As promised, here's my translation of Mariano's interview, after his final yesterday.
Nadal's gonna become a legend
Interview made by Pierre-Gilles HUOT, for Sport.fr, on June 5th 2005.
He'd have fought till the very end the Argentine. Despite a muscular contraction on his abductor at the beginning of the match, Mariano Puerta has relied on his huge hitting ability and on his damaging lift to have Rafael Nadal doubt, and therefore almost succeeded to play a 5th set. Though he lost, the one who was still world n°440 in August 2004 could but only feel happiness and pride for his great results on the Parisian clay, with this very first GS final.
PGH: How are you feeling, straight after that defeat?
It's been a very tough match. I've come close to play a 5th set. If I had been a bit luckier, I'd surely be still playing! I went out of the court, after playing the best player on clay of the world. What can you do about it?
PGH: Did Nadal impress you?
He's got an incredible strength, he surprised me pretty much, especially with his reflex volley on the set point in the 4th set. We're talking about a guy who has already written and will keep on writing a page in tennis history. He'll succeed doing great things, he's gonna become a legend of tennis. He's really impressed me with his passing shots in the 4th set. He's got a tremendous strength in his legs and he knows how to keep cool. I think he's got the mental to establish records. If he happens to set winning Wimbledon as a goal, he'll be able to do it.
PGH: Did tiredness have an importance in that final?
I haven't been defeated because I was physically lessened, I think that if we had played a 5th set, I'd have been better than him on that level. He's simply played better than me.He's been more precise and more focused in his game. Though he's doubted...
PGH: Don't you have too much regret in that 4th set?
If I had won that 4th set, we would have been 50/50, whereas at the beginning, I was picturing him as the favourite for this final. Nadal can be beaten. I repeat it, I've come close to 1 point from a 5th set and after that, you don't know what could have happened. He wasn't feeling as well as he used to, I had never seen him that way before. Me, I was chilling. Of course, I'd have loved to play a 5th set. I had to play beyond my own limits to have him lose ground. If I had played another player today, I could have won. So young and facing such difficult situations, Nadal keeps on acting naturally, and that's admirable!
PGH: To which extent has your injury stopped you?
I was scared because the pain I've felt was sharp. But the trainer strapped me very firmly. And then, it was bearable. I've been able to cope with the pain, playing for 3 and ½ hours, and this hasn't bothered me.
PGH: Despite this loss, will you leave Paris and RG happy?
Of course, I'm very happy and very proud of what I've accomplished here, and during these past weeks. I've come back to life and and I've been able to do things that very few people could have done. I'd have loved to go till the very end of that adventure, though I can't leave, feeling bitter. I've given the best of myself. One must be objective with oneself.
PGH: Do you feel like, despite the loss, you've won a victory over yourself?
I indeed won a very tough match against myself. Today, I've played the RG final, I've played good, I've handled my anxiety and I've played well going forth. I had already won the match, in a sense, before entering the court.
PGH: Which way will this final change your career?
The fact of playing that final will help me change mentally. I'm gonna struggle in a different way now against very good players. This will bring confidence on and outside the court, and therefore, this will change my goals. From now on, I wanna improve the way I'm moving, and I think that I can get stronger on hard courts and in the indoor tournaments of the end of the year. To achieve this, I need to improve my volley as well as my serve.