Rafa’s semifinal presser video and transcript is up on the Official Roland Garros site:
Q. So the first two sets played pretty well, had it under control. Then you went to serve it out that last game, got broken at love, and then it got a little up and down and dramatic at the end, no?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I think I played my best match today here in Roland Garros, 2010. Sure, first two sets, for a moment I played really well. With my serve I played all the time well. With the forehand, too. With the backhand I am playing better and better every day, but I can improve a little bit more.
The third set I had completely under control, 5 3, Love 30, so I thought I have the chance to finish there. Because I was playing well and I played good two points in the first two points.
But I had some mistakes, and in the 5 4 I played a terrible first point. I played forehand down the line, three meters outside. I was a little bit nervous after that.
In the end of the match was important the game of 6 5, because I played really serious game to go to the tiebreak, and the in tiebreak I think I played better and I played well.
I had just one double fault. That’s the only point that I’m not happy. But I can’t say nothing against about myself, because I am serving pretty well all the match.
Just as long as there’s no game like that Sunday. ‘kay? Well, maybe if you are up 5-1 or something…
Q. Do you think Melzer improved? Were you surprised by his performance today, because you beat him rather easy?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think Jurgen is a very talented player. He can play at very high level. He did these two weeks. Just congratulate him, because he amazing two weeks, amazing tournament here. Very, very difficult opponents, like David Ferrer, Djokovic.
So it’s a very, very complete tournament, no? So, sure, if he plays at this level he can beat against almost everybody, or everybody.
Q. What do you think about meeting Robin Soderling now?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, difficult match, no? He’s playing well. He did very good tournament, and today he came back to win a very good match. So he’s very, very dangerous player, no? He’s one of the best of the world. And, yeah, sure is gonna be a really difficult match.
So, no tripping over speed-bumps!
Q. You have played him a couple of times, and you had some psychological battles. How would you describe your relationship to him?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t have nothing to say about the relationship. For me, the relationship with him was normal. I had a little bit more tension than usual match in Wimbledon match 2007?
RAFAEL NADAL: 8, no. No, no.
RAFAEL NADAL: 7?
Q. Well, it doesn’t matter.
RAFAEL NADAL: 2007? Yes, it matters. (Laughter.)
Hee! Don’t put that horrid 5(?) day long match in the middle of his wonderful 08!
2007, but after that, no, I didn’t have not one problem with him. I think he’s doing well, and at the same time he improves his level of tennis. He improve his level of kind of person, no? I think he improve his personality the last year.
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he say more times hello to the rest of the yeah, I am speaking serious. I am speaking in the positive way, not in a negative way. Sure.
Q. He didn’t say hello earlier?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he was very shy in the beginning. I think so, no? But I think he improves a lot. For sure for me is good to have a player like Robin playing at this high level in the tour.
I think he’s just anti-social and likes to keep to himself…which I admit I can relate to more than Mr. Doesn’t Like to Ever Be Alone.
Q. Is it possible just to give an impression of your game this year here at Roland Garros as opposed to your game at this time last year?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is impossible to compare, because last year I was in the swimming pool in Mallorca. Sure.
Q. Well, maybe your approach to this championship this year as opposed to your approach last year.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah. Well, I think probably I didn’t play today I played well, but before today I didn’t play my best Roland Garros if we speak in terms of what I feel on court.
But I played my best clay court season before Roland Garros. That’s for sure, no? Last year my feeling was I won in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, but probably is difficult to understand. It was difficult to understand for me too how I won that tournaments because I felt I didn’t play well.
So probably was because the dynamic was very positive, very positive since the beginning of the year. I arrived on clay and I won for that reason, but not for tennis, I think. And when I arrived here and I found opponent that push me to the highest level, I wasn’t ready to win.
It’s so odd how last year he was winning and not feeling comfortable happy with it while everyone was saying he was invincible on clay. This year, he’s winning and feeling comfortable and happy with it and people are worried. The effect one match can have on the public psyche is strong.
