Rafael Nadal talks about his foot injury, Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic

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

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.

Q. Amazing match of Alcaraz. You have fought physically. Do you feel this is a handover to Carlos? Are you preparing for Roland Garros in a couple of days?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, first of all, congratulations to him. I don’t know, handover, of course it is. He’s 19 years old. His birthday was yesterday. Me, I’m 36 years old. Of course it’s a handover.

From here onwards, if it’s today or not, we will see next months. First thing I’m happy in that regard. He has been better than me in several aspects of the match and several aspects of the game, and I need to improve, as I have said, these days. Nothing that’s not inside what’s logical, and I just accept it naturally with calm and with security that there is a path to continue until in two-and-a-half weeks’ time, more or less, to try to generate with myself real options, and that’s what I’m working on right now.

It’s an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here, and now because of that, I don’t take away any merit from Carlos. Congratulations to him. He’s playing great, and I hope the best for him for the rest of the tournament.

Q. Yesterday you said that you had some pains in your foot, and of course the injury that you were coming from, I wanted to ask you, how have you felt physically during the match?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, good, good. No problem with this. When I’m done with playing, many times I finish with pains. But I’m not going to, no way I’m going to talk about my feet. It’s a day to accept the loss in an absolute natural way and analyze it in a tennistic way.

Physical, of course. But not physical talking about my feet nor injuries. Only about, you know, trying to improve what it is the capacity to react, and in that sense I’m conscious that I know that I have to improve the speed and going in and out of the court to be more dynamic, to of course be able to read the match, and that the legs follow me.

I have had a few days to train on clay before coming into this tournament, and right now I’m not analyzing this particular match. I’m just analyzing my game, isolating it from today’s match, because in any case, I don’t want to remove any merit to Carlos. But the first thing I do is congratulate Carlos. After that, I have to analyze myself, I have to criticize myself, and I have to understand what I have to improve to be able to reach with options, with more options next week, especially in two weeks’ time.

From there onwards, I know what I have to do. What I have to do is to smack the ball harder, to have the capacity to move around with my shots faster, recover my dynamics and the speed.

You just recover that with days and with matches, like yesterday, like the first day, like today. This is the reality. From there onwards, you just have to continue that path with the constant determination, with the correct determination, knowing that when you come from a period like the one I came from, you have to accept the things the way they came and just go with this determination, because in the medium term, we have a goal that is higher than any sadness that I may have for losing.

Q. Talking about the tournament, could we say that you are progressively improving?

RAFAEL NADAL: The reading of the tournament is I have played three matches and that I came here with hardly any preparation, with no preparation. This is the reality. I said it before coming here it was going to be a tough week, even though I have lost to one of the fittest players of the world with no doubts, you know, I even had my options, because I think it was the 1-1 of the third set I managed to do a parallel ball when I was at the net, and it was a key moment.

At the beginning of the match it was a bit complicated because I think the two first serves that I have served I think he made two breaks, and then I think I had a couple of options. Well, circumstances that occurred during the match, you know, yesterday when I said I am clear the way I faced the match and the way the other player faces the match, when you come with a positive momentum, winning a lot of matches and with confidence, well, all these moments are normally easier to make them fall on one side, just because of momentum, and because of automaticness, in that regard he has done that more than me and he comes with that momentum and calm, and I just know that it was something logic.

But I think that I was out there with the correct attitude and analyzing every single morning what I had to do to generate options for myself and to improve. After that, I was not able to do it as what I needed today, but I have the clear vision on the things that I have to improve. Now is the moment to work and to be confident that things will evolve in the right way.

Q. Yesterday you were saying that you are looking three weeks ahead to prepare for Roland Garros. How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself very far away from the Rafa Nadal that you want to be in France?

RAFAEL NADAL: You cannot analyze so much. We are in a special tournament here. We have the altitude, the tournament that is most far away from Roland Garros in the clay season, and I knew I didn’t want to start playing in this tournament because it is the most complicated. This is the reality.

From there onward it’s true some days the injuries don’t allow you to do the things most correct for tennistic evolution of your game. But you have to prioritize the physical evolution. For me it would have been much better to start the week before in Estoril, at sea level, a 250 tournament, but I didn’t manage to make it. I could not make it to Estoril.

I was not ready. I could not risk it. This is the reality. So I came here knowing that this is the toughest tournament, because here the ball flies much more. When they return the ball, you have to be much faster with your legs than in other places, because if you don’t position yourself properly behind the ball, the unforced error comes easily and it’s easier to lose the confidence here than in a court at sea level.

So we all that. We know all that. From there onwards, I have done what I could. I have had better days, worse days. But it has not been a disaster in any case. I think that I have competed with the correct attitude. I have played two, two-and-a-half hours, nearly three, I think three matches, this is a positive outcome.

From here onwards, just looking forward with optimism and happy with and excited. We will see what happens, but at the end, things, so that they can work properly, you have to believe. You have to give yourself opportunities.

To give yourself opportunities means to keep on working with the correct mentality, correct attitude. When things are complicated, things come the way they come and you have to look to the future with joy and happiness.

Q. You talk about looking to the future. I wanted to ask you about tomorrow’s match. You have just competed against Carlos. I’m sure that you have seen some of Novak’s matches.

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, I swear I haven’t seen a single match of Novak.

Q. What options do you give Carlos tomorrow? How do you think that match against Carlos and Novak is going to be?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I cannot predict the future. It’s going to be a tough match. We are talking about one of the best players of the history against a young, still young at a very high level player.

It’s obvious that Novak has already played in Monte-Carlo, Belgrade, semifinals here, so perhaps he’s had a few more matches than me. I think it’s been a couple of months playing on clay.

Carlos can win perfectly. I don’t see any reason why he cannot win. It’s true that he cannot have the downside that he had on the second set, talking about today’s match, but, well, it’s true that Carlos plays a lot with adrenaline, with momentum. When adrenaline goes up, he’s practically unstoppable, but then in some moments he commits errors, but it’s logical because he plays with a lot of risk. It’s his way of playing, and in that sense I think he has the level to be able to win anyone of the world. But what can happen tomorrow, we will see what happens tomorrow, I guess it depends on who plays better.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. When you think of why you were all right before starting that tournament, do you feel you have exceeded your expectations? You have done much better than you thought you would be, or you are still a bit behind or do you assess if you compare before coming here?

RAFAEL NADAL: I tell you one thing. When I arrive to a tournament, I don’t think about how I gonna to be or how I not gonna be. I just try to follow the practices every day, without expecting much. You have to live with the things that are happening every single day.

When you are one month, three weeks outside of the tour and you come here with no preparation, then of course there is moments that you feel the worst in the world than moments you feel better. But is something that is normal. I went through all these experiences during my tennis career unfortunately plenty of times, and I know how the process goes.

Positive thing, I won two matches. I honestly don’t think too much in terms of how I gonna be, how I don’t gonna be in a couple of weeks. I just try to follow my road. I have another week, days in front to practice on clay in probably more similar conditions than what we gonna find in Paris in a few weeks.

I tell you, honestly, my only dream is be in Paris healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest level possible, no? If that happens, I know it’s a tournament that I have been playing well a lot of times in my career, I know very well the place, and why not I can be competitive again here and give me one more chance. That could be a dream for me.

But it’s about keep going and accept the challenge and accept that the things gonna be difficult, but I have been in that position a couple of times in my life.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


  1. In my eyes,Rafa will always be the very best and the most humble player ever! No one will ever be able to replace him. I hope to meet him one day when he is inducted into the tennis hall of Fame, especially since I live in Rhode Island and have been to the hall of Fame many times. Go Rafa!

  2. Rafa is the Best!!! I have been a fan from day one and look forward to him winning many more tennis matches! GO RAFA!!! PARIS is waiting! Good Luck!❤️

  3. I mean WHO ELSE has this amazing attitude??: To give yourself opportunities means to keep on working with the correct mentality, correct attitude. When things are complicated, things come the way they come and you have to look to the future with joy and happiness.

    Rafa, you did NOT pass the torch. YOU are still here and playing amazing tennis. Especially for someone just recovering from a fractured rib! Seriously, people are so short-sighted with their comments about Carlos! NO WAY will Carlos EVER be as good, or as humble, as Rafa. There will NEVER be a replacement for the GOAT. Period.

    Now, Rafa, go take Rome!

  4. Congratulations to Carlos🏆 👏

    Wishing Rafa a fantastic tournament! Happy to see Coach Francisco Roig, it’s been a while…
    Good luck to Rafa🍀💪❤️

  5. The King had not been dethroned. Rafa is gracious in defeat, as always. He is one of a kind. Carlos is an unbelievable player but is is not Rafa.

  6. Philosophical as always in defeat, Rafa is honest about his performance and comfortable with the truth that Alcaraz was just too good on the day.
    Rafa knows what he has to do moving forward. It’s going to take some doing, but I hope his level improves significantly so that he peaks for RG.

    • I always pull for RAFA- I hope he gets the place he wants to be physically and mentally to compete at his high level – I personally thought he played well since he’s had virtually no clay prep!

  7. So impressed with Carlos today. Congratulations to him, and I hope he goes on to win the tournament. But there’s no passing of the torch. Careers overlap: Carlos Moya’s career and Juan Carlos Ferrero’s career didn’t end when Rafa came along, nor did Sergi Bruguera’s career or Albert Costa’s career end when they came along. I know it’s inevitable, but I wish the media’d give over with all this “handover” business: it’s not fair to either Rafa or to Carlito.

    • Amen… I think it was Brett Harber who Shouted “ The King Has Been Dethroned” I’m thinking Rafa has won this 5 X and Carlos defeated Rafa only one time & not even in the final! Carlos is going to be a major champion but he has a long long way to go before he dethrones Rafa!

      • I absolutely agree. Carlos is young and energetic as is expected. That’s how you make it up the ladder. He will get there soon enough. Some forget that in Indian Wells a month ago, Rafa beat Carlos in the semi finals and that was with the start of his rib injury which he took a medical break for. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Point made.

  8. And Rafa’s prediction was correct. Carlos won against Novak and was clutch for which I’m very happy. This is not a passing of the torch by any means but time waits for no one. Just hope Rafa is primed and ready for Roland garros

    • It may well be the passing of the torch, but not anytime soon.
      Carloz is next, that next is still some time to go.
      Fed beat Samparas at Wimbledon, but didnt win it outright.
      Carloz we all know you are next, and your time has come, but not all the way. Thatll be a few years down.
      Rafas still 3-4 years good, hopefully more, But Rafa is a God and Gods dont die easy.
      It will end eventualy,,,,,not yet though….

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