Rafa: “Thank you, everyone, for being here. Thanks especially to David for supporting this academy here in Kuwait. We are happy to be here. For me personally, it is a big satisfaction to have this amazing tennis centre.”
“For us, it’s amazing to have this great team of people. Hopefully, we will give the best service possible for the adults but especially for the young people. Young people are the future and we are here to create something special to promote tennis in Kuwait. Not only in Kuwait, all around the Middle east. I am sure that this time it will be a turning point.”
• Rafa during an interview
Photos: Rafa Nadal academy Kuwait; AFP
Rafael Nadal, winner of 19 Grand Slam tournaments, with 84 ATP titles, double Olympic gold-individual, in the Beiging'08 Games; and doubles in the Rio'16- and five-time Davis Cup winner; It is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in the history of tennis.
In an interview with the EFE Agency that took place in Kuwait during the opening this Wednesday of the Rafa Nadal Academy in that Middle East country – the first outside Spain – the Mallorcan star comments on what happened in the last Grand Slam, The Australian Open. But also various personal aspects as far as his role model status is concerned, including what he calls his “right to say, like any other citizen.”
- His figure transcends not only tennis; It transcends sport. It is a fraud, a role model. I imagine that for you this will be a source of pride, but you would not like to have more time for intimacy and that sometimes you would not know it? How do you assume all this?
- Well, I have been living with all these things since I was very young. I am a lucky sper of life for all the things that happen to me and that have happened to me. And I am lucky to have people around who help me and who have helped me along this path. Starting with the family and following all my team.
I am aware that what I have to live, or what I have been lucky to live all these years, is not eternal. And that the time to live a 'normal' life is getting closer and closer; as it is logical, because of the fact of age and because the sporting life of a person has its beginning and its end.
Although I am happy and excited to continue, I am aware that I am 33 years old; and it is not the same as when you are 21 or 22 and you know that you have all your sports life ahead of you. Whatever remains, we will try to enjoy it to the fullest. And we will try to extend as much as possible these unforgettable moments and these experiences that thanks to tennis we have been able to enjoy.
- At the beginning of the century, when Formula One was taking place in Indianapolis, for example, (the German) Michael Schumacher said he was delighted to compete in the United States because he could go to dinner at a restaurant and nobody knew him. Is there any place in the world where they don't know you?
- Tennis is a very global sport. There may be places where I am better known than in others, but everywhere I go there are always people who know you.
It also makes you hopeful. Just as you are lost on an island in the Bahamas and being recognized is something that makes you funny, more than anything else (re). The truth, like everything else in life, is that sometimes you may be tired; and you would like to be an intimate person, at some point. But immediately, at least to me, when that thought comes to mind; I try to think that it will be very unfair to consider all that, with all the good things I have.
- With all the right in the world to do so, the fact of being so well-known forces you to have to shut up some things, sometimes?
- Obviously, s. But there are times when, for being a well-known athlete, there are people who do not like you to think about other things, outside the sports field.
I have a theory: one is an athlete; and another is, for example, computer; or something else. But because I am an athlete and known, I do not believe that the right, as a Spanish citizen, or as a citizen of the world, to think about the type of conflicts is lost. Social or any other field.
When you are an athlete and you think, maybe, of politics, something that I have not done, it is not my case, not because I am not interested, but because – for what you ask me – I do not think it is in any convenient case ; There are people who may not agree with your opinions and say 'this athlete, what will I know about this?' Well, I don't know more or less than any other person who might be interested in what happens in our country, or in the world in general; and that is not dedicated exclusively to politics.
- As seen in Australia, the 'Next Gen' continues to call loudly, but the 'Big 3' (the big three: the Swiss Roger Federer, the Serbian Novak Djokovic and l) resists. Do you identify with the idea of 'Big 3' or do you care, being an individual sport? Or would you have preferred a victory in Australia of (Austrian Dominik) Thiem, to keep the world number one?
- Obviously, s (I would have preferred Thiem's victory). You don't have to be a hypocrite, right? Personally, it would have been better if Thiem won. But, to be honest, I slept exactly as well the last two days: in that regard it doesn't matter if Dominik had won or if Novak (Djokovic) won. It is part of our sport. This tournament is particularly good at Novak. And right now he is, today, the best player in the world. This is what the numbers say. And the only thing you can do is congratulate him for another great success.
Obviously, in the 'Next Gen' there are many good, young players; and in the semifinals there has been one, which is Zverev, because Thiem can no longer be considered 'Next Gen'.
- No longer? Do not assume it ah?
- Well, it's already 26 years old (re). He is not 20, nor 21. And obviously, there are many good players who are at a high level and who will have their chances in the coming months.
- This year there are Olympic Games. What plans do you have, if you have them, for Tokyo 2020?
- Must see. There is a lot of season ahead. And it is a demanding season for me, because between 2019 and 2020 I had very little parn. Therefore, I have to measure the efforts very well, measure the calendar and the decisions I make. That, obviously, apart from the decisions helping me to the extent that I have more or less success, the calendar ends with the results: in the end, when you win more, you can play less; and when you earn less, you have to play more. It is a basic principle of our sport.
Let's see what the calendar holds for us. The Olympic Games are always a date that is marked. It is the most important sporting event in the world; With what I hope to be there.
- Will he play everything? Or will it focus only on the individual?
- I have not considered it, an. I have months left. But the Olympic Games are always there to make efforts, to give the maximum. And I wish I could be on all sides. Another thing is that it really can be. I don't know (re).
We must also see how one comes physically. But I will be in the maximum of the things that I can be. And we will see what happens.
- For many athletes, being Olympic once is already the maximum. You have been individual Olympic champion, Olympic champion in doubles; and flag of his country. What does it feel like in those moments?
- It is a completely different competition. It is obviously the most difficult competition to win in our sport, without any doubt. Because, in the end, you have very few opportunities to get medals in our sport.
Grand Slams there are four every year; 'Masters 1000' there are nine. But the Olympic Games are there every four years, only. I, personally, have been able to compete in conditions in two Olympic Games in my career. In Athens (2004) I was 17 years old; and in London (2012) I could not be, because I broke my knee tendon. So I have been fortunate that in the two (occasions) I have competed, in Pekn (2008) I get a medal, in singles; and in Brazil, in Ro de Janeiro (2016) too.
And for me, obviously, having been championed in Ro was a very exciting time. Ms when it should have been in London; where, for that injury, I couldn't be. When things happen to you, being a champion is something you have left; and it is something that makes you very excited to live.
After missing those of London, in the end, they gave me the opportunity to be in Ro, for me it was a great satisfaction; and I am very grateful to Alejandro (Blanco, president of the Spanish Olympic Committee -COE-) and to all who made it possible or who thought at the time that I could be the person chosen to represent the entire delegation at the Opening Ceremony.
- You represent Spain always; and, also, with great success. But when Davis plays he feels, from the outside, that he has more fun. Does it focus differently?
- No, it's the same as always. I try to represent my people and the place I come from every week, all over the world. When they say your name they relate you to the country and the community you are from. And you have a little responsibility to represent your country in every public act.
The Davis Cup is a team competition. And, apart from representing your country, you are also playing for your classmates.
It is a different situation, somewhat atypical in our sport. And I like team competition. I enjoy it. And to be able to share both joyful and sad moments with colleagues are circumstances that are always a little more special.
- When one has won so much; And so important, I imagine that it must take effort to remember everything you have won. I don't ask for one, but tell me two or three wins that I would highlight in your career.
- It becomes difficult. For me the first Davis Cup, in Seville, against the United States, was a very important moment. Also the first Roland Garros, in 2005, because it was the first Grand Slam.
Then, for different reasons, Wimbledon 2008 is a key moment, I think, in my career. And he will say that Australia 2009 was something unexpected, how it came; But it was very exciting.
And he will also say that the 2013 United States Open was very special, after having returned from a very important knee injury, which kept me seven months off the track in 2012. This was another of the victories that filled me.
- New Academy opens, now in Kuwait. What is the main objective, what are the values they intend to convey, apart from helping people play tennis better and better?
- For me, but for the whole academy in general, obviously, being able to move our model, our brand and our way of working to different parts of the world is a great opportunity and a great satisfaction. This is the first academy that we open outside of what is Manacor, in Mallorca.
It is true that we have other 'Rafa Nadal Tennis Center' in Mexico and in Greece; but this time it is the opportunity to join a very strong group from here, from Kuwait, such as Tandeem; They are serious and hardworking people. And that offer us confidence to be able to develop the product in the way that excites and motivates us.
This is a region of the world that has the potential for us to help them increase the culture of tennis; We believe that from the academy we can help not only the young talents here in Kuwait, but throughout the Middle East. We already have several coaches from the Manacor academy who have been here for three months, helping local coaches to understand the model and the way we work.
And obviously, all the children of the Kuwait Federation are already centralized here in the academy. Some had the possibility of coming to know the one of Mallorca.
It is a process that takes a lot of work, but that excites and excites us.
- Does this project have continuity? Will they open more academies, in other countries?
- Well, the world is big. Why not? We are not closed to any possibility. And there are different options.
But, like everything else in this world, every option that appears will value it and try to do things convenient, associated with people who offer us confidence.
- It is feasible that within a few years there will be a champion or a champion of Kuwaiti tennis; Or the countries around you, here in the Middle East?
- Everything is feasible. In the end, the more people start to play tennis in this region, the more options there will be for an important talent to emerge from the professional field worldwide.
We will try to do everything in the best possible way, working with passion and illusion; and with the necessary resources so that children have the possibilities of growing at the tensile level, but also at the human level.
We always try to work from a basic principle, which is respect, the spirit of self-improvement and try to convey to boys and girls, to young people, that the ultimate goal, of course, is success; but that not everything is valid to achieve it.
It is important that they grow with strong values that can serve them in the sports field, but that, for those who do not get to live from sports, that they have adequate training that can be powerful enough to serve them for the future, in life professional or personal they decide to have.