Rafael Nadal: “We have to accept that things are going to be far away from perfection”

Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

Rafael Nadal talks to the press ahead of the Mutua Madrid Open.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.

Q. First thing, I wonder how do you feel? What about these days with the injury? I guess there was a difficult injury to even move around. How do you face the tournament?

RAFAEL NADAL: Fine, I’m fine. Talking about injury, I’m recovered. I feel good. Talking about my tennis game and preparations, well, it’s completely different story. Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks.

I wasn’t able to do anything with a lot of difficulties even to fall asleep even because of the pain, but after that, little by little I was able to go a little bit to the gym.

Well, it’s not a very important injury, because at the end you know it just takes X amount of time that mentally this always helps, but it’s true it’s an injury that didn’t allow me to practically do anything, not even to train. If I was having to do something aerobic, to breathe, a lot of pain. If I made movements, it was difficult.

I tried not to make a lot of movements, but try to recover as fast as possible. It’s been a period that I haven’t been able to do a lot of things. So as you can imagine, it’s been six weeks of which I started to train two weeks ago. Well, first week I was just training half an hour per day, and very, very gently, very softly, and, well, doesn’t come.

But I have a lot of joy to come here again. I’m very happy, excited. We still have a couple of days where — today is Sunday? Yeah, Sunday. I still have Monday and Tuesday to be able to recover.

I have improved compared to when I came here, but I still have up and downs, because it’s been a long time without being in these kind of situations and it’s going to be a difficult week, for sure. That’s the reality.

So we have to be calm, we have to accept that things are going to be far away from perfection, but then onwards we just have to fight.

Q. You arrived to Australia after also a tough moment. Here you come also after a tough time. Well, it’s a little big different. How do you face it here in Madrid.

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think it’s a little bit difference compared to Australia. In Australia I had not been playing for five months, and in that sense, well, first of all, today it’s still Sunday, we still have some time left.

Well, it’s true in Australia I had not played for some months. You know, talking about it, it was an injury in the foot and I had not been able to play so much, but, well, I had trained a little bit. Sometimes half an hour, sometimes one hour. But, you know, I had been sometime playing with the ball and being able to train, and of course what happened in Australia it was nearly a miracle.

Now, as I said, it’s a different situation. The injury that I have had in Madrid, it doesn’t allow me to do any preparation the last weeks, and that’s what I’m doing now. I’m doing a double session of training today, the day before yesterday too, and I’m trying to face these days like a little bit of preseason, face them as a preseason without thinking a lot that, you know, this tournament — maybe I’m very, very tight for this tournament in terms of preparation, right? I haven’t had the time for the preparation, and that’s the way I have to face it.

It’s a very tight tournament for me. We will have to take the positive things and perhaps I will have good moments playing on court. If I would come from victory, much better, but this is what we have. We have to have some patience. We have to be humble day after day to see what happens, try to improve day after day, always with the goal to talking about next week. Unfortunately I have the injury in the ribs, and that’s the fact.

Q. With this injury, was there some kind of shot that has been more difficult for you to recover? Due to injury that you have in the rib, was it more difficult to recover from some kind of shot like, I don’t know, serve, backhand, forehand?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. I haven’t been able to practice any shot. Perhaps the serve. I started to serve practically here in Madrid, day before I came here maybe. And before that, I haven’t been able to practice my serve a single time.

But, you know, as I said, I wasn’t capable of practicing any shot. Serve was maybe the last shot maybe, yeah, but regarding the shots, more or less all the same.

Q. The fact that you started the season so well, has it helped in the recovery somehow? Meaning have you faced it in a more positive way because you had a really good start of the season?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, in that regard, that sense, no. Of course you’re always tired of having problems, I’m not going to lie. Of course we have to look at the things with some perspective, and I always do it. I step back, and I look at things in a global way.

I’m very happy on how I started the year, but we also have to look at the negative side. After five months without playing, as difficult as it was to recover again and play the game, practically winning three tournaments one after the other one, you know, breaking the rib in the semifinal, well, you know, it is what it is at the end of the day.

But, well, that’s what it is, and it’s been an important stop, very bad for the moment on the season that it has happened. We cannot lie to ourselves. But from there onwards, I’m not going to look down, be unhappy, be disappointed. That’s what it is.

At the end in life you can be, you know, you can be unhappy and you can be all day in the downside, and that doesn’t take you anywhere. You just have to face things. Of course mentally it’s been some tough weeks when they had told me I had broken one rib. But then onwards you have to face forward, look at the goals. The next goals are coming with a lot of will and determination.