Q. I know you don’t see the match against Robin on Sunday as a chance for revenge, but is it nice to have him over the other side of the net again just to show him that you’re pretty useful yourself on the Philippe Chatrier court?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. I want to seriously I prefer to play against Tomas the final, because I won against him the last six times. That’s the true.
And Berdych does not like hitting shoulder high balls. At all.
I play against Robin, gonna be a difficult match. I never believe on revenges. I believe on try my best in every moment, and if I lose, I lose, and congratulate Robin because he did better than me.
But I go on court trying to play my best tennis and thinking about Roland Garros, not thinking about Robin, Tomas, or another one.
You know, for me, doesn’t exist revenge in not one match, and especially we talk about final of Roland Garros.
Q. You have so many strong points to your game. What would you say would be the one or two greatest strengths that you bring to the court?
RAFAEL NADAL: Today?
Q. No, overall.
RAFAEL NADAL: Always?
Clear enough for you? Then let’s continue.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I had always a good forehand, and probably the mobility. Probably the mind was, the character was important to improve and to come back after difficult situations, no?
So I think the important thing is the positive mentality that I have. Sure, all the time I want to be better and I want to improve my tennis. I want to improve my shots. I want to improve my position on court.
So in the end the thing is I think the most important thing for me is always I work a lot to be a better player. I think that’s my better shot.
Seems to have been working for ya.
Q. I know you say frequently that every match is important, every tournament is important. But after what happened last year, how much do you strongly desire to get your title back here?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I’m very happy today because I was pretty nervous before the tournament. I was nervous during all the tournament, but today was before the match I was a little bit more relaxed because I was already in semifinal, so I did a good tournament.
And after the match is the day that I am more happy, no? Because I am there. I am at the last match. I am what I dreamed it to be long time ago.
Right now anything can happen. I can lose, yes. But I arrived there. I arrived to the right in the right conditions, physically and mentally.
So that’s for me the positive thing. For me, the last year the harder thing wasn’t lose. The harder thing was arrive to probably the most important part of the season in my worst conditions possible.
I was always a little bit nervous about being ready to play in this moment that I need to be to be ready to play my best. I did. I am there. I did all well to try to win.
If Robin play better than me and beat me, I had a very good clay court season. That’s what I can say.
Rafa refuses to let one match define his season or career. I think that attitude will serve him well tomorrow – both in remembering/forgetting what happened last year and, hopefully, in calming his nerves in the match.
Q. Do you think that Soderling and Berdych, they are playing different tennis, more flat, less topspin, less slice, hitting the ever hardest? And still they are successful on clay, which wasn’t used the way to be before. What do you think about that change in tennis or in clay courts, these kind of results?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. I no 100% agree on that. If we talk about the clay court season, Berdych or even Robin wasn’t the best players during the all clay season. The clay season is not only Roland Garros. We have to talk about Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid.
I think the court here it probably easier for these kind of players. This year I think the court is more slippery. Is difficult to be strong on the court.
That’s very positive thing for these kind of players, because is difficult to move well. And for the players, for the specialists on clay, one of the most important things is the movements.
I think this year the court is slippery than the rest of the years. That’s my feeling. For these kind of players, is easier to have winners.
Ah, so he feels the slippery court is effecting his movement and defense and that’s why the big-hitting but not necessarily good moving players are doing better. That makes sense.
Q. What conditions do you prefer on Sunday? Will it be like today sunny and hot or like a couple days ago when it was raining?
RAFAEL NADAL: Always sun.
Q. Always sun. Can you elaborate on that one, please?
RAFAEL NADAL: Why?
RAFAEL NADAL: First thing because sun is energy (Laughter.)
Second thing, because everything is nicer with the sun than with the rain, wind, these kind of things.
Third point, because with the sun my ball is getting more topspin than with rain and with the other conditions.
So three points that I think.
So. Sun energizes Rafa’s balls. Good to know.
Q. Just one more thing on Soderling. He takes the ball early; he tries to play flat; he tries to take control of the points. So for you, are the important things to play longer, move him around? Can you just talk about what you have to do to win that match?
RAFAEL NADAL: I have to play well. I have to play well. If I play well, I play long, I play to the side. So I just try to play, play, and play my best tennis. That’s what I have to do.
