Rafael Nadal talks how to improve mentally

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. What is your analysis for the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: The analysis?

Q. Yes.
RAFAEL NADAL: I played well, a great match in general terms. First set have been fantastic level of tennis. Second, too, but I lost lot of opportunities to win that second set. When that happens against a player like Novak, you are in trouble, no? I lost second.

In the third, the beginning of the set have been so important. I felt myself playing well during the whole match, being honest. Just little bit of nerves at the end of the second set.

But the level of tennis have been high, no? Have been a great match in all aspects. So happy for that.

Q. Which aspect of this win pleases you the most: first clay court title of the year, or you beat Novak given the recent success he’s had in your rivalry?
RAFAEL NADAL: What means most to me is this trophy. Rome is one of the most important tournaments of the year. Part of the history of our sport. To be able to win here again is the main thing. Then we can talk about first title of the year.

As I said during the whole week, you were asking for titles. Finally I have a title. For me, the most important thing is feel myself playing well and feel myself healthy, with the energy that I need. If that happens, experience is that I going to fight for titles sooner or later, no?

The main thing for me was recover my level, then the results should be there if that happens. Today was that case. During the weeks, last couple of weeks, every day and every week have been better. And here we are finally with this great trophy with me, important victory.

Of course, playing against Novak is always a special thing, as I said yesterday, because is part of the history of this sport. No one match have been repeated more than this one in our history. Is always a special feeling, no?

Today was for me, and last couple of times have been for him. Happy for the title more than winning against Novak. I am especially happy because the level was very high.

Q. You played Novak a lot. There was something different in this match, which was the 6-0 set, first set. First time you’ve had this in your rivalry, for either of you. What made the first set so much in your direction?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t care winning 6-Love or 6-4, being honest. That just a fact. I don’t care much. I played a great first set in all aspects. No mistakes. Playing so aggressive, changing directions. Then these kind of days that happens. Is not usual and probably will not happen again. That’s all, no?

First set is just an important part of the match. What helps the first set is show that I was able to play at that level, no? That’s important for today, important for tomorrow.

Q. After you lost to Dominic, you said you felt good playing against Dominic, and you knew which direction you are going. Could you look back on what kind of process you have gone through after Barcelona and Madrid and here?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, as I said, I don’t want to repeat every day the same.

After Indian Wells, have been some tough moments for me in terms of recover again, accept another time the injury. I didn’t arrive very well prepared to Monte-Carlo. That opportunity lost in that semifinals. Have been some low moments for me.

The first round in Barcelona, that was a disaster. The first match of Barcelona tournament was probably personally the match with less energy I played in my career. After that I came back to the hotel and just tried to think what’s going on and try to fix it inside me.

I wake up the next morning with a different energy, no? That’s what happened. After that moment I think I improved.

Against Dominic, was a good match. I lost that match. But that match helps, as I said, to find a way and to see myself better in terms of possibilities to keep improving.

Then in Madrid was better than Barcelona. But always is a little bit more dangerous, no? Madrid is the tougher tournament for me because is in altitude. Even if is at home, the conditions are so different. Is the tournament that I feel in less control normally on clay. But that week helps. I played couple of good matches.

Here the same: every day was a little bit better. Yesterday probably was my best match on clay so far this season before today, because today I played better than yesterday. So that’s it. Happy to reach that level in the last tournament before a Grand Slam.

But, as I said, for me I don’t want to talk about Grand Slams now. I never did in the past. For me, what means a lot is every tournament is so special for me. Have the chance to win again here in Rome is unique.

Q. When you withdraw in Indian Wells, what was your feeling about your season?
RAFAEL NADAL: Was a tough moment, no? After I won that match in quarterfinals against Karen Khachanov, when I came back to the locker room, well, it was a tough moment for me because I know my knee, and I know that something went wrong out there. Of course I wanted to wait till the next morning to see how I wake up. But I see the things is very negative. Yes, that’s the worst moment.

