Rafael Nadal talks about his loss to Novak Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open.
Q. Was that the best that Novak has ever played against you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Difficult for me to have a clear opinion. I think, of course, he played I think fantastic. At the same time is true that when he’s playing that way, I think I needed something else. I was not able to have that extra thing tonight, being honest, no?
Yeah, was unbelievable the way that he played, no doubt about that. But at the same time is true that probably physically I was not able. I played fantastic tennis during both weeks, is true, but probably playing that well, I didn’t suffer much during the both weeks. Five months without competing, having that big challenge in front of me, I needed something else. That something else probably today, I don’t have it yet. That’s my feeling, to compete at this super high level.
I think I was playing great during the both weeks in offensive positions. In defensive positions, I practiced what I practiced. I practiced well, very well I think, but because of the things that happened to me in terms of surgery, then what happened in Abu Dhabi, I was not able to work that much the defensive game. I worked a lot on the offensive game, but not that much on the defensive game.
To play against a player like him, playing the way he played tonight, I needed that defensive game to finally have the chance to be offensive, no? When he was hitting, is true that maybe was difficult to beat him even if I was at my 100%. But probably will be a little bit more fight.
Q. When you’re talking about needing something else against him, is it the offensive game only or other things you need to do differently or better?
RAFAEL NADAL: We are 32. I am 32 and a half. Is not the first meeting that we had. Is not the first time that he beat me that way. The only thing that I said is even if I was playing so well and I had a great two weeks, being honest, I can’t be sad. Will be not fair to be sad. I played against a player that today was better than me. That’s no doubt about that. That’s all.
I have been lot of months without having the chance to practice, without having the chance to compete. And have been two positive weeks. The only thing probably that I need is time and more matches. You know, my feeling was I have been always in offensive position during two weeks, during six matches. Today I know that will not happen. Of course, he played better than what probably he played during the rest of the tournament. Being honest, I saw him the tournament more or less. He probably played the best match so far. Playing that well, is so difficult for everybody, for everyone, when he plays that level, is so difficult to fight for victories against him.
But if I am able to run 100% and to resist every ball, then you find ways. The things that looks easy for him become little bit more difficult when you have to do it one more time, one more time and one more time. I was not able to push him to do it one more, one more, one more every time. That’s my feeling.
What I need is I need time, I need work, and I need more weeks like this one. That’s really the only thing that I hope is to have the chance to keep practicing well and to have the chance to keep playing with healthy conditions. Like this, I believe the level of tennis have been great. Probably the only thing that remained a little bit more to me was normally the best thing that I have. Is something that I am not worried much. Only thing is about time.
Q. Can you explain how you feel against a player who has answers to everything? How is it to be there on that court on such a big day? You tried everything?
RAFAEL NADAL: I try what I had. No, no, is not what I feel. No, that’s the game. You go on court, you can win, you can lose when you face players that are playing that well. You accept that somebody is able to play that well.
Q. Stefanos felt destroyed against you.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, but Stefanos is so young. He don’t have been destroyed enough times to know that that can happen on a tennis court. I am not new on this. I know these kind of things happens. Even to the best players of the history happened. I don’t say I have been destroyed. I have been playing against a player that was at the highest level possible, in my opinion, tonight. A player playing like this is difficult to win.
He was better than me tonight. That’s the sport. We can talk a lot, but when the player did almost everything better than you, you can’t complain much. The only thing that you can say is congrats to the opponent, well done. For my side being very happy, big personal satisfaction about the two weeks, you can’t imagine — is nice and easy now playing the final here, looks always that. But I have been going through very tough moments. After the US Open, I didn’t had the chance to play for three weeks or four weeks for the knee. Then I came back, and two days or three days before Bercy, I felt the feet, that something going wrong. I went to Bercy, had a strain in the abdominal. Then I came back, had to do surgery to the feet because a small portion of the ankle was gone. Is all the time under a tough process of things.
