From Elpais.es (link from Moondancer!)
Nadal: "Federer is much more complete and much more elegant than me"
Manel Serras - Paris
EL PAIS - Sports - 30-05-2006
When Rafael Nadal (Manacor, June 3rd 1986) exploded, in 2005, the whole world was conscious that he would be a star on the tennis firmament. He won 11 titles, among them Roland Garros, and he placed himself as world's number two, right after Swiss Roger Federer, whom he's beaten four times in a row, the last time in Rome, where he saved two match points. In Paris, where yesterday he marked on 54 the record of consecutive victories in clay courts, after imposing over Swede Robin Soderling by 6-2, 7-5 and 6-1 -- he was tied at 53 with the argentine Guillermo Vilas--, and his participation in the final is expected. But his successes don't make Nadal lose sight on reality.
Question. How can you be so high up and still keep your feet on the ground?
Answer. I've never been floating high up. Whether I've won or lost, my motto has always been the same: to work every day so things won't twist the wrong way. It's the only way to achieve something.
Q. Last year you won 11 tournaments. You're on that road again...
A. No, no... I'm on a really great road, but not in the road to winning 11 tournaments again. I can't complain. I would've never imagined that, at this point of the year, I'd already have four titles out of seven that I've tried to win and that I'd only lost once on the first round. I think it's incredible.
Q. It's harder to stay there than to get there. Is that your case?
A. Everything's complicated, hard. When one becomes number two, you have to work really hard to defend the points and you play with a lot of pressure. On the other hand, when you're ascending (positions), everything comes really straight-forward. You don't think much. If you're young, your nerves don't oppress you or anything. When you're already up, you are the head of the series. If you know how to use it [the not confronting the best players at the beginning], it's hard to go too far back.
Q. Do you intimidate your rivals even before going into the court?
A. I always go with the intention of giving it a hundred percent. They know that and that helps me. They see me so determined that they get nervous.
Q. Did that help on the Rome final against Federer? You were down 5-3 on the fifth set and you kept on fighting.
A. I did what I always do: fight until the end. When you see someone in front of you that won't give up no matter if you're winning or not, you hesitate. Federer had all the chances to beat me. And I had the luck to avoid him beating me.
Q. Did you think at that point about the record of 53 straight wins on clay courts that you were going to tie?
A. Yes. It wasn't very important for me, but I started to value it as I got closer to beating it. It's hard to achieve that. And, on top of all, against the number one player and in a master series. It's not easy to win a master series. Juan Carlos Ferrero, that got to be number one, has won four; Carlos Moya, three; Lleyton Hewitt, two; Federer, the best player in history, 11.
Q. Do you like the statistics?
A. Yes. I rule myself based on its logic. I'm conscious of how much it takes to win so many straight matches and I'm surprised to have done it. You can always have a bad day. I looked at my results and truly I only suffered a lot in two or three of them. That means that I maintained a great level of focus. When problems arose, I got lucky, but I also was mentally strong.
Q. Do you think about renewing the RG title?
A. One always has the illusion. But the probabilities of winning are slimmer than one thinks. Having won in Montecarlo, Barcelona and Roma helps me because now I can confront Roland Garros with more tranquility, knowing that I've already accumulated many points. If I played a good tournament, and I don't mean winning, some catastrophe should happen in the second half of the year to make me not end at least among the top four by the end of the year.
Q. Do you already visualize a final against Federer?
A. No. I almost never think about the finals until they come. I only worry about my next rival. But there are too many things that you can't control. It would be my wish to play a final against Federer or some other player. But it's too soon to think about that.
Q. Everything seems to indicate that the ĎNadal-Federerí battle will mark history. How do you feel about this?
A. When I play against him, I always have the feeling that he's better than me. He plays more aggressive, has more ease on his volley, serves better, and has more resources to attack... I have to play my best and try to hold on as much as I can. My only possibility is to drive him to despair, make him realize that he should win a point plenty of times, that he should do something else that he doesn't do when playing against others, and try to place him in a situation more extreme than those that he's used to. And, then, anything can happen. Up until now I've had the luck to be in a better situation than him or that he's made a mistake when playing a point.
Q. Are you becoming Federer's curse?
A. No. He's a great player on court and an excellent person outside of it. I have a good relationship with him, although for me it's easier because I'm beating him. But he's human. We've seen him throw his racket, get mad when he's about to lose: against Nalbandian, against Almagro; against me, in Montecarlo, when he threw a ball to the sea. He's got attitude. But he's number one. The logic thing is for him to beat me.
Q. What makes you different from him?
A. He's more complete and more elegant than me. He's got every right shot. But he's also older [August 8th 1981] than me. The issue is to try to copy him. When one does it so well, you have to take his techniques as a model and better them. He's also colder and doesn't show his emotions much, especially when he wins. Maybe that's why he's so good. But I like to play with a bit more of blood, showing my feelings more.
Q. You seem prepared to win the Australian Open and even the US Open. What about Wimbledon?
A. I give myself three years to try it. In order to play well there you have to have good feelings with the court, and actually understand playing on grass. On a normal court, in ground, you have to have a really defined way of playing. Not on grass. You have to learn to move better, to run better, to serve better, and to move to the front or to the back..., get used to the sliding balls. I understand concrete and clay. I'm only missing grass. But when I retire, I want to have a clean conscience and know that I've done everything I could in order to play well on grass. It's a special tournament and I always look forward to playing it each year.
Q. You said while receiving your trophy in the Godů Tournament that you thank your parents for yelling at you when you do stuff wrong.
A. When I do things right, I know it. When I do them wrong, there's a lot of people around me that don't have enough guts to tell me so. They don't have the courage to tell me "Eh! Where are you going?". They don't realize that you're an actual person just like everybody else. However, my parents don't really care if I'm number two, or three, or 200. They treat me the same way. And I thank them.
Q. And don't you get mad at them?
A. Evidently, just like every other 19-year-old kid. When they tell me the same thing over and over again, I get annoyed. I'm proud and I can have strong impulses. But I end up realizing that I'm the one mistaken.
Q. Is it true that you've never thrown a racket against the floor?
A. I've never done it. I've always had the temptation several times, but I've always controlled myself just in time. Ever since I was a little kid, my uncle has educated me that way. I don't think I'll change.
Q. How do you control yourself?
A. I get angry very rarely. When playing against Federer, after losing 7-6 in the first set, I got to the tiebreak in the second and he was up 2-1. That's when I missed an easy volley on the net. That's when I was just about to throw my racket. It just was the object closer to me. But I said to myself: "Hold on". Had I thrown it when I was smaller, my uncle would have thrown me off the court.
Q. Have you argued with him? (Uncle Toni)
A. Plenty of times. In my formation phase it was really hard. When I used to go training, I felt almost upset. He always put tons of intensity in the training, always yelled at me a lot, he was always on my case... I guess all of that's helped me to be who I am and to have so much self-control.
Q. Why did he chose to make you play with your left hand when you were about eight or nine years of age?
A. There wasn't any other option. I was playing with both hands both the drive as well as the backhand, and I was even switching hands when going from one hit to the other. He decided that the time of playing with just one hand had come. He chose the left one because I played soccer with my left leg. I accepted because that's what seemed most appropriate for me too. I felt comfortable.
Q. What do you think when your uncle tells you that you're only the best when passing balls over a net?
A. He's a very special person, that thinks a lot and that, if you listen to him, says things that aren't the usual. You just have to do as he says.
Q. Do you feel privileged?
A. It's been hard to get to where I am now. When I was little, my friends went playing after school and I went training. But I've always loved sports: soccer, tennis, golf... that's what made it easier. Yes, I feel a bit privileged for doing what I love to do.
Q. Are your aspirations to have a great car, a huge mansion..?
A. Not at all. I live with my parents, very calm. I have a KIA that my sponsors gave to me because they sponsor me. And a Mercedes that I won in Stuttgart and that is still there. My illusion is to be happy. Have a small boat so that I can go fishing and... Not much more. Not having the best car, or the best computer, nothing of that kind. I don't need those things.
Q. Is your aspiration becoming number one?
A. My main objective is to become a better player and to be happy. Right now I have slim chances of becoming number one because I'm in a time period where I have to play against the best player in history. In any other time period I would already be number one because of all the points that I have. And that makes me very happy. But it's true that someday I'd like to become number one.