Then coming back to Mallorca, having to do the treatment, having to do the recovery again, not playing for a couple of weeks, then accept another time that I had to stop.

Last year people don’t normally remember because I finished No. 2 of the world at the end, but I played nine events. I just completed seven events last year. Have been tough.

Mentally, even if I achieved and had a great season, I had to accept inconvenience a lot of times. I had to retire in Australia and then in the US Open, too. Then when I wanted to come back, in Paris happened what happened to my foot. I had to do the surgery.

At the beginning of the season have been things all the time. I had to pull out from Brisbane. In Acapulco I had something in the hand that I was not able to play for five days before the tournament start. I recovered. I felt myself playing so well in Indian Wells again. Had to pull out there. Mentally was tough. Too many issues. I needed my time to accept that.

But is the last time that I going to talk about all this stuff. That’s what happened. Here we are. I worked hard to be where I am, mentally and physically, and in terms of tennis, too. That’s the victory. Is the work of every day more than winning titles. The most important victory is the daily work and the motivation to be back.

Q. You said you were tired mentally and physically. How do you train mentally to be focused on that level?
RAFAEL NADAL: You work mentally when you go on the court every day. You don’t complain when you play bad, when you have problems, when you have pains. You put the right attitude, the right face. You are not negative about all the issues that happened, if I am playing bad, if I have physical problems. You go on court every day with the passion to keep practicing. That’s the mental work, no?

That’s something that I did during all my career, not being frustrating when the things are not going well, not being too negative. That’s why I was able to always have the chance to be back.

Here we are. Important title, important moment. Now is the moment to keep going.

Q. Philippe Chatrier, new stadium in Roland Garros. Did you see some pictures? Will you come sooner in Paris to train on this new center court?
RAFAEL NADAL: I saw a picture. Looks great. Still open, still not closed. Is a different stadium, but the feeling probably will not be very different.

When going to be finished the cover? Next year?

Q. Yes.
RAFAEL NADAL: Probably by next year going to be, yes, a bigger difference. This year I don’t see a big difference. I saw the court, still open. The wind going to be the same as always. Court is still big. What’s different is probably the stands. That will not have a big impact on the game.

I going to be there with time enough, as always. I going to repeat my normal routines. For sure I can’t wait to be there and have the feeling, see the stadium, watch all the new great things that Roland Garros is doing.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


  1. Yes,as,I had commented,the great win at Rome Final has given RAFA ,huge confidence for coming Grand slam at RG All the Best RAFA for 12 the RG .I am sure you deserve it and will get it

  2. UPDATE: the Grand Slam Board reversed it decision to halve the seeds for slams from 32 to 16. The Board found “no compelling reason” to lower the number of seeds for slams. Federer has been pushing for 16 seeds to make it more challenging for the higher ranked players in the later part of a tournament. [I thought it was for the earlier part of a tournament.]


  3. I thought Rafa’s press conference was very telling…For the first time he summarized his “Year in Review” and basically told us how every obstacle …every injury… less playing time… less practice …more injury… more injury and then… more injury and so on has affected him mentally. It has been very tumultuous for Rafa and his victory in Rome is more important to him that he is on a ” good physical track” and hopefully he can stay there. I believe beating Novak was huge for him confidence wise but his saying that…no…he wouldn’t go that far.

    I have always felt that Rafa needed to speak to someone about what the injuries were doing to his psyche … playing Novak time and time again and losing and what that was doing to his confidence level, along with whatever else was troubling him.

    Margo… I mean no disrespect … but how do you know he hasn’t seen a sports therapist? How do I know know he hasn’t sought out that type of help? We don’t … (unless of course you know something I don’t )
    I think its unfair to assume he 100% hasn’t… as none of us are in his inner circle.

    I think this press conference addressed a lot of what Rafa has been dealing with and who knows, maybe with the help of a therapist he has come to terms with his injuries and has focused on the physical …as that is the direct connection to the confidence and mental aspect of the game… I agree with Rafa… it’s all about how he is feeling physically and how it will bring him back to a level that gives him promise and a good chance to raise the trophies again and again.

