“Winning is what you play for,” Rafael Nadal told AFP in a telephone interview on Monday.
“In high-level competition, what counts is victory. That is a reality.
“And beyond the victory, there is an even greater personal satisfaction because at certain times I have had to make sacrifices to achieve the goal.”
Rafa was just 19 when he first won at Roland Garros and quickly established himself as the King of Clay by winning four French titles in a row.
“What has changed is age,” he laughs. “The only negative is that I am 15 years older.
“Everything else, the basic and important things in my life, have not changed much.
“I still live practically in the same place, with the same friends and the reality is that my way of life when I am out of tournaments has changed relatively little.”
– Coronavirus –
There is another negative, though, and that is the coronavirus pandemic which has killed over a million people since the outbreak emerged in China last December.
With tennis in lockdown for several months, Rafa struggled to keep his body and game in condition, prompting his decision to skip the rearranged US Open to focus on Roland Garros.
“After the confinement I didn’t feel great, I trained very little for many weeks,” he said.
“I couldn’t train in the way I wanted, especially for the first two months after the confinement.
“My body suffered a little from the whole lockdown. The reality is that for bodies like mine with a lot of kilometres on the clock, a drastic stop makes the return to normal work much more complicated.
“In my case, the body responded badly for a few months and little by little things started to sort themselves out. They were tough weeks.”
Rafa admits that he watched with “sadness” as the virus unfolded across the world.
“I am a sensitive person and when I see so much suffering, so many deaths, so many people having a bad time… I had a bad time,” he said.
“At one point I stopped watching the news because it made me so sad it wasn’t healthy. I live with worry and now it seems that things are getting worse again.
“I hope this nightmare will be over as soon as possible and that people can go back to living in a more pleasant and happier world.”
As for what Rafa will be doing in another 15 years time, the Spaniard is loathe to commit.
“I am not into making such long-term plans. But I have a lot to do, with my foundation, the academy and other things that are about to start.
“For the moment I’m playing tennis… we’ll see for how long.”