A delighted Rafael Nadal chats to the press after he won his 17th grand slam title at the French Open 2018.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.
Q. Congratulations. So many victories here, 11 titles, and yet you were so emotional, tears in your eyes. How do you manage after so much time to keep this hunger for victories and to keep this passion towards the game and to the victory?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, for me it’s difficult to explain because it becomes a little bit natural, no? And thank you very much.
Yes, is true that in my career, I achieved much more than what I ever dreamed. But at the same time, in the other hand, it’s true that I went through tough moments, a lot of times in terms of injuries.
So, for example, this beginning of the season in Australia when I have been in a good position to fight for important title for me, I had to go. And then in Acapulco, again, injured. And I couldn’t play in Indian Wells and Miami. And to arrived so-so, with some doubts with this clay court season.
Yeah, of course, you know how difficult is everything, especially after went through these tough moments. Personally for me is amazing. I’m very emotional, no?
Came back from this almost five months without playing a full tournament since Shanghai last year. First official event was in — well, the Davis Cup, but only two matches, and then Monte-Carlo. So a lot of months with problems.
So coming back and have the chance to win in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, and now especially here, yeah, it’s very emotional for me.
Yeah, was a very special moment and received, you know, that minute or two minutes of the crowd supporting, that feeling in that moment was difficult to describe it. Very emotional for me.
Q. Congratulations. Even if you said about all these difficult moments, you don’t seem to be 32 years old. How do you feel your age? I mean, are you worried for the future? You think you’re coming back next year and doing it again and again and again?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am 32. That’s how I feel it (smiling).
No, no, you can’t fight against the age and you can’t fight against the watch. The watch keep going always.
So that’s it. For me, you know, if you tell me seven, eight years ago that I will be here with 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something almost impossible, but here we are.
I am not much worried about the future. I always say the same: Tennis is a very important part of my life, without a doubt, but is not everything.
So I have a lot of other things that makes me happy, and so I am not much worried about the future, no? I am enjoying the moment. For me, today is very special day, and every day that I spend on tour enjoying all the experiences that the tennis gave me the possibility to live.
I am just trying to keep enjoying, and I gonna keep playing until my body resist, and my happiness still high playing tennis. When that change, will be a time to do another thing, and I am not worried about this.
Q. Congratulations for your win. With the win of today, you keep a No. 1 in the rankings. What give you more satisfaction: To be No. 1 or to win a Grand Slam?
RAFAEL NADAL: Today is all about Roland Garros. I don’t think about the rankings at all today, no? Then, okay, I will be No. 1 for a while, but that’s all.
No, no, no, what really matters for me is have this trophy again with me. That means a lot. As everybody knows, for me is the most important tournament of the year.
But I always say the same, no? Tennis is not only about Grand Slams. There’s much more tournaments, a lot of important tournaments that, for me, means a lot. But of course Roland Garros is always on the calendar and a special date, no?
So winning here after having the clay court season that I had is, yeah, emotional and that give me calm and confidence to keep going.
RAFAEL NADAL: Thank you very much.
Q. At Roland Garros this year, I have collected two T-shirts, a Roland Garros towel, and a key ring. But apart from the trophy, which you have won for an incredible 11th time, have you had the chance to collect any special gifts or is it just the special memories that you will treasure?
RAFAEL NADAL: I am lucky that normally the tournament sends me home the gifts that I want (smiling). I don’t have to go and buy it. And I don’t have it yet (smiling).
Q. And the memories?
RAFAEL NADAL: Memories are forever, and I have incredible memories of this event. I don’t want to start explaining all the memories that I have, because are so long. But since the first time that I came here until today is a love story with this event, not only with the victories, but this is all about the people who is working the event, too. I feel very close to all of them.
Yeah, all the people who take care of the event, all the girls that are working, and men here on the lobby. I feel close, happy. I enjoy here watching them all day. And the same when I’m coming here to play Bercy, I like to see this great team of human people that make this event very special.
Q. Congratulations again. 17 Grand Slams overall, just three behind Roger Federer’s 20. You two have won a lot of Grand Slams in the last couple of years. Does that number an aim for you in the future and how do you keep going towards that mindset?
RAFAEL NADAL: Let me enjoy this title. No, no, no, I can’t — I can’t be always thinking of more. Of course, I have ambition, of course. I have passion for what I am doing.