If it’s not like this, it will be almost impossible to win over Robin, because he’s playing amazing level. He’s very aggressive and it’s very difficult to stop him.
I know how I have to play to beat him, but I’m not speaking about tactics. I have to play my best tennis, and that’s what I gonna try to do.
Q. What about the possibility to become No. 1? Is it as important as to win the tournament, or what about this fact?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is another thing. But believe me, if I win on Sunday, gonna be the last thing that I gonna think. For me, the important thing is the tournament. I always told you before 100 times: For me, to be No. 1 wasn’t the main goal for me. The main goal for me is be healthy, try to play healthy as long as I can, and I did this year.
For that reason, because I was healthy and I was ready to play few weeks in a row without problems, practice well, I gonna have my chance to be another time in the top.
But anyway, I’m No. 2. I’m happy where I am. Roland Garros is only one time. No. 1 still there for a few more months.
Healthy and playing well is the best goal any way.
THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish, please.
Q. At one stage someone in the crowd collapsed. Was it a problem to you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, when someone is sick and collapses, well, I’m very emotional, so it was a bit I was a bit afraid. I was a bit scared because I didn’t know what happened.
Q. You were up 5 4, and some people say there is this fear to win with Sampras, with Federer.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know for the others, but for me, yes, it’s sometimes true.
And boy, did it show today. Not Sunday, Rafa. Not Sunday.
Q. After 5 4, there was a reaction from the crowd, and the umpire had to ask the crowd to calm down. Can you comment on that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, no. I think so far the crowd has been very correct with me. They’ve been very nice, and I think they come here to have fun, to watch tennis.
aka – You will not draw me into your “Rafa vs. the French” story.
Q. Since you won your first Grand Slam to Gustavo Kuerten, the other finals were to Roger Federer. In these finals, it was more than just a rivalry between two great players. Do you think you’ll have a different psychological approach to playing Soderling?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it’s a different final because I’m not playing the No. 1. I would usually play No. 1. It was against Kuerten the first time, but I think the approach is just the same.
I think I will be as happy or as disappointed if I lose to Robin or to any other player. I don’t think this is going to change the way I’ll approach the game, basically.
Obviously playing Roger Federer was something special, because we played many finals together. Well, that made me feel something special.
But this time, this year, we can feel it’s going to be slightly different even before the final.
*pssst – his first slam title wasn’t against Kuerten* It is interesting that if Rafa wins this, it will be the first slam he’s won without having played Federer.
Q. You reached the final without losing one set. What can you say about that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think it’s because I played my best tennis here in Roland Garros. I think I started off very well. I played longer shots. I was very aggressive on my forehand.
I was very careful playing on both sides, and I think my serve was excellent during all matches. So I’m quite satisfied.
The only negative point that I was leading and I ended up winning the third set 7 6. But these are very tense matches, anyway. We played a lot, and sometimes, I mean, you have to accept that you become nervous.
What can he say? That he fucking rocks? Oh, wait. This is Rafa: “best tennis.”
Q. You’ve been talking about being nervous over the last days, so is it quite normal to be nervous for these great finals, or is it special for you here?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, Roland Garros, as compared to other tournaments, Roland Garros is a bit special, especially for Spanish players. Obviously when we feel that victory is within reach, obviously we are slightly more nervous.
In the final in Australia we were nervous, too, but we also feel less responsibility as we do here. As I said, I think that was probably my worst day since the beginning of the tournament today, and that had an impact on my game.
I don’t exactly understand what was going on, because I had good control over the match. So I don’t understand what happened, but, you know, I was nervous at one stage.
The important thing is it’s all over now. It’s behind me, and I’m ready to play my next match at 100%. I’m very happy, very happy indeed, about my attitude all along the tournament.
Q. If there are any weather changes from now till Sunday, if it starts raining, if it’s more humid, is it going to be in favor of Robin? Would you think that the weather is important for the final?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, ask Roger about it. I mean, when the court is humid and wet, the ball doesn’t bounce back as high. It’s much heavier, so it’s more difficult to play.
But we’re talking about a final here in Roland Garros. I’m not going to start wondering, My goodness, what’s the weather going to be like? Are we going to have wind or sun?
Whether it’s a sunny day or a rainy day, I will play my best tennis whatever the conditions.
I just can’t picture Rafa saying, “My goodness” with a “let me imagine this fake situation” look on his face.
Q. What do you fear most in Soderling’s game?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, everything. He has a very complete game. It’s very difficult to get a move, because his serve is very powerful, both on the first and the second ball. He’s very aggressive from the baseline.
Sometimes he will play long, flat shots. So it’s very difficult to make him run and move. Wherever he is, he strikes with a very powerful shot. He won easily to me last year. Obviously I was not at my top level last year.
I’ll be up to 100% on Sunday, and I’ll do my job. But if he wins, I’ll congratulate him. You know, in tennis you can win and you can lose. I mean, it’s like in all sports. There is a winner; there is a loser. So I’ll be one or the other, but I’ll take it as it comes.
Do your job 100%, Rafa. It’s all we can ask.
Q. This year you won everything. Are you the early favorite, or would you share this spot as a favorite?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think we’re both favorites. We both made it to the final, so we both have a chance to win the final.
Of course it’s not going to be easy for none of us, but I think it’s going to be a tough final. It’s going to be the best player win the final, so it’s difficult to answer your question.
Heh. Both favorites. He’s so allergic to applying the label “favorite” to himself.
Q. You always make a very specific analysis of your matches because you see it very clearly. This is what makes a difference between guys like you and Federer and the others. I mean, they have a perfect clear vision of the match right after they walk out of the court.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know, really. I’ve not spoken to anyone after the match. I mean, that’s my vision, but maybe I’m mistaken.
Q. The record, Vilas’ record that you beat, it was a nightmare. You always played at night. You had won Soderling. There was a storm and you were playing Soderling. Maybe it wasn’t the same Soderling, but anyway, there was just Vilas and his girlfriend left watching you.
RAFAEL NADAL: That was more than a storm. That was almost a hurricane. I can’t remember exactly how I played, but I remember it was a very difficult match. I won, but I remember the conditions were horrible. But I can’t remember the result. I can’t remember the score.
Heh, almost a hurricane. Odd that he can’t remember the results and scores – seems that he often does.
The wind speed was 70 kilometers per hour. It was in 2007, wasn’t it? It was yeah, I think it was in 2007. It was after Ferrer in Rome.
I’d lost to Ferrer in Hamburg, so it was in 2007, and it cannot be Soderling. Sorry. I didn’t play that many matches on clay. I lost in Valencia in 2005. Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome. What do you think? Do you think that was Soderling? I won 60 matches to Soderling since 2007? Come on.
I’m very confused.
Q. (Question off microphone.)
RAFAEL NADAL: No, in 2008 I didn’t lose to Federer in Hamburg. It was in ’07 in the semifinals.
Q. Okay. You must be right, then. Well, apparently there’s not much momentum in his game. He strikes here and there, so what can you do to make some time? Do you need to have longer rallies?
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s not a matter of momentum. It’s because he hits in a very powerful way. It’s not serve/volley, but his second serve is 190, 200 kilometers per hour. It’s incredible.
He was hitting massive serves today.
Q. So what can you do against this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, you can play long, make him move, make him run, and it’s difficult of course. It’s going to be difficult. There is always a solution, and I’ll have to find it.
So a good serve, I agree with you. A good serve is key. I don’t think he’ll have many opportunities of winning my serve, but you never know.
“I can kick ass!” Oh, wait. Rafa: “I will have to play my best tennis.”
Q. This match against Berdych, did you learn something from it?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, obviously it’s a totally different style, so I don’t think you can compare.
But at one stage Berdych, in the fourth set, was well, it was as if he was winning, and during the fourth set I thought he played extremely well.
Maybe he lacks a bit of experience to be able to and play a final here. You know, sometimes it’s ever so close. He was slightly more nervous than Robin, and I think this is what made the difference.
But as I said, the most important thing is to go all the way to our limits, and then you see what happens.
It really felt like it was Berdych’s match to lose. I’m kind of sad he did.