Rafael Nadal is excited to be back on the ATP Tour in Rome, where he will be attempting to capture a 10th title this week at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
"Rome is always exciting,” said Nadal, via a virtual press conference on Monday. “It's one of the most important events in the world, without a doubt. And at the same time, of course, it will not be the same with no crowd and, being in the bubble, not being able to enjoy a little bit the city. But at least we have a tennis tournament here in Rome. That's positive and I happy for that.”
Nadal arrived on Wednesday in Rome, for the second of three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in 2020. He is scheduled to play Pablo Carreno Busta in his first match at the Foro Italico.
“I arrived in plenty of time to try and have the right practices,” said Nadal, who hasn’t competed since 29 February due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. “You need matches to feel 100 per cent… I’m excited about going back to competition, without big expectations. I know I have a tough first [match] against Pablo. He’s playing great. So let’s see, it’s going to be a good test.
“My expectation is to always go on court and try to feel competitive. That's the first goal. Go on court, feel that I’m competitive, and then I will see how I feel and what kind of goals I can look for.”
Rafael Nadal, who captured the 85th trophy of his career at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Fritz) in February, admitted that he had watched the first four sets of Sunday’s US Open final between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev.
“I’m happy for Dominic,” said Nadal, who defeated Thiem in the 2018 and 2019 Roland Garros finals. “He’s somebody who deserves to win a big title. He’s a super hard worker. Very focused on his goals. A good person, a good human person. He deserves it.
“I’m sorry for Sascha. He was close, but in some ways, I think even if Sascha played a great final for moments, I think that the road to that final from Dominic was a little bit more solid… Sascha will have probably more chances in the future.”
Source: ATP World Tour
• Press conference
Q. Could you just talk about your state of mind right now before your big return to competition six months after your last game?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, hello, everyone, first of all.
Good, no? Excited to be back. Circumstances have been, you know, heavy for everyone, tough ones.
But here we are. Rome always is exciting. It's one of the most important events in the world, without a doubt. And at the same time, of course will be not the same with no crowd and, you know, being in the bubble, not being able to enjoy a little bit the city.
But at least we have a tennis tournament here in Rome, no? And that's positive and I happy for that.
Q. I just wondered how much of the US Open did you watch? Did you have any regrets at all about your decision not to play?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. When you take decisions, you accept and you have to go with everything with your decisions at the end. I make a decision on go, and I have to decide one thing or another, and we did what we thought the best for me, family, everything, no?
So from the US Open I watched four sets of the final yesterday, and I watched, I don't know, some games in one match or another, but honestly not very, very much.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about your concerns going into Roland Garros now that they have decided to have fans and with spiking? And my other question is with Dominic winning at the US Open and you beating him two years in a row in the final, does that add a little bit more drama going into Roland Garros this year for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I don't know. I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's the situation gonna look like in Roland Garros.
Let's see how the virus evolves the next couple of weeks. Hopefully is in a good way. Doesn't look like that, no? So let's see. We need to be patient and we need to wait about how the situation improves.
No, happy for Dominic. He somebody deserve to win big title as him, super hard worker. Very focused on his goals. Good person, good human person. He deserve it.
Sorry for Sascha. He was close, but in some way I think even if Sascha played a great final for moments, I think that the road to that final from Dominic have been a little bit more solid. So in some way he deserve the title, no, and Sascha will have probably more chances in the future.
But after a lot of years of hard work, I think Dominic deserved. Happy for him.
Q. I wanted to ask about what happened with Djokovic and how his tournament ended very suddenly. You have always been a player who has been very careful on court about the balls and racquets and not doing anything that could be dangerous to anyone. Wondering if you think this moment would make more players reconsider and be careful seeing what the consequences of something like this can be for anyone.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, the consequences have been always the same. Nothing new on that. Novak was unlucky. The rules says clearly that's a default.
Sorry for him. He had an opportunity there. But in some way you should not be doing this. A deal like this have been very unfortunate, very unlucky situation. It is important to have the right self-control on the court, because if not, you can have be unlucky as he was. And for sure he wasn't -- for sure he doesn't want to hit no one at all, and, yeah, is unfortunate. Sorry for that.
Q. You think to be really fit, physically really in good shape when we saw some shot practices when in Rome. How do you work for the tournament for the last days, last weeks? You seem to be really, really very fit, very, in really good shape right now.
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, I am similar to always, maybe a little bit worse because I didn't compete for the last six months.
No, no, it's obvious that when to feel that you're 100% that you need matches. But here I am. I arrived with plenty of time to try to have the right practices. That's what I am doing.
I know I have a tough first round against Pablo. He's playing great. So let's see, no? Gonna be a good test. I'm excited about going back to the competition without big expectations, no? Expectation is always go on court today and try to feel myself competitive. That's the first goal. Go on court, feel myself competitive, and then I will see how I feel and what kind of goals I can look for.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
• Pre-tournament interview
• Interview for Sky Sport Italy
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Photo: Angelo Mangiante / @angelomangiante