But I never have been crazy about all this kind of stuff. No, you can’t be frustrated always if somebody have more money than you, if somebody have a bigger house than you, if somebody have more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling, no? You have to do your way.
And then you have to be happy with the things that are happening to you, no? Because if you are looking next to you, you can be frustrated thinking that people have more things than you in general terms. I am not this kind of person. I happy that other people have things, and I am very satisfied, and I feel very lucky with all the things that happened it me.
Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more, but being honest, is something that is not in my mind. What is in my mind now is I won a very important title for me. I add one more Grand Slam. 17 is an amazing number. I feel very lucky to all of the things that have happened to me. I am enjoying that moment.
And that doesn’t mean that I will not keep fighting for give me more chances in the future, in the next tournaments, Grand Slams, Masters 1000, 500, 250s. I play for my happiness, and I know that I had already, yeah, an amazing career. So I just gonna keep fighting for things and that’s it.
No, no, no, no one obsession or thinking about this kind of stuff.
Q. A question about today’s match. In the third set with the problem with your hand, can you just explain a little bit about when you first felt it, what exactly was the problem, and why do you think you were able to then be okay after that moment?
RAFAEL NADAL: I felt something to my hand. And then the finger, I don’t know, was very tight like this (demonstrating). I couldn’t move the finger.
And then I understand it was a cramping on the finger but was not a normal cramping. Probably because I had the bandage here, creates pressure that, I don’t know, probably don’t allow to have the right circulation.
So that’s probably why it happened. I needed to go there and to cut it, and to understand what’s going on. Because it was quick in that moment, and for me was scary, because I felt that I was not able to move the hand, the finger. I was not under control of my finger.
So, yeah, I just went straight to my chair because I went — I didn’t know even what I did. It just was a scared moment, and I just trying to cut my tape, the first thing, and that’s it.
Then after that, after a couple of minutes, is true that when I come back, the first serve — that was the second serve I make the double fault — I still had the same feeling. But after that, the things went better and better, no?
And that’s it. When I take the bandage out, the things improved.
Q. Congratulations again. Simona Halep watched your first games during the semifinals. Do you have something to tell us about Simona Halep’s first Grand Slam win yesterday?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, was great, no? She’s a great fighter. One of the players on the women’s tour with better movements on court. No doubt about it.
Is nice that after the final that she lost last year with so many chances, having breaks in the second and in the third, I think, she was able to win a Grand Slam. She deserve it. She’s No. 1 of the world. She’s hard worker.
I like the people who works hard that have success, because I believe that they deserve it. She’s one of them. Happy for her.
Q. I know you’ve only just won here and don’t want to look too far ahead, but can you tell us how you think you will be going into the grass court season and when you think you will first hit on grass?
RAFAEL NADAL: Difficult for me to think about it now. I had long and mentally tough clay court season, of course, because I played almost all the matches possible after coming from an injury. So was a demanding two months for me.
For me personally, last year I felt that I had a good opportunity to go far in the tournament. I felt myself playing well on grass last year. I lost that match against a very tough opponent on grass like Gilles Müller.
But I played great matches before against tough opponents. Then I lost a match that I could win. I played bad the first two sets, but then I think I came back, fighted. That happened.
My preparation, I believe, last year went well. And now I have to come back to speak with my team. Of course decide what’s better for my body. No, that’s the main thing always.
I would love to be playing in as many places as possible, but you understand I need to check how I feel in the next couple of days. Of course is a drastic change from clay to grass. And I did it in the past when I was much younger, quicker, because I played back to back.
But it’s time to check how I feel in the next couple of days.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.
Q. You talked about the problem you had in the third set and you said that you found a solution. Did you think that you could not continue, or would you have continued with the right hand?
RAFAEL NADAL: Of course it was a very frightful moment. I didn’t really think about what could happen.
It was a cramp, and I was hoping that it would not last. I didn’t want to go out of the court, anyway. I had lost the games and waited to see if it would go. I had two sets of margin to wait if it would pass.
And I didn’t think about too many things. I took a decision, and of course I would have continued in whatever way.
It’s a unique match.
Q. What was the most difficult moment of this tournament in the first round against Bolelli, first set against Schwartzman, or first set against Thiem?