From there onwards, I will try to work as best as possible day by day. As I said before, looking at the good side of things and being humble, checking that things when you come back from these kind of stops in the middle of the season are not good. You know, but unfortunately I have a lot of experience in these kind of stops, because these kind of injuries are better in the end of the season, not in the middle of the season because it’s very difficult.

It’s difficult always, when you have these injuries in the middle of the season, it’s difficult to recover. But I have my ideas very clear. I know that the moment has been negative. I know that it’s, you know, a goal for me to be able to accept what happened and be able to play as best as possible. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m also confident. I know that things had started very good at the beginning of the season, and I have a couple of weeks to recover.

For me, every single tournament, as you know, are important, especially in this stage of the season. For me was really hard not to play Monte-Carlo, nor Barcelona, and to reach Madrid in very, very tight conditions, but at the same time, I still have three weeks to Paris. Unfortunately, I have to be a little bit more calm this year.

Q. I’m going to change a little bit of the topic. I think we still have not heard you talking about when Wimbledon decided a couple of weeks ago to forbid Russian tennis players to come.

RAFAEL NADAL: I think it’s very unfair of my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. In that sense it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war. In that sense, well, you know, talking about colleagues, I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry for them. I wish it was not this way, but at the end of the day we know that this is what we have.

From there onwards we will see what happens. Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard. In that sense, well, there is one thing that’s negative, you know, there are things that are clear. When the government imposes some restrictions, you just have to follow them. In that case, the government gave a recommendation, and Wimbledon just took their decision, the more drastic position that they could take without taking into account — the government didn’t force them to do it.

So that makes that, you know, for our games, that we are in the organization, the ATP, of tennis players and tournaments, we are clear that the Grand Slams are out of all of it. But at the end of the day, it’s not less true that we are ATP, are the tournament that have the most points, right? They are the most important. The 2,000 points, whenever we go to the Grand Slams, they are really important and we have to go to those tournaments.

So we will have to see the measures that we take, and it’s very unfair thing for them, for sure. But unfortunately, I would say that in this moment, you know, being a very complicated situation for those Russian players, you know, there is a lot of things happening, Russia and Ukraine, and at the end of the day, what happens in our game is, you know, it doesn’t have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine, very serious.

Q. Talking about fair play, I want to talk about whether Atletico de Madrid is going to do a corridor for Real Madrid. I don’t know if you have an opinion on that. I’m going to talk about tennis, not football. It used to be a game of gentlemen, and in the last days we hear a lot of things on the tennis courts. We see people breaking racquets. Don’t you think we should take more severe measures against the players for these kind of behaviors?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, talking about the corridor to Real Madrid, I don’t have any kind of opinion. For me, it’s a simple respect and tradition. For me it’s no more important if the players do the corridor to other players or not. The only thing I find important in the game is respect, and that the players on the club congratulate the winning team.

That’s what it is. That’s fair play, that’s what it is, it’s a tradition. If it’s done, okay, and if it’s not done, I don’t have all the information to give a clear opinion, so I don’t want to give my opinion on things that I don’t have all the information available.

Regarding the other side, I’m not going to tell you my opinion, because I think that you have it clear because you see my behavior inside the court. You know, the times are different. The ages are different. Personalities of the players are always different. But for sure there are certain limits which I think that they should not be overpassed.

Sometimes it puts in risk the health of ball players and so on, and for me that’s a line that shouldn’t be passed. A critical line, a red line.

In that sense, talking about the sanctions, I think that they have not been very severe in these first three, four months of the year, seeing everything that has happened in the tennis courts, but it’s true that a couple of weeks ago, a letter was sent to the players, a private letter, saying that from now onwards behaviors, the extreme behaviors like the one we had seen were going to be more severely penalized. I think it’s a correct movement.

I understand that there is frustration sometimes on court and that the racquet can be smashed. No doubt about that. Someone can just shout. But there are certain red lines that shouldn’t be passed. They shouldn’t be allowed. And I understand that ATP from now onwards will impose more severe measures, and that for some moments you can break a racquet, you will have a penalty, economic penalty. But talking about other severe measures, I’m sure people will think a bit more about what they do. You know, they are not going to have these inappropriate behaviors anymore.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. How are you feeling physically? What kind of information did you get about an injury that made you decide to try and come and play Madrid?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, I’m good physically in terms of the rib is recovered. I have been doing tests every single week to see how the situation evolves. If I come here, it’s because the doctors tell me I have no risk at all in that case, no? So first, that’s why I make that decision. Then it’s obvious that in terms of preparation it’s not much, but at the same time there is no better way to improve and to prepare for the future than being here.

Playing here, practicing every day with the colleagues, play the tournament, even if my personal preparation haven’t been there, that’s probably the faster way possible to recover a lot of things that I don’t have now yet, no? But I hope to have it back in a couple of weeks if I am able to practice with the right attitude and with humility, to accept the challenge and to accept that there gonna be days that the things are not going the right way and it’s all about the process, trust the process, and at the same time, trust in myself that even the things are not going well today can be better tomorrow and better and better every single day.

Q. Talking about coming back, you know how to come back. I’m from Austria. That’s why I’m interested especially about the story of Dominic Thiem. He is a little bit struggling about coming back right now. Have you talked to him about his way of coming back, and the way you came back in Australia, is that an absolute exception about how coming back, that’s not like the usual way?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, is true, is not the moment to put pressure on Dominic, and is not fair to compare about me, because in that case, I am not the guy who likes to talk about myself in a good way. But it’s true that the way that I was able to come back a lot of times in my tennis career is something special, and is not something usual, because when you are coming back from a long period of time without playing, the normal thing is have a process, and that’s what Dominic is going through.

I don’t have any doubt that if he’s healthy he will be back this week, next week, in Roland Garros, if not in Wimbledon or after, no? It’s about time. If he really has the determination, the passion to keep going, I don’t have any doubt that he will recover 100% the level, but it’s about time. It’s a process that you need to go through.

Q. I wanted to go back to Australia again, because I wanted to know when you, like months later, if you look back and you realize the incredible thing that you did over there, so I just wanted to talk about what happened in Australia. Having all this time to have to think about it, you have a long career, but what you did over there was so outstanding that I wanted to, I don’t know, like maybe self-awareness of incredible thing that you did.

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I tell you one thing, one of the reasons why I am here and why I am competitive at almost 36 years old is because I don’t think much about the things that happened in the past, no? So I am not a fan of takes a lot of time I remember and remembering how good the thing was or how bad the thing was, no?

In our sport, there is not much time to think about Australia anymore. It’s past. Things go fast. Australia have been amazing, without a doubt, have been one of the most emotional moments in my tennis career. But during the last month that I have time to think, what I was thinking is about my injury and I was sad about that (smiling).

The thing that I was trying to do is just think about what I need to do to recover and to be ready for when I am coming back.

Is not a sport that you have time to stay with the victories and to celebrate a lot of victories if you want to keep being competitive for the next couple of events, and that’s what I tried to do, even like this.

We can talk about Australia another time many times, of course, have been so special and the way that I achieved that title is something unforgettable for the rest of my life, without a doubt. But life continues, no? That’s it. I’m here in Madrid to try my best. That’s all.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


  1. I just love Rafa’s philosophy to tennis and his life in general: don’t overcomplicate things and just keep it simple. Celebrate the victories, but always look to improve.
    I’m merely looking forward to seeing Rafa in action again in Madrid. It’s a very tough draw, but I’ll be pleased if he’s able to put up a good performance on his return from injury.

  2. Rafa vai com tudo e lembrese que trem um torcedor ferrenho seu aqui no Brasil!!!!!!!…….VAMOS!!!!!!!!……..

  3. I feel very optimistic for Rafa and his chances of success here in Madrid . At the same time , it is important that Rafa gets off to a good start , a win to build his momentum and confidence . That usually propels Rafa to play his best tennis and certainly good enough to win the tournament . We shall see soon enough .

  4. Translations are often a problem but still thanks for the transcript. Rafa tells us everything we need to know. He feels fine and is recovered but has not practiced shots except for the serve!

    Obviously the Wednesday match could be “difficult,” to use Rafa’s term. But if he could manage to prevail he will get a second match which would be progress. We know he will give it everything he has!

    Go Rafa!

  5. The English term is “guard of honour” rather than “corridor”, but I suppose the translator wasn’t to know that! I remember United doing one for City once – it’s difficult to do that for your great rivals, but it’s the right thing to do when the other team are the champions. And I don’t know why they were asking Rafa about it – it’s hardly as if he’s got any influence on Atleti, and they should have been asking him about tennis!

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