Then when you want to start the season, what happened for me in the thigh at the beginning of the season, is a lot of issues. Even if I always say that I am a positive, believing that the things can go better all the time, that’s tough. That’s mentally tough. It’s painful that you can’t do the things that you need to do to be 100% fit.
If we analyze all this stuff, have been probably better impossible two weeks for me, even if tonight was not my day, because the opponent played too good, and I was not ready to face that level tonight. But I believe that I can be ready in a couple of months if I am able to keep practicing and to keep competing at that level.
Q. You said you need more conditioning, more matches. What will you do with your schedule? Will you pack matches in?
RAFAEL NADAL: I need matches, but I can’t go crazy to play matches. I have my age. I have my calendar. I have my priorities. My priority now is come back home, have some rest. I played good tennis for couple of weeks. Now is the time to be back, to have a good physical work, keep working on the things that worked very well here. Step by step, working on the things that I need a little bit more. That’s the mobility, the defensive positions, the recovery from positions that are difficult to come back. That is something that I have naturally good, but I need to practice and need to be able to do it at that highest level.
Then my next step is Acapulco. That’s my goal. Is a tournament that I like to play. I had some success there. I am excited to come back to Acapulco. I have Acapulco, I have Indian Wells, and that’s my calendar today. The only thing I am sure I am not going to play something before these two events. That’s my calendar today. Then we see. Depend how things go, I keep going or I take a rest to play on clay.
I know that the season is long. My first priority at all, more than winning titles or not, is be happy. To be happy, I need to be healthy. I going to do the things that give me better chance to be healthy more than anything. That’s the priority. If I am healthy, I am competitive, I am happy, I have the chance to win tournaments. If not, things change 100%.
Q. Were you more nervous tonight at the start of the match than you normally are in a big match like this? You seemed to be making more mistakes than you usually make in the first few games.
RAFAEL NADAL: I make more mistakes because he pushed more. That’s all. Is not about being more nervous. I have been normal nerves, like final of Grand Slam. But the things started so quick (snapping fingers). He was pushing me to every ball.
What on other days have been a serve and a ball that I can have in offensive position, today have been in defensive position. That’s not nerves. That’s things that happened quicker than what happened the previous days.
I don’t like to say he played unbelievable well because looks like you find an excuse for yourself. The real thing is he played so well. He did a lot of things very difficult unbelievable well. He hit so long. His return was fantastic. He was super quick.
I really believe that he was able to work very hard on the off-season on his movement. He was moving unbelievable well. I felt that good shots came back with offensive position for me, after not a bad shot from me, I have been in the defensive position.
In my opinion, is all about have the chance to increase that step of intensity. As I said before, probably I was not able to make that happen tonight. But I have the confidence that I did a lot of things well this tournament. I have the confidence that I will reach this extra level of intensity in the future if I am able to practice well.
But answering what you say, I was not nerves, not more nerves than usual, no. That’s all.
Q. Does a match like this, the way it went, hurt mentally or is it one that you can forget quite quickly and get over?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, you come back home more proud of the level of Wimbledon than tonight, of course. But in terms of mental pain, is harder the semifinals of Wimbledon than this one. In the semifinals of Wimbledon, I was so close, and I was playing so well, having a lot of matches in a row, winning Roland Garros, playing so well on clay. I had that extra intensity in that moment.
For me, was a big chance lost to win another Wimbledon. Tonight I didn’t have that chance. Is easier to forget, yes. In terms of personal satisfaction, I have a better personal satisfaction about the match of Wimbledon. But overall probably was more difficult to do the tournament that I did here than the tournament I did in Wimbledon, because in Wimbledon I came back after winning Roland Garros with big confidence, winning a lot on clay, winning a lot of matches. Is much easier to play that well. If I am healthy, everybody knows I’m a good player on grass, no?
I have better personal satisfaction because my two weeks here have been more difficult than what I did in Wimbledon. But about the personal match, that’s what happened, that’s all.