They are practicing with good coaches, and they have the right experience there to become top, top players. They have the potential, and I believe they have the chance to be fighting for the most important things.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports