Day 7 - An interview with Rafael Nadal
Saturday, June 3, 2006
Q. A banana stuck in your throat?
RAFAEL NADAL: (Nodding head.)
Q. How many bananas have you eaten in your life?
RAFAEL NADAL: A billion. Is the most easy question.
Q. What happened?
RAFAEL NADAL: I take a little bit banana like this. I feel slip in the mouth and stay here (pointing to his neck).
Q. You peeled it first? WTF?
RAFAEL NADAL: (Untranslated answer in Spanish.)
Q. Next up Hewitt, are you a bit concerned maybe your energy levels might run a little low in the second week?
RAFAEL NADAL: Maybe this match going to be good for me, no, 'cause I wasn't playing very well. I was practicing with doubts. So today maybe I played the best match, no?
Mathieu, I think he play a very good match. Me, I begin with two breaks down, so that's not good for the confidence. But after I come back very well. I begin find the stability in the second with my serve, so that's decisive, no?
Q. Were you ever weary or tired in the match?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I was tired. I play five hours.
Q. But yet you served your fastest ace in the last game.
RAFAEL NADAL: What, how kilometers?
Q. 206, I think.
RAFAEL NADAL: I play with 207 in the second. Because I have the same thing in every set. When I serve for the set in the 30‑15, in every game, in the 5‑4, 5‑4 and 5‑4, the last three sets, I can do the ace in the middle, in the 30‑15. Every set, 30‑15.
Q. So you forget being cansado?
RAFAEL NADAL: Sure, I was tired. But maybe Mathieu, too. Every person is tired after four hours, no?
Q. Does it bother you at all the noise from the French crowd either during the match or after? Does the reaction of the French crowd bother you at all?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, maybe the public is okay. Very good all the time. Support a lot his player. But very nice, no? I like a lot that. That's very, very nice. I have this sensation in Madrid, especially in the final. So that's very, very nice.
The public stay nice. But for me all match is good. Just when I had the problem with the banana, the public (whistling). Sorry, not my fault. And after in the finish of the match, finally he applauded me. That's good. When I finish the match, the public (whistling) too. That's not nice because we play a nice match, very good match. Maybe the public can support him a lot, but after I win. That's nice, too, no? For me is more nice. But now it's okay. The public, I stay very good. Very good, no problem.
Q. Next you play Hewitt. He beat you three times out of three. Is this a worry or not?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is a different surface, sure, that's the first thing. But after, sure, I have a difficult match. I play one of the last best players in the world in the last years. I going to have a very difficult match and I know that perfect. But I am not (indiscernible) for the three matches. I'm (indiscernible) because I play with a very good player in the fourth round of the French Open. It's a very good match.
Q. In the first set, Paul was hitting every line, every corner. Did you have a feeling that he couldn't keep it up or that you had to be more aggressive and try to meet him at the same level?
RAFAEL NADAL: I was thinking, I hope he going to stop a little bit because he was playing very good. But in the first set, I have a lot of chances. Maybe for the numbers, the normal is I won the first set because I have 4‑3, 40‑15, 5‑4, Love‑40, three times break up. A lot of chances and I can do. He will beat me the set. Okay, I can win the set, too. He's playing well, but I was playing well, too.
I was thinking he going to stop before, no, because he (speaking Spanish).
He played a very good match in all aspects.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.
Q. This was a wonderful match, but you had nine breakpoints and you didn't take them. At the same time you didn't let that get to you. Where do you get that mental strength?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, this was a fabulous match. I mean, I knew this was going to be extremely difficult. Of course, he was playing at home. Apart from the pressure from playing at home, there was no pressure on his side. I was theoretically the favorite. He was liberated in his game. He was also playing very well. But I had prepared for this, and the crowd wasn't a problem at any moment.
I was very concentrated at all times and I tried to keep the right attitude, tried to think about staying calm and think about the final victory. I think that's the important point.
Q. Were you surprised that Mathieu played so well? Did you see danger of losing the match at any moment?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, surprised? I know that Mathieu plays very well. I've always played a tough match against him. I played him five times. I've won the five times. Every single time has been tough.
I knew this would be a tough match. For me, I mean, as far as I'm concerned, this is the best match he has ever played of those he played against me.
Q. In view of the problems you had to win this match, was it due to his game or because you couldn't find the right momentum?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I'm satisfied with my tennis, with my game. I think I've made a quality leap over the past few days. I have a lot more security in my shots. I play them much better. I think probably this was not the best match of my life, but it was a very good match.
But you have to keep in mind that nothing is ever easy, particularly when you're playing a player who is playing so well. I knew this was going to be a very difficult match. I knew that anything could happen. I'm really happy that I won this match which is an important victory for me.
Q. It has been said that the change since last year is an increase in experience, a little bit less wild.
RAFAEL NADAL: I'm not sure. I always said the first year you play, you're extremely fresh. It's not the first year you come to the French Open; it's when you start winning, when you start winning big tournaments, when you start winning important matches.
I think the first year, it's always easier. If you lose a match, obviously you're disappointed. It's much worse when you have consolidated your position at the top. It's true that last year I was sometimes tense. But the fact that it was my first year put less pressure on me. This year, I think I'm playing differently. I'm less liberated. But I think I'm better in control of the situation.
I don't think at any moment in this match I lost my concentration. I'm really happy and there's nothing more to say. I think there's only one aspect that I need to improve to play the next match even better: serve and backhand. I have confidence in my forehand. I'm happy to have won all these matches.
It's also important when my opponent is playing aggressively. The fact that the court is so big, sometimes I move away further than normal. This, of course, gives more opening to my opponent.
I was also trying to remember my training. I think that I've, in fact, improved my game bit by bit during the match. I was trying to move forward. I was trying to put my shots on the line, both forehand and backhand. I think it's playing well that really saved me in the important moments.
I need to analyze all this and see what I can do to improve on it.
Q. Can you tell us what happened with that banana?
RAFAEL NADAL: I've already explained it. I've explained it wonderfully in English (smiling).
Anyway, I had a piece of banana. I always have small pieces, normal. It just slipped sideways. Maybe I'd just been drinking. I don't know what happened, but it suddenly stayed stuck halfway through. I started to play. I played one point. I didn't really notice it at the beginning. At 15‑Love, I started being a little bit frightened. But I didn't want to stop in the middle of the game. I didn't think it would look very good. I lost the next point. I was paying more attention to my throat than to tennis.
It was an important game, so I started being nervous. It's not that I couldn't breathe, but I did feel a very strange sensation. I thought, I've got to stop because I don't want anything serious to happen. Never mind if I don't look good.
Q. Do you feel fit after that long match to play potentially a very long match against Hewitt?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, there's still a day's rest or practically two. I'm going to think about resting, about relaxing. Tomorrow morning I'll probably wake up a bit tired. That would be normal. Then I'll train a bit in the afternoon at about 4 or 5 for about half an hour or so, then try to put in a few good hours' sleep. That's what I need to do. I need to recover. I need to rest. That's it. I think I'll be fine in a day and a half's time.
Q. After the nine matches you've played here in Roland Garros, was this the most difficult? Did you ever get the feeling you could lose?
RAFAEL NADAL: I mean, obviously if you play four sets in five hours, I mean, obviously you get the feeling that at some time, some point, you could lose. I also got the feeling I could win. It came pretty close at 4‑3 in the fourth set 30‑All. I don't have too many problems with my serve. I can serve an ace or so.
Q. Could you tell us more about what you said in English?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I'm not too sure about that.
I think that was the critical point. I tried to be more aggressive in my game, but I was a bit tired at that point. Then I played a backhand down the line. I lost a point. I did the same again. Then I made an ace, four winning shots. I was more relaxed.
I got the feeling if I could win that game, I'd break the next.
Q. How do you feel about all these kids waving at you and congratulating you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, of course, I'm delighted people are paying attention. That's a good sign. I always try to answer and respond as best I can. I always try to sign what people want me to sign, even if I'm losing, whether I'm winning or losing. It's very agreeable to have people supporting you and following your career. It's the nicest thing you can get.
Q. With Hewitt, you played many years ago. Do you remember that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Do you want to tell me about the last three matches. 7‑6, 7‑6, 3‑6, 7‑6 in Australia?
Q. The second match was five sets.
RAFAEL NADAL: I played him in Toronto, 6‑1, 4‑4, 30‑15, and I missed a shot, I remember that very clearly. Then in Australia, two sets to love, 4‑4, 15‑30. I went up to the net and he lobbed me.
Q. Did you get a present today for your birthday? What would you like to get as a present?
RAFAEL NADAL: I'm so happy. I don't need anything more.