PHOTOS/VIDEO: 2021 Australian Open R4 Rafael Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini
2021 Australian Open R4 Rafael Nadal bt. Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-4 6-2
Next - Stefanos Tsitsipas
Rafa: "I'm happy to win today. It's an important victory for my confidence and I will try to get ready for the day after tomorrow."
“When you go on court against Fabio you worry. There can always be problems. I was just lucky that when he broke me I responded immediately and held the score. Today was very humid and quicker during the day, which I like, but I have to adapt to every condition.”
“The first set, without a doubt, was my best level in the tournament. My physical condition needs to keep improving, but I think this match helps. I was not able to practise the proper way for the past 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work in practice.”
"In the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam, you are going to face a very tough opponent. Stefanos is a strong players with a lot of energy, so it's going to be a big challenge."
Photos: Getty Images; AAP; AFP; EFE; REUTERS
• Last game & On-court interview
• Press conference
Q.Do you feel your physical game and your physical condition is improving each round?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I played first set without a doubt has been my best level in the tournament. Yeah, well, it's normal, too, because I was able to practice for two days in a row. That makes an important difference. But at the same time, yeah, it's important to find positive feelings now. My physical condition needs to keep improving. But I think this match helps, too. I was not able to practice the proper way for the last 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work on the practice, and today has been a positive victory with some long points, so that helps for the next match.
Q.Last year you got to the quarterfinal and that's where you bowed out. Can you compare your game 12 months ago to your game now? Do you feel like you're playing better now than you were 12 months ago?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. I don't know. Even I really don't remember. No, I lost a tough match against Dominic. It was a good match of tennis in that quarterfinals and I had my chances I remember, served for the set in the first set and then lost a couple of tiebreaks. No, had it been a good match in that quarterfinals I could win against one of the best players.
Today -- the preparation probably had been worse this year than the year before because I had that problem on the back for the last 19, 20 days. But yeah, I found a way to be what I am today and the feelings are right there without a doubt. So yeah, I make a step forward today, something that I needed, and I need to make another one for Wednesday against Tsitsipas I think it's going to be. Is it official? He'll play tonight? Okay. Well, I don't know, maybe -- I think I heard that Berrettini was a little bit injured but not official at all. Sorry for that.
But yeah, something -- well, I messed it up. (Laughter.)
Q.You mentioned that first set was the best level you've played so far this tournament. You obviously didn't get any lead-up matches coming in. How far off do you think you are? How do you feel?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know, things are not mathematics in sport. Difficult to find -- to have a clear answer on that. I mean, things in sports change quick. Sometimes you feel that you are so so, then you win a couple of matches and (snaps) then you feel the best possible. Something that happens plenty of times.
I think I had an amazing preparation for the tournament. I practiced very well in Mallorca and the first week in Adelaide had been fantastic, then what happened with the back, of course that stopped me a lot. But I was able to win the four matches already here, so now I'm going to have a very tough opponent in front. I need to play my best. Let's see if I am able to do it. I really hope that the match of today helps and the practices tomorrow will help, too, and yeah, I'm excited about playing that quarterfinals match. If we compare how I was five days ago and how I am today's situation, it's different, and my perspective and excitement is completely different, too.
Q.You were forced to make official your injury because it kept you out of the ATP Cup. Did it frustrate you in a way because now your opponents came into this tournament knowing that you weren't 100 percent? In a perfect world would you rather have kept that injury close to the vest so that you didn't maybe -- do you feel like your opponents maybe sense a vulnerability in you and it gives them a little bit of ammunition?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. Well, it's difficult to hide things. I think it's not healthy to hide a lot of things because it's difficult, for example, of course I have been more public because we had the ATP Cup just before. Maybe if we didn't have the ATP Cup before, the people will know less, but at some point there's people here that knows when you are practicing, when you are not practicing. So I haven't been practicing for a couple of days in a row, and then after the first round -- yeah, after the second round -- yeah, after the first or second round I didn't practice the day after that, either.
Yeah, I mean, even if you want to hide, at some point you're going to have questions to answer. I don't want to play that game, honestly.
Q.You said a couple weeks ago that you're not motivated by collecting Grand Slams --
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, of course I am but I am not obsessed, I said.
Q.Obviously your body has gone through a lot. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you coming back to compete?
RAFAEL NADAL: I play tennis. I like tennis. I like what I am doing. That's the main thing. I mean, of course I am very motivated to win Grand Slams and to play in the most important events of the year. No doubt about that. The only thing that I said is I have never been obsessed to try to be the best or to try to -- no, I just did my way. That worked for me.
I think the ambition is important, to have an ambition, but a healthy ambition. If you have too much ambition then you can be frustrated when you are not able to achieve all the things that you wanted.
I never approached the sport and my career that way. That's it. I enjoy, I give my best always. I try to compete at my highest standards every day. Sometimes the highest standards are 60 percent, sometimes they are 100 percent. But I just try to give my best throughout my career, and that's it.
For me the main thing is come back home with personal satisfaction that you gave it everything. That's what gives me happiness and makes me stay calm.
Q.When you get an injury during a tournament and you feel you can still play maybe, how do you make the decision between, okay, keep playing, or I stop because I don't want to make it worse and maybe be out for six months?
RAFAEL NADAL: It depends what kind of injury you have. You have something broken, I think you have a strain or your abdominal -- for example, I did it in the past, and you do mistakes because it's impossible to know exactly what's going on when you are competing. For example, I remember in the US Open 2009 that I started the US Open with a strain, I think, here in the abdominal. I start with six millimeters or so of strain and I finished the tournament, I lost in that semifinals against Del Potro and I finished the tournament with 26 millimeters. Of course it wasn't a smart decision.
Well, it depends what you have later after the US Open. I feel that if I have to rest for one month or something, it was not a disaster for me. You need to find a balance, but of course at this point of my career, if there is a big chance to increase something very important, probably I will not play because for me the happiness is much more important than give me a chance to win, and at the same time, if you are bad, you will not win. That's clear. If you really have physical problems, you will not win. If you have some pain and it's not putting you in a situation that limits you, the movements, maybe you can find a way. But when you really, really have an injury, it's impossible to win a tournament like this.
Q.After all that's gone on in the world over the last year, what is your perspective on the privilege of being able to play?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, we are lucky. We are lucky to be able to keep doing our job without a doubt. We can't complain at all. It's not less true that to keep going for a lot of guys is very difficult. A lot of guys coming from countries that they have to do quarantine when they are back makes the situation very difficult, a lot of people that have families that they can't come back home because they have to do quarantine home, and then they have to go to the next event and they only can travel with two people, player plus two, so they cannot bring the family. That makes our life a little bit tougher than usual, without a doubt.
It's not perfect at all, but players still have the chance to compete and to keep going, and at the same time not only players. I mean, world of tennis that we are not totally -- we are important -- I mean, we are important persons in this circus, but there is a lot of important people here that needs the tour to keep going, a lot of workers on the ATP, a lot of workers on the tournaments, a lot of workers on every organization that needs the tour to keep going to hold the job.
It's important to have the tour keep going, but at the same time it's important to find solutions to protect the players that are in such a very difficult situation to play most of the weeks. So we need to protect them.