RG: Pre-tournament presser
Q. This year you have defeated Djokovic twice on clay, while last year you had a losing streak against Novak. What have you changed in your game since the Australian Open?
RAFAEL NADAL: Not much. I played fantastic in Australian Open, in my opinion, no? I played one of the best tournaments of the year for me in Australian Open.
I had my chances against him there. I lost. That’s the game. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.
I lost against him seven times in a row, seven important finals. But don’t forget that I had a good chance to win in Indian Wells, good chance to win in Miami. I had my chance in Wimbledon, I had my chance in the US Open, and I have my chance in Australia.
So all these matches that sometimes decides for very few points I lost. Last time especially in Rome the first set was very close. These few points that changed the result, I won the points. That’s why I won. I am playing well.
But you can win and you can lose when you play against the best players of the world, and Novak today, he’s No. 1.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” – Crash Davis. (I’ve always thought Rafa was a top graduate from the Crash Davis school of sports clichés.)
Q. Li Na had to sit there and watch the draw today, so she saw exactly what’s happening. But you were able to leave before the men’s draw was done. Do you prefer not to know, not to see the draw before?
RAFAEL NADAL: I prefer to practice. I practiced at 12:00. No, I will stay there if I don’t have practice. No, no, it is not nothing — I have been there a lot of times when men’s draw was there doing.
No, no, it is not a problem that I don’t want to see the draw. It is a problem I have to go. I had court at 12:00.
I think he’s got his priorities right.
Q. The media always talk about the big four, but it’s actually three players: you, Roger, and Novak who win all the Grand Slams for so many years. How do you explain that only three people can dominate like that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Can dominate much more people, no, no, no. That’s what happened in the last couple years. Doesn’t mean that’s gonna happen in the future. Every tournament is different.
When you start a tournament like here or like Wimbledon in a couple of weeks, you look out, you see the draw, and you see that any player can have good result. Not anyone, but you have a group that can win, no?
If we talk about, for example, Rome last week, at the end we play the final, Novak and me, Novak had very tough match against Monaco in second round. So he was losing set and break, so he can lose a match.
I had a very tough match against Berdych and against David Ferrer. I can lose that match, and the final can be another two players.
So finally that’s what happened. That doesn’t mean that’s gonna happen here in Roland Garros. That doesn’t mean that’s gonna happen in Wimbledon.
As I told you before, that’s what happened. We’ll see what’s going on in the future. I don’t see like the tour like only three players. I see around and I see fantastic players, and every tournament is open to almost everybody.
Totally true. And totally why it’s so amazing that a few players have been able to consistently dominate for such a long time.
Q. Is it different for you this year in the feeling because you’re going maybe for a seventh title, or are you not caring about this?
RAFAEL NADAL: Last year probably answer is different, because if I won I will equal Borg. Any year we can find a different excuse to be different.
But at the end, what is different is another year, another Roland Garros. This tournament is enough important for himself, not because now I have six. I have much more than I ever dreamed.
I am coming here with motivation of every year with the illusion to play well, and then we will see, no? But I don’t going to be more motivated because I have six and I can win seven. No.
And I was not more motivated when I arrived here in 2005 than today. I was not more motivated in 2010 when I lose in 2009. The motivation always is the same. Sometimes you lose; sometimes you win.
That’s the sport and that’s the game.
I look for excuses to be different on a daily basis… Oh wait, maybe that was to be difficult. And great way to work more clichés in, Rafa!
Q. You came very close to winning four Grand Slam titles in a row. Now Novak…
RAFAEL NADAL: Not very close. Three matches away. Yeah, I didn’t lose in the final in the last one. That’s what I mean, no, sure, when you win three in a row, probably my chance not gonna be any more there.
There’s always possibilities, no?
Q. I’m wondering, with Novak now having won three, it’s been a long time since anyone has won four in a row. What is the most difficult part of trying to do that? How big a deal would it be? How important in tennis and maybe all of sports if somebody were able to do that again?
RAFAEL NADAL: The most difficult part is win every one. That’s the first thing. When you talk about winning all four, when he won in Wimbledon last year, then he won in US Open, then he won in Australia, so every tournament is difficult for himself.
This one gonna be another one. This one is not gonna be more difficult because he already won three. You know, that’s the point that I want to tell. When I went to Australia in 2011 was last year? Yes, 2011 with the chance to win four in a row? I felt zero extra pressure to win that.
Because when you start the tournament, when you play, you play day by day. That’s what I am, doing. I play day by day, and I win thinking about that tournament, not what happened in the past. More difficult thing is arrive to that situation. You are there, you can win, you can lose. I get injury; I lost. That’s it.
I’m not happier today or less happy today to win or to lose that match. The life continues, and you keep working hard to try to be fit and be competitive for the next one.
Boiling it down to the crux of the matter: you gots to win them.
And for years, Federer lost his chance at a career slam to Rafa in a Roland Garros final. Will Rafa deny a second player too?
Q. Your results on the red clay are brilliant this year. How do you feel about your game itself?
RAFAEL NADAL: I did very well. I started 2012 season playing fantastic since the beginning in Australia. I think I did well in — I stop for one month. I did well Indian Wells. I didn’t went on court in the semifinals in Miami.
I started the clay court season, the red clay court season very well. I played fantastic tournament in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome. That’s it. I’m playing well.
Has a different history here, different tournament, and doesn’t mean I play very well the three clay court tournaments, that doesn’t mean that I gonna have a success here. Doesn’t mean — only mean that — the only thing that mean win all three is I have three more titles in my bedroom that they are very important for me. I love that three tournaments.
I arrive here with positive feelings, and I will try my best to be very competitive and to be in the right level to have my chances.
Be with colm and positive – best way to go. (See? I know my clichés too.)
Q. When you come to Paris every year, is there something you look forward to? Is there something you like outside the tennis, the idea of being in Paris? Is there something you like outside the tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL: I like the city. I love the city. There’s a few cities that I love in the world, and this is one of them.
I feel comfortable here. Don’t forget that I spend a lot of time here in the city and I feel comfortable. I like. I don’t have time to come for holidays during the season, but I did in the past with my family. I came here with my family for holidays like 10 years ago, and since that moment I always loved this place.
Will we get a Paris travelogue, Rafa? I hope so!