Rafael Nadal speaks to the media after his 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win against Yuichi Sugita
Q. When you’ve had trouble here with your knees, how does the grass affect your knees? Is it worse for you than other surfaces? Have you experienced more problems, pain? Because it’s played such a big role in your history here.
RAFAEL NADAL: I can’t have a real answer for you because I don’t know. What is true is when I am on the problems on the knees, then is impossible for me to play here because you need to be powerful on the knees. You need to feel the control of your movements. The court here, I don’t know, the grip on court here is less than in the rest of the surfaces, no? If you don’t feel confident with your knees, is impossible.
But I will not say this surface is very hard for my knees. I will say the toughest surface is hard, honestly. But is true that to play tennis when my knees are not in good shape, probably this one is the worst one.
Q. How did you experience this first official match of the season?
RAFAEL NADAL: It has been a tough 50 minutes at the beginning, honestly, no? Started 30-Love. Then I lost I think four, four and three, 11 points in a row. Then I was in a situation that almost facing three set points. Two breaks down here on grass is a big deal.
I was able to save these breakpoints. I played some good serves. Then after winning that game, match changed a lot. I was able to had that break back. Then I was a little bit more on the confidence. Match starts to go little bit more on my side. I think I played well end of the first set. Second set I have been playing at a good level of tennis.
At the beginning of the third, so-so. I think I was serving great, but on the return side I was not that well at the beginning of that third. I was able to find the break, close the match.
Have been honestly a good start for me winning straight sets against a player that knows how to play on grass. He won a tournament. He won against good players in this surface. So is a positive start for me. Just I have another day tomorrow to keep working on the things that I need to work. I hope that going to help me.
Q. How would you describe the feeling of independence that you have on a tennis court, maybe unlike other sports, that you can think of?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t feel independent on court, no? I feel that I am with the team, too. I am alone there, but I have the crowd. Is always a great feeling when you feel the support of the crowd. I have the team there supporting.
I never felt alone on court, honestly. That’s my feeling.
Q. You play Nick Kyrgios the next round. What are your thoughts on that match?
RAFAEL NADAL: My thoughts are very clear, no? I play against a top talent player, very dangerous player when he wants to play tennis. Normally against the best players, he wants to play tennis. When that happens, he’s a very dangerous opponent.
Of course, like second round is a super tough one. I know that. I need to be at my 100%. I going to fight for it.
Q. You don’t take anything for granted at the French Open, yet you’ve won so often, so consistently. Here you’ve struggled more. There have been a lot of reasons, including injuries, playing some guys that have good grass court games. Do you see this more as a challenge or motivation? Is it something that makes you nervous?
RAFAEL NADAL: For me is all about produce chances. I missed a lot of Grand Slams in my career and, of course, other important tournaments, because of injuries. When I am playing a Grand Slam, when I feel healthy, I want to give myself a chance to compete well. We’ll see what happens.
Last year I created the chance. I have been very close. I am here to fight again for produce the chance. I need to find my best tennis.
Of course, after one year without playing on this surface, I cannot have matches before here obviously because I am 33 already and I need to organize my calendar a little bit better than 10 years ago. But I am working more on specific things than in the past that can help me to be ready for the tournament since the beginning, too.
That’s what I am looking for, just try to produce chances. Today have been a positive start. Tomorrow another practice. I hope to be ready for after tomorrow.
Q. Are you able to describe your work ethic and your intense dedication, maybe even more so behind the scenes of what you do, that most people don’t see?
RAFAEL NADAL: I really believe that I am able to enjoy life. I am a hard worker on a tennis court. Of course, when I have been working on the gym, I have to do my stuff. Normally I work with high intensity. Normally I give my 100%, no?
But the rest of the day, I really enjoy different things, no? I am not all day thinking about what’s better or worst for me for my tennis. I just try to enjoy different things in life. Of course, as I said, plenty of times, tennis is a very important part of my life, but not everything.
I have friends. I have family. I just try to take care of all this stuff and enjoy the rest of the things, too, when I have the chance.
Q. I’m just a lowly writer. If I missed covering 15 slams, I would be very sad. You don’t like to complain. You like to focus in the moment. You’re human, too. Do you ever reflect on what it would have been like to have been able to be healthy in your career, to actually have competed at those many slams?
RAFAEL NADAL: Probably I will have better chances, but that’s all. After all the things, after all the amazing things that is happening in my life, will be not nice to say something wrong or complain about the negative things. There are too many good things that happened to me.
Even that I missed all these tournaments, of course are opportunities to increase that number. But I can’t come back to that thing. This is a thing that is part of my career, too. I take like this. Probably because all these things that happened at the same time I was able to enjoy even more the good things.
Since the beginning of my career, I was able to manage all this stuff. Is true that I had more problems than my straight competitors for these numbers, I mean, in the history. But I can’t complain, no? I achieved too much to complain. I feel too lucky to complain about the negative things.