RAFAEL NADAL: The most difficult was being one set down against Schwartzman. That is the final reality. It’s the only match where I lost a set. This is the reality. I was one set down, one break down. That was the most difficult, complicated moment of the tournament.
But throughout the tournament, although I didn’t lose any set, there were many difficult moments.
Q. It’s the 11th final. You played in Monte-Carlo and Rome. Can you sum up the experience of finals? Was it different from last year with the experience of playing finals?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, of course when you have played so many finals in a given moment, every year is totally different, but it’s true that there is a given moment where there are situations you have already been through.
And when you have been through different times, you have normally capacity to better understand the situation and to better manage them, at least understand the moments of the match that are of high tension and do better than the first time.
So, yes, in the second set I was a bit tired. I didn’t fight so much for a few games. I was at ease with my serve, although my game suffered a lot.
If I couldn’t have done this in 2005, I would have played every single game with all my energy. But with the years, you try to understand where you can win when you can relax physically or mentally. And sometimes it’s successful, sometimes you’re not, but that’s also based on experience and age.
You know that these moments are decisive. It’s a special court. The wind has an importance. For instance, the first set, 4-All, it was vital to save this game with my serve. Because normally in the 5-4, with the pressure for the rival against the wind for him, if I could put the balls inside and make adequate decisions, it was a very good opportunity for me to win the set. And winning the first set is a very good advantage in such a match.
These are things you understand with time and you try to take advantage of that. That’s also experience.
Q. Congratulations for the victory. You always talk about the dream of improving to continue moving forward. What do you have to improve when you have won 11 wins here?
RAFAEL NADAL: You can always improve something, and I think that everyone can improve. There is no limit. You never know where is the limit.
So no one can tell you where is the limit, so each of us has his or her limitations. We don’t know them because, in the end, you can think that you can do something better and maybe you won’t improve.
But if you don’t have the will to improve, you don’t understand the sport, because the sport is always about improving. That’s the meaning of sport. It’s playing with the dream of doing something better than what you’re doing before. Otherwise sports, per se, is not going to be so difficult, because sports is simple. When you’re not working with passion of doing something better, I think that sports will lose its sense.
Q. Congratulations. 11 titles won here in Roland Garros. What does it mean for you? What is your feeling?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it means, first of all, adding one more title of the most important tournament for me during the year. It also means knowing that for the rest of the year you know that whatever happens, the year is going to be good and you feel a bit quiet.
If you win 1000s and 500s, the money, these are many things that count. Well, a lot of things motivate you to win the title, but it all boils down to winning the title of Roland Garros, whether it be 11, 10, or 8.
The allusion, the pleasure is winning Roland Garros. This is what makes me feel really happy.
Q. Yesterday Moya was saying that one of the main points for Thiem might be the psychological issue. When did you notice that he was maybe not so much into the match? Did you feel the pressure for him?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I don’t think he was out of the match. Maybe at the end when I had a break against him. But he broke against me 5-4 in the first set. Second set, if I’m not mistaken, at 4-2, there was also an occasion. We ended the first set with only one break difference at 6-3.
It’s also at the end of the third set when I was able to get a 5-2 that I really overcame him, but I believe that tactically he was good and tennistically he played well.
I went to the court with a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I applied it well. And sincerely, I don’t know. I don’t know if you saw it in any other way, but I felt the match was good throughout.
Q. You say that each Roland Garros is special, but when you read titles, you see words like something mythical or legend. When you go to the lockers, what do you think? Not what people think, but what is in your mind?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, to be honest, I haven’t got much time to think about things, because until a few days after, I’m not saying that I’m not aware. I’m 100% happy about what happened. But when the tournament is finished, you have to say hello to people, people congratulate you, you have to see lots of people. I have to be here, et cetera. So a whole series of things that do not give you time to think.
But what do I think? Well, the answer is quite simple. I think probably the same as you. That in the end, I don’t like to say it, but it’s something that is really unique, something that you can’t dream of, winning 11 times the same tournament.
But it happened, and as always, I would like to thank life for giving me this opportunity. Many people work as much as I do or even more and haven’t had my luck. This being said, yes, winning 11 times here is a lot. I can’t tell you any more than that.
Maybe I don’t like the way it sounds, but that’s what I can tell you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports