Q. I don't believe this. Thirteen victories from thirteen finals in Paris. This has never happened: in the history of tennis, in the history of sports. How could this happen?
Rafa: I do not know either. If this happened to me, it could happen to someone else. I'm a normal person. With my insecurity, my fears.
Q. Are you afraid of losing on the court?
Rafa: Fear of losing, never. But I always think that I can lose. I think about it every day, against any rival, and this helps me a lot.
Q. What are you afraid of? It's said darkness, dogs
Rafa: Those are just jokes. I'm afraid of illness. I'm afraid for those I love.
Q. Are you also afraid of Covid?
Rafa: Not for me. I'm still young & my body still responds. But, if I get infected, I can infect people at risk. I'm worried for my parents, my family. For my community. It's the toughest time in our life. That's why it's the time to fight for things more important than a tennis match. We must have faith.
Q. What is the secret to resisting?
Rafa: Always have a goal in life. A hope. An illusion, if necessary.
Q. How should we face the Covid crisis?
Rafa: With respect. Towards ourselves, towards our beloved ones and towards others. And then with responsibility and logic. You can die from the virus, but also from hunger. The blow to the economy has been really severe. We must find the balance between health and work, between health and social protection. Safety is key, but so are freedom and dignity.
Q. Unlike many of your colleagues who have taken refuge in tax havens, you pay your taxes in Spain. Are you proud of being Spanish?
Rafa: I'm Spanish. And I'm happy to be so. Of course, when the tax bill arrives, I'm a little less happy, but I've had the good fortune to be born in a country with many virtues, which gave me a good life.
Q. You are very attached to your island Majorca and to Manacor.
Rafa: I deeply feel Manacori, Mallorca, Spain and Europe. And I got lucky four times. Do you know Mallorca?
Q. I'm here for the first time.
Rafa: Come on, let's go for a drive. I will lead.
This is the country of my maternal grandmother, San Llorens. Do you see this roundabout? There the stream rushed and dragged the cars to the sea, everything was destroyed, it looked like a civil war.
Q. Is it true that when the flood hit, you started shoveling mud and opened your tennis academy to those who lost their homes?
Rafa: I did what everyone did, and what anyone would do.
Q. What is your first memory here in Mallorca?
Rafa: I am a child and I play with my dad. In the hallway of the house. Into the ball, into the basketball. Everything except tennis.
Q. Your uncle Miguel Angel was a midfielder for Barcelona and the Spanish national team. And you were a footballer. Why did you choose tennis?
Rafa: It was not a choice. I was a good footballer; but as a tennis player I was a little more special. And then Uncle Tony trained me.
Q. It was very difficult with him.
Rafa: Yeah. He was very demanding; and that was my luck.
Q. Now he no longer follows you.
Rafa: It was his decision.
Q. You're named after your grandfather, Rafael Nadal, musician.
Rafa: Conductor. After the civil war he brought Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to the village. He later conducted Alfredo Kraus, the tenor. I was very close to my grandfather. His death was a terrible pain.
Q. Why do you support 'Real Madrid' and not 'Barcelona'?
Rafa: My dad and all my family have always been Real Madrid fans. When my uncle played for Barcelona, they obviously encouraged him. Later he returned to Mallorca and since then we have been divided: some are still Barcelona fans, others Real Madrid.
Q. Are you friends with Cristiano Ronaldo?
Rafa: Friend is a very strong word for me. My friends are people from Manacor with whom I grew up. Cristiano Ronaldo is a companion, a colleague. I've met him several times, I respect him.
Q. Who is Federer for you?
Rafa: Roger Federer is one of the greatest men in the history of sport.
Q. Of course, but for you?
Rafa: Another companion. He was my great rival; and it benefited both of us, and tennis too. In some ways we are similar: we care about peace of mind, about the family. Otherwise we are different. He's Swiss. I'm Latino. We have different characters, cultures, lifestyles.
Q. Is it true that everything changed with Federer when he arrived at your Academy?
Rafa: Nothing has changed because the relationship was already good; otherwise he would never have come. And I went to him in Switzerland and South Africa to play for his Foundation.
Q. And Djokovic? Is it true that you were offended when he imitated your tricks?
Rafa: No! I never take offense.
Q. People wonder what's the reason for your ritual: the 2 sips of water from 2 bottles, not to walk on the lines... Superstition?
Rafa: No. I'm not superstitious. Otherwise, I'd change the ritual with each defeat. I'm not even a slave to the routine: my life changes constantly, always traveling. And competing is very different from training. What you call tics is a way of putting my head in order, for me, who usually am very messy. It's a way to focus and silence the voices within. In order not to listen to the voice that tells me that I will lose, or to the one, even more dangerous, that tells me that I will win.
Q. Once you argued with Berdych, who defeated you in Madrid. After that, you beat Berdych seventeen times in a row.
Rafa: He deserved it… (laughs). I'm kidding. In fact, we now have a good relationship with Berdych we even wanted to play doubles. They also say that I don't get along with Kyrgios, but that's not true. Once I told him what I had to say to him, and that was all. The truth is that inciting hatred tires me.
Q. You never applaud your opponent for a good shot.
Rafa: Sometimes I do it. Rarely. But we're not there to applaud. It's the public's business.
Q. How did you experience isolation?
Rafa: Bad. It was especially difficult at the beginning: to be at home all the time, to do nothing, I got used to constantly moving ... at least my wife Maria Francisca worked in the office. She is the director of our Foundation.
Q. You have been with the same woman all your life. When did you meet her?
Rafa: We've known each other since forever, ever since we were kids. Mery is my point of stability.
Q. Is it true that behind your 2009 crisis there was the crisis between your parents?
Rafa: It's true. That year they separated, although only for a period. I suffered very much from it because without my family I would have done nothing.
Q. You have had many injuries.
Rafa: “At 19, I had just won the first Roland Garros and they told me that I could no longer play due to a malformation in my left foot. The pain was so great that I trained by hitting the ball sitting on a chair in the middle of the field. Then I recovered, thanks to a special insole that changed the position of the foot, but it did affect my knees.
Q. How can we all overcome this much more intense pain?
Rafa: With a positive mentality. By transforming the fragility of the body into mental strength. Sooner or later, everything will fall into place. We must prepare for resistance. Because there is no other choice but to resist.
Q. Is it true that after losing the 2007 Wimbledon final to Federer, he cried in the locker room?
Rafa: Desperate. An hour and a half. Because sometimes the disappointment can be very strong; even if it's just a tennis match. I cried in pain when I hurt my back in the Australian Open final with Wawrinka in 2014 after winning the first set. I lost, but I finished the match; because we are not withdrawing from the Grand Slam final.
Q. Sometimes you cried with joy.
Rafa: Is am a sensitive, emotional person. I am passionate about sports.
Q. It is usually said that you're less talented than Federer. However, some deny it. What do you think?
Rafa: What is talent? Each of us has his own talent. To some it all comes easy, others know how to stay on court for longer. You can have the talent to write a good article in half an hour, but if one of your colleagues can work for six straight hours and come up with an excellent article, he will be a more talented journalist than you.
Q. Borg won six of the six finals at Roland Garros; but then he retired at 26. you're 34 years old, you've won 20 Grand slams, but you're still playing. What's the secret?
Rafa: Times have changed, the life of athletes has become longer. There is a competition between us: if he can do it, why can't I? Then there are other factors. Luck. The instinct of competition.
Q. When will you retire?
Rafa: I don't know. Tennis is a game of the mind; it's not math. When the time comes, I'll know.
Q. What will you do next?
Rafa: I will dedicate myself to the children. Our Foundation helps children at risk of social exclusion. It provides food, education, sport. We have the 'More than Tennis' project for twenty schools in Spain for children with disabilities. And we work in India, teaching English and computing to children.
Q. How do you like Italy?
Rafa: I really like it, it makes me happy. We are somewhat similar to Italians. Of course, there are differences, because we are two countries that are very composite within us. But a northern Italian will always be more like a southern Spaniard than a German.
Q. Are you right or left wing?
Rafa: Don't make me talk about politics.
Q. Not even about King Juan Carlos?
Rafa: He may have made some mistakes, but let us always remember what he did for Spain.
Q. Do you believe in God?
Rafa: I don't know, and I don't ask myself. For me the important thing is to behave well, to help those in need. I believe in good people. And if after all God exists, it'll be wonderful.
Q. How do you imagine the afterlife?
Rafa: I don't imagine it.
Q. Why do you never throw your racket?
Rafa: Because as a child I was taught that it must not be done. It is me who makes mistakes, not the racket.
Original article: corriere.it
Translated: Genny SS and Tanika Molvi