Here’s a transcript of Rafa’s pre-tournament presser.
Q. You had a very successful but tough Roland Garros, and then you went to Halle. How tough was it to recharge the batteries after that?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, it’s something that is nothing new in my career. Since today is the same like another season, no? But what’s going to make little bit more difficult is later, no, when normally after here, if you have a very good tournament here, you have four weeks, four weeks and a half of rest.
Is not the case of this year because you have the Olympics. But since the day of today is something very similar to the rest of the years. I had the chance to be in Mallorca, to enjoy a little bit with the friends, with the family, and that’s what I did.
I am here another time.
And, I’m thinking, your day of today and days of tomorrow are/will be much better thanks to that rest on those days of yesterday.
Q. You mentioned the Olympics. What do they mean to you?
RAFAEL NADAL: The Olympics is the most important competition of the world of sport. So that’s the first thing. For everybody, all the sports, all the people who are involved of sport, competing in Olympics is something probably the most special thing that can happen, no?
The experience is great for me. I played two Olympics already. I have one record in Athens that I am the sportsman who spent less time in one Olympic Games, because the week before I played in Sopot. I won my first tournament. I arrived that Saturday night, I lost on Sunday, and I went home. I don’t remember a lot.
But in Beijing I was able to spend one week before, then all tournament there, all the competition. Enjoyed the experience in the Village with the rest of the friends, of the colleagues of the sports family. Was great, no? Was probably one of the greatest experiences I ever had in this world.
In my opinion is something that everybody from the popular sports, that we are very lucky to have a circuit like tennis or basketball football. I think is great if we are able to go to the real sport, because there there is a lot of sports that they don’t have the lucky that we have. You really experience what means really the sport, playing just for – I don’t know how to say – just play for the passion of the sport, for nothing else more.
In my opinion, that’s the real spirit of the sport. Is great for us that we have almost everything, go there, and enjoy that experience.
And that’s why, as much as I’m thrilled for the sport of tennis (and especially for Rafa) that so many of its players are being chosen as flag-bearers for their country, I wish such an honor would go to the more unsung heroes of sport.
Q. Coming off winning your seventh French Open title, how confident of winning your third Wimbledon and how confident are you of beating Djokovic on grass?
RAFAEL NADAL: I’m very happy the way things went the last couple of months – since the beginning of the season this year, in my opinion. Thinking about winning another title here in Wimbledon is arrogant and crazy. That’s something I cannot think about, no?
I can just think about the practice of tomorrow, to keep preparing my game, to arrive to Tuesday with the right conditions, being competitive to try to win the first match, no?
That’s the goal. I try my best in every practice. But sure, every hour on grass help me.
Forget one match at a time, we are down to one hour of practice at a time.
Q. You’ve been a part of two great rivalries with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Many matches against both. Many Grand Slam finals against them. Could you maybe compare them at all, whether fans enjoy watching you against Novak or Roger?
RAFAEL NADAL: That you have to ask the fans. I cannot answer this about the fans.
For me is little bit different situation, because when I arrived here on tour, especially when I started to play well, Roger always was there. With Novak, it’s little bit other way. I was there and then he came.
So is difficult for me to analyze which rivalry is more important, less important, more attractive, less attractive for everybody.
The only thing I can say, all the classic matches are because you played a lot of matches in very important circumstances between each other, no? That happens a lot of times with Roger, a lot of Grand Slam finals, a lot of Masters 1000s, competing for very important tournaments in our careers.
But with Novak we start to have all of this, too. Is great. For me I feel very lucky to be part of these two rivalries. I think is something that brings special motivation to the game, to the motivation to keep improving my tennis. Because if you are not able to improve your level of tennis you are dead, no, in this very competitive world of tennis.
That’s what I tried all my life. I think I really enjoy being part of these rivalries, no? I don’t gonna answer your question which one means more to me, because will see when at the end of our careers.
Here’s a fan’s opinion: while the Rafa/Nole rivalry is an exciting one, the contrast of playing styles in the Rafa/Roger one makes it more interesting.
Q. What do you think of the specificities of the game on grass nowadays, and what do you think are your strengths and maybe weaknesses on this surface?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, the important thing is play – play with the surface, not play against the surface. That’s the first thing, no?
At the same time you cannot change something crazy your game, because you are good doing what you usually do. In the past, I don’t know the years, but in the past my best points on grass was that I played very regular with my serve. Probably not serving bombs, because I am not this kind of player. But playing very solid with high percentage, with enough speed, and then my movements and my decision to play on this surface was good the last couple years.
I enjoy playing here. Brings something different to me. Seriously, since the first time I came here, probably was in 2002 — no, 2003 I played professional. 2002 or 2001 I played the juniors. I always loved this place. I always loved this surface.
My opinion is the game here is great to watch, especially if you don’t play against a big server (smiling).
Don’t play against the surface…I think it’s that mindset that forces him to be more aggressive on grass than any other surface. Sometimes, I wish someone could convince him that hard courts are grass. :) His love-affair with grass never fails to give me warm fuzzies. I mean, he grew up in a place with no grass courts…
Q. Outside you and Andy and Novak and Roger, who would you say are the most dangerous players? Berdych, Raonic, would they be the ones who are maybe most dangerous?
RAFAEL NADAL: For me is difficult to say. Depends. David Ferrer is playing a final today I think in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
I want to know if Rafa actual said the name of that town…
Q. He won.
RAFAEL NADAL: So he won already. His level of tennis is higher and higher every year.
Berdych knows what is to play a final here.
Tsonga played semifinals last year.
But you have Raonic with this serve, without touch a ball from the baseline, you will be in trouble.
So there is always very competitive players. The real thing of this surface, you see the draw, and you never see an easy opponent.
I don’t say that in other surfaces you see easy opponents because you are playing against the best players of the world. You have the feeling, for example, you play on clay and your match is your in your hands. If you are playing your game you will have good chances to be through.
Here everything is a little bit more crazy, because sometimes you played two bad points in not the right moment and you lose a set. You don’t have real time to come back if you have a few mistakes in a row.
You aren’t helping me with my “Olympics are best of 3 on grass” nerves, Rafa. Wait? One thing at a time? Okay. I’ll try.
Q. You talked about the fascination of the Olympics. Are the Olympics more special for you this year because they are played in this historic tennis place?
RAFAEL NADAL: The Olympics are important for themself. Playing wherever are very important, no?
That’s true, that play in Wimbledon is gonna be little bit bigger because what means this place in the world of tennis is just the top. We gonna enjoy playing another time here.
But my opinion we can say can be more special to play in Wimbledon, but not more important.
Look at him! Carefully parsing words and their connotations in English. Plus, I agree completely.
Q. (Question regarding adding another week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon.)
RAFAEL NADAL: I always say is great to play more and more on clay and grass because those surfaces are historic in the world of tennis. In the past, most of the tournaments were on clay and grass. In my opinion for the body the worst surface to play or the most aggressive surface to play is the hard court.
In my opinion, I will never have nothing against to play more weeks on grass or clay, because I think is easier for the physical performance, for the injuries of the players.
I really wish there was a Masters on grass…but how to fit one in?