    It was so wonderful to see him smile again and joyously open a bottle of champagne spraying everyone around him and celebrate! Made my heart sing! He deserves this for sure!

    On to Paris … hoping for a REPEAT!


  4. I agree with Margo. I too think just practicing, not being negative about losing, having the passion is good but not enough. Of course I wouldn’t expect him to talk about his nemesis etc he doesn’t have to but …… . The last years especially those from 2011 – 2016 were tough even tho 2013 was good.
    Also, he said that the match was played at a high level, yes true, but a fresh Novak may have played better and not missed some easy shots – those that he normally makes with ease.
    Rafa, in my opinion still hasn’t quite reached his top level. Needs to be more consistent- keep a good length and line and of course be very aggressive throughout. He seems to get nervous and tight quite easily at times and finds it difficult to keep the pressure on.

    Anyway his level has risen and I’m very happy about that.

    I wish him mental and physical strength, good shot choice, super confidence and belief in himself – everything good for the FO.

    Good luck 🍀🍀🍀 champ.


    • Rafa fan 1, thank you. I was afraid I would be lambasted for that one.

      You know Rafa is repeating Toni’s mantra, since Rafa was a youngster, “practice and all will be well.” How long did it take Carlos to convince Rafa he didn’t have to practice for three hours [I think twice a day] in order to stay on top…a year or more.

      In this interview Rafa explicitly states that practicing is the mental work. At this stage of his career I don’t see him seeking the help of a sports therapist; he is distrustful of anyone not family or close friendships and the media would undoubtedly have a field day. Simply put, he is not prone to change.

      I too am happy he is feeling better and looking to raise his 12th French Open trophy.


  5. Yesterday Rafa began his 735th consecutive week in the Top 10 since rankings began in 1973, only behind Jimmy Connors at 789.

    Rafa has been ranked in Top 10 every week since April 25, 2005.
    [Source: @ATPMediaInfo]

  6. By his comments Rafa still believes just practicing and not complaining is a way of working on the “mental” aspects of his game. I have to disagree. He has gone into slumps and lost confidence either due to injury, not winning titles or other personal troubles. Yes, he does come back but I still feel seeking the help of a sports therapist may help shorten his time from a losing streak or from injury. It may help him gain back his confidence quicker.

    Right now he is looking great and high in confidence so I hope this will sustain him for the battles ahead at Roland Garros. I would love to see him lifting #12. The sheer and unbelievable joy it will give him. I can only imagine.


  7. You can learn a lot from Rafa’s interviews. His frank self analysis gives a good description of his performances, emotions and confidence levels. He’s always looking for ways to fix problems and improve. I just love the guy!

  8. The sooner they finish that roof in Paris, the better! Fingers crossed for a dry and sunny fortnight, but it doesn’t always happen, and the scheduling there tends to be very odd at the best of times. I loved the presentation ceremony yesterday – they both spoke very well in Italian, and the champagne drinking made me laugh!

    • Sorry but I have to disagree about the roof. Totally with you re the weather though. It seems like every clay tournament this year has been played in cold/cloudy/rainy/windy conditions. Let the the sun shine on Paris, please!

    • I was there today in R Garros for the qualifications, saw several matches and traîning. It was warm and sunny at first ⛅☔ then a shower which stopped play for about half an hour. Fiona in Paris

  9. Amazing patience with these questions. But also more assertive. Congratulations on your Roma
    victory. No doubt you were so happy to beat Djoko, but you were respectful and restrained. Trust me, your fans were ecstatic🤯Celebrate the moment🍾🎉keep up the physical and mental pressure
    on your opponents💪🤛👍👏❤️

  10. Rafa congratulations well don champ vamosssssssssss for the French Open you can do it ,is going to be your 12 good luck champ 💪❤️😘🎾💪❤️😘🎾💪❤️😘💪❤️😘🎾💪❤️😘🎾💪❤️😘🌎

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