The full transcript of Rafa’s per-tournament presser is up:
Q. Did you get a long enough break between seasons?
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t have the break, and I didn’t have the right time to prepare, because I had an injury in my shoulder, so I had to stop after Davis Cup finals. So I finished on Sunday. I started next Wednesday, I wanted to not stop because the period of time is very short.
So I wanted to keep practicing to be in form for beginning of the season, but I started on Wednesday. On Friday I had to stop for my shoulder. I really couldn’t play with my forehand and serve. So I stopped for two weeks.
So I was doing working in the gym. I didn’t went for holidays. I was working at home but outside of court, no?
So I started practicing one week and a half ago. So the period is not enough, but I am working hard every day here to try to arrive with good conditions.
If you can’t hit forehands or serves, you can’t really do much on-court practice.
Q. Does it feel a bit better now?
RAFAEL NADAL: The shoulder is better, I think. The shoulder needs more power, because when you have an injury there, the rest, the muscles around lose the power. But the problem, the injury, is much better. I am able to play today with no pain, so that’s important.
No pain is very important.
Q. For about six or seven seasons, you’ve played with very high intensity, higher intensity than any other player by quite a long way. Is it your intention to raise your level to that high intensity again, or do you see your style of play gradually changing as the years go by?
RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I answer this question year by year, no? Every year seems I have to play with less intensity? That’s, you know, not my style, and I cannot choose that.
So I will play like this until my mind and my physical performance say, Finish. That’s what I gonna try.
I am excited to start another season. The beginning I think, now this tournament, will not be easy for me, will be difficult one. My preparation is not the perfect one, and I trying to play with a little bit heavier racquet and on the top of the racquet to get a little bit more power. So I am losing a little bit of control now, no? Sometimes I don’t feel the forehand as good as before.
But it’s something that we believe that can help me for me in the future. You know, in a short time period…
But the problem is in theory we supposed to practice two weeks with the racquet, three weeks, one month almost, and finally we practiced one week, and we are here now so probably is not good enough. But I take the position, we take the position, so I going with that.
He can’t change his personality – the intense play is part of his personality. It is what it is.
Q. At this time last year, you know, you were at the top of the game and Djokovic was kind of coming up, and then he wins Australia and then the rest of the year. I mean, how is your thinking in terms of the game different than it was a year ago? I mean, in some ways you were the hunted last year at the beginning of the season. Now you’re hunting him. That’s the first question. And can you beat Djokovic regularly in finals this year, or what’s changed over at the break to kind of help you overcome some of the challenges? Do you still think Djokovic is going to be difficult to beat?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think everybody thinks that Djokovic will be difficult to beat, no? Not myself. So first question, first answer is, you know, in the sport you have not always in 100%. You don’t have –you cannot be every time in the top. I have been last year in the top here.
I get a little bit unlucky here because I get sick when I started the season, but I arrived here with very good conditions. This year after that, I think I played fantastic seven, eight months for 2011 season. So the first eight months, I think, seven months was really, really good.
I lost against Djokovic in all the finals, but I almost only lost against him. So that’s a really positive thing, play almost every final in all the difficult and important tournaments.
He did better than me and that’s it. So I don’t know if I can beat him. The only thing that I know is I have to practice to improve my tennis, and that’s what I gonna try to do.
For the rest of my career, I don’t know if that’s gonna be enough to beat him or to lose him 100 more times. I don’t even know, but I cannot predict that. What I can predict is I gonna work hard to try to be enough competitive to play with good chances against everybody, not only against him, because first thing, you have to be in the finals. That’s a very difficult thing to do, not only win that once.
I am No. 2 of the world today. I didn’t have the best end of the season last year, so I have to work to keep improving my tennis, and hopefully we can be competitive for almost every tournament this year.
I think I nodded off just reading that long question. And…did Rafa just answer more than one part of a question?
Q. When did it first cross your mind that you possibly would change the racquet or change something and put more power? Was it a long process?
RAFAEL NADAL: We thought after US Open, but finally was a little bit too short, you know, because I had to play in Tokyo and Shanghai. So the period wasn’t enough.
I try to play with a little bit heavier than what this racquet is today, but we take the position that we have to change the racquet or we try to have to change the racquet. Not the racquet, only the weight, no?
So after Davis Cup final I had all the racquets prepared at home to change, but in theory, I will have three, four weeks of right practice. Finally I only had one week.
But that’s the right moment to change. If not, when? You don’t have time, no?
So probably a little bit tough now at the beginning maybe, yes. I cannot say that’s when you have to change. You cannot think that everything will be perfect from the beginning, but you make change thinking it will be better in the future. So probably, I don’t know– I don’t know how to say in English. Investment? Or to try to improve something, few things in my game that we believe we needed, like the winner, like a little bit the serves.
So we thought this change, that’s can help, that’s nothing is magic, but that’s can help a little bit to improve that. But probably that hurts my game a little bit at the beginning. So is a risk for this beginning of the season? Obviously, yes.
Yes, it’s a risk, but if one never takes risks, one will never improve. He’s probably going to have more unforced errors than usual for awhile. Let’s all prepare ourselves for that.
Q. You always say you have to stay competitive. For that you have to be physically well and mental. So what do you think in the long term is more difficult: to be physically ready or mental for the next few years?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is something that you cannot separate one or the other, no? I think, you know, to be physical, prepared to be mental fresh, if you are very fresh mentally but you feel tired, you feel slow when you are playing, your physical gonna be ready for one set, not for all the match, no?
And if you are working very hard physical but your mental part is not there, you’re don’t feel competitive, you don’t feel with hungry to keep winning or to keep fighting every ball, you can be fantastically fit, but you’re gonna feel slow when you are playing because the mental part is not there and the passion is not there, so both things comes together.
If you’re not ready to compete and to combine both things, will be very difficult to be competitive in all the tournaments.
I’m hoping he feels with hungry.
Q. Have you ever thought about maybe not playing the Australian Open and instead preparing for the rest of the season with your new racquet?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. No, because my preparation have to be competing when you will see the things can work well or not is when you are playing matches. Practicing, sometimes you play more relaxed. You know, everything is easy. When you see if that can work very well is when you are in competition.
In short: he needs matches.
Q. I don’t know whether you heard about Andy Murray. He is now with a full-time coach, Ivan Lendl. He’s going to be his full-time coach. What do you think about that? Lendl is former No. 1 and never coached before and working with No. 4, used to be No. 3. What do you think of the impact for the best four players in the world? You are definitely one of them?
RAFAEL NADAL: The impact is nothing, no? I always had the feeling that, sure, the coach can help you, but the most important thing is the player. So the player needs to have the right attitude to listen to the coach and to work, because if you are not doing for yourself, nobody will do it for you.
So I think is good news to have unbelievable champion like Lendl inside the tour, but I don’t know the impact, no? I don’t know him like a coach. I don’t know him like a person. So I cannot have a really serious opinion on what’s gonna happen.
Andy is a good friend of mine, so I wish him all the best. If he take that position because he believe is what he really needs today, I support him. I think he’s a really good guy, and at the same time he’s –well, everybody knows he’s a fantastic player.
I’m still trying to figure out what the actual question was. What affect does it have on the top four players that one of them is now being coached by a former #1 who’s never coached before? The heck?