L’Equipe Interview: No Panic


Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a nice interview with Rafa in today’s edition of L’Equipe (print only, I think). Moondancer of VamosBrigade has done the difficult translation work. Please visit their site to read the full translation.

A few bits I found interesting.

It’s a settled pain. I could feel it in the morning while getting up and in the afternoon while I’m eating or while hitting a backhand. My first two days in Chili were difficult: I was feeling a lot of pain and I didn’t have one good training session.

I wonder if the lengthy travel irritated it. I have tendonitis in my hip and prolonged sitting causes it to tighten up and be painful. (No, I’m not comparing my minor problem to his, just wondering.)

I’m not afraid because I know in what state my knee is in. Since three weeks, all the tests I have undergone have shown perfect results. The truth is that my left knee is in fantastic shape compared with the other one (laughs). I know now that if I run, I won’t risk torn tendons. That’s “importantissime”. The doctors have promised me that. So, it’s alright, no anxiety. Even if the tendon still gives me pain…

My first thought was that this is a very good new. He must feel confident in his body in order to play confident tennis. My second thought was that I hope his doctors are right. (What can I say, I have a naturally pessimistic mind.)

Q: Being sidelined for nearly eight months, what was the toughest moment?
Rafa: The worst was when I realised that I could not compete in the Olympic Games. At the start, I thought that I would heal quickly. What was difficult is that my knee let go at the best moment of my career.

Q: The best? You’ve won more in 2008, 2009 or 2010…
Rafa: Yes, but in 2012, I really played better. The Australian Open final against Djokovic, even if I lost it, was great. I continued to win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Roland Garros. I exploded on court.

Not surprising that missing the chance to carry the Spanish flag and defend his Olympic medal is the first thing he always mentions when asked about the toughest time. And I do think that the fact he was playing so well in the first part of the year gets overlooked because someone else was playing well too. There was so little separating them in that AO final.

To lose here (Viña del Mar), pffft, that’s no problem. Seven months of rest, seven months of never being able to practice at full tilt: the logical thing would be for me to lose here. It would only be a drama if my knee would hurt too much.

Sounds like he has his priorities right…as usual.

If my knee allows me to train for longer than three hours per day at full tilt and if I can run without thinking about my knee or the pain, why wouldn’t I be able to do what I did before? The fact that I was playing excellently when I was forced to stop, is helping me right now. The memory (of those good sensations) is really fresh.

There’s that good, positive acktitude! I’m seriously glad that the injury didn’t become critical until after he turned the tide in his matches against Djokovic.

In regards to Wilander’s comments that Rafa won’t be a favorite at Roland Garros this year:

Rafa: Good. Alright. We’ll see. It’s true that I won’t be the favourite in Paris but I don’t need to be in order to win.

Which is the perfect reaction to that. I know Wilander’s comments upset a lot of Rafa fans, but even with Rafa’s clay records, it’s nearly impossible to declare someone a favorite when they haven’t played a match tournament in 7 months. Much less played a in a super pressure-filled slam.

Q: After the recent finals in New York, Melbourne, some – among which Marian Vajda, the trainer of Djokovic – have said that this is the start of the Djokovic-Murray era. You have an ego. How does it take this?
Rafa: My ego is calm. (laughs). It doesn’t bother me to hear that. It’s not wrong. It’s correct at the moment, isn’t it? These are two superb players who have played the last two grand slam finals. It would imply and end to the Federer-Nadal rivalry one but who knows. I’m only one year older than Djokovic and Murray so perhaps now is not the time to bury me. Eight months ago, I was in an excellent position to become world number one again. Let’s not forget to quickly. Now, I will try to nudge myself in that Djokovic-Murray era (smiles).

I look forward to watching all that stubborn nudging.

His comments on the current doping trial going on in Spain are, I think, spot on. They should be doing everything possible to have Fuentes name names for all the athletes he treated, not just bicyclists.

Q: Do you know that some people think that your 7-month absence is due to a silent doping ban?
Rafa: Yes and those rumours exist because those doping tests are not made public. The ITF needs to be transparent. Same with WADA. If not, it will continue and I will be forced to have to hear the stupid comments Christophe Rochus utters without any evidence. It’s incredible to me that something like that gets published without any evidence. Give me evidence and I’ll be okay with it.

Q: The ITF says that the blood tests are too expensive and that…
Rafa: (interrupts). You know what is costly? The bad image of the sport. That’s what has a high price.

A very high price. And I agree on making the results public. It still won’t quiet the doubters 100%, but transparency is a good thing.

In regards to the ATP cracking down on serving time, Rafa feels there should be some flexibility after lengthy or particularly taxing points or the next point will suffer and be full of errors.

They tell me that those changes are made for the tv public, but don’t you think that those people watching tennis on tv would prefer beautiful points being disputed? No?

I would say so – after all, that lengthy match that caused the ATP to start enforcing the rule more strictly (2012 AO final) was voted one of the best matches of the year by those TV viewers.

15 Responses

  1. patzin says:

    Good interview – free flowing Rafa, stating his mind. Good. He is very principled and believes transparency is only way to clear the air, whatever that may reflