Rafael Nadal: "Federer and I have been an example"
For Rafael Nadal, 2017 has been a great year, as he is world number one again and has won six titles, taking his total to 16 grand slams.
Now in the semi-finals at the Shanghai Masters, he could come face to face with Roger Federer in the final in an exciting top-seed clash.
On the back of 15 consecutive hard-court victories, he sat down with MARCA in Shanghai to discuss an exciting year, his relationship with Federer and how he sees his future in tennis.
From the outside you're seen as a successful athlete, admired by everyone off the court as well as on it. You're seen as an example in everything. What faults do you think you have?
"I have faults like everyone, I have my things. I'm not 100 percent an organised person, far from it. I'm a person who is better off unorganised and I'm a person that has continuity in everything within that mess. I always do what I have to do. I have many faults, like everyone, but nothing very significant or dramatic. I have problems that everyone has and there are always things to improve."
Any sportsperson gets tired of losing. Can you get tired of winning?
"Everyone gets tired of everything. Evidently, you get more tired and frustrated with losing than anything. But winning is also tiring. It's not that you get tired of winning, but that in any given moment it's very difficult to maintain so much time on top of everything, so many weeks and so many days in a row with high adrenaline and concentration. Tennis is a sport that very often has games decided by a few points and being good in those points is the difference between winning and losing. Everyone gets tired of the routine and in the end we have our schedules, which are long, and to be high in the ranking you have to be focused every week that you play. Everyone gets tired of everything, winning and losing, because everyone gets tired of the daily routine. But to be honest, the compensation, at least for me because I can't talk for the others, is much more satisfactory than any tiredness that I could have. I'm not referring to the level of titles, but the level of general recognition from people, of feeling loved and supported by so many people. They are difficult feelings to explain, but I assure you that it makes all the effort and sacrifice in life worthwhile."
You have just won the Laver Cup with Roger Federer. The world saw the moment of you shaking on the bench during the Swiss' decisive game with Nick Kyrgios, despite him being your biggest rival in the circuit. After you were celebrating with him. How do you explain it?
"We are rivals, but we were playing a team competition. I know that it's different, but I have also been David Ferrer's rival for years and I've played with him in the Davis Cup and, independently, I have a great relationship with him. But when you play in teams you play for the teams and you have to know how to separate things. I know that when you live all the situations that Federer and I have lived through in the court I know that there are moments of pressure, moments of tension. There is a rivalry and in some moments you don't want to share some things with the other. I understand all of that. But I am a normal person and quite open. I think that it has very, very little effect on what you can share or talk about after. That's the truth for me. I don't know if it's the truth, but it is for me and that's how I feel. If I play against him again it will be the same as always, but honestly you have to learn to appreciate rivals and I think that it's something that he and I have always hard during our careers. I think that thanks to that we have been a good example of sportsmen and of how to live and understand the competition in the right way because, depending on thing. Attitudes don't help and are bad to people and the young people who are watching. Federer and I have been a good example of how to conduct yourself and to be polite, in this sense."
Could you say that after the weekend in Prague you two are closer and know each other better?
"Of course we are now closer because he and I have spent more time together. We lived alongside each other for 24 hours for a few days. But, equally, I know Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic and Thomas Berdych better. The fact that we were together in a team means that you know each other better and you share situations and emotions together, which brings you together. In our case, having been such staunch rivals for so many years, the fact that we shared a competition like this, an innovative and attractive one, with players working hard, has united us more. To also play in doubles and what it means for us and for everyone in tennis was an unforgettable moment. When these things happen you feel closer to each other."
Would it excite you to share half a court with Federer in an official game on the circuit?
"For us the doubles of the Laver Cup were official. It didn't give ATP points, but for us it was an official competition and we treated it as such from the start to the end. I'm not going to mislead on that. I don't know if I will play doubles with him in the future. I haven't discussed it with him. It's complicated because we have our schedules and we don't normally play doubles on the circuit. It would have to be special circumstances, but I personally am open to it and it would be a special situation."
Were you closer to retiring two years or even a year ago with injuries compared to now, when you have returned to being fit and successful on court?
"No, my retirement is closer now than before. I have a few years more. Two years more. That's the truth. In no interview did I say that I felt my retirement was close. What happens is that not feeling close to my retirement doesn't mean to say that I'm not. You never know what could happen. You have to respect time and be cautious about everything that could happen. You can't predict what will happen in the future. You have to have an idea, but things change very quickly and even more so in the world of sport. I was hoping that things would go better and that I would return to a high level. I didn't expect the level that I have recovered this year, but I expected to enjoy it and be competitive. Then everything happened to have continuity and it was something that I hadn't had. With that, it's true that from the start of the year everything has gone well, better than I dreamed. And here we are, so I hope that it can last. I'm not in the condition to demand a lot more. I'm very happy with everything that's happening and with everything that has happened to me, despite the delicate moments with injuries and the fact that my rivals have had less than me. But I am very appreciative to life for all that it has offered me and is offering me. I don't have fear of retirement. When the moment arrives I understand that it will be a change in my life and that I will have to adapt, but honestly I think that I will be happy away from tennis. I've always said that tennis has been an important part of my life, but it's never been the only part. I've been happy doing other things and I think that I will continue to be in the future."
Are you hoping to play at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?
"They're very far away, as we only just played in the Olympics last year. I'm not planning on it in the same way that when I couldn't be in London, I wasn't planning on Rio. There are a lot of years in between and I will be older. You never know what could happen. It depends on your body, your mind, on everything that changes. Hopefully I can be there, but right now I don't know. I go from day to day, week to week and year to year, it's my way of understanding what I'm doing. I'm happy with what I'm doing and, if at any time I stop being happy, I have the luck of being able to choose when and how, but especially for how. I don't know."
When was the last time you cried over a defeat and over a victory?
"I suppose it would be Paris last year when I had to retire from the tournament. There, yes. When I returned to the car to go to the hotel I was destroyed. It was a lost opportunity in the most important tournament of the year for me. It had taken a lot to recover the level that I felt I was at in that moment and I knew what a wrist injury meant, because it happened to me two years before. With such an injury it's different to any other one, where you can work with the hand. With this, no. An injury in the left wrist means two and a half months or three months completely stopped, without being able to do anything. I was very aware that my year ended in terms of grand slams, not meaning to say that it ended with the US Open. I missed Roland Garros, I missed Wimbledon and I knew that I would only get to the US Open with just enough. It was a difficult moment and in that moment I realised that I had lost another year."
And tears of joy maybe for your 10th win at the French Open?
"I don't know if I cried at Roland Garros. The truth is that I don't remember, but I don't think so."
You have 16 Grand Slams after winning the US Open and have said that you could reach the 19 of Federer. What has to happen to equal his record?
"What has to happen is that I have to win three more. In the end I said that I could do it, of course I can do it. What's normal is not to do it, but you can never know. I never thought that I would get to 16 and here we are with 16. It depends on how my style of play is in the next few years and how I respond physically and mentally, and the rivals too. We will see what happens. I say the truth, a lot of people commit, but I don't want to. I go from day to day. Today I'm not planning to play in Australia because I am in Shanghai and it's an important tournament. In tennis we can't focus on four events per year because it would be completely frustrating. We play a lot of weeks per year and tennis goes above and beyond the four grand slams. They are the most important and the ones that I want to win of course. But for me what makes me happy is playing tennis, competing and feeling that every week that I am doing it with the option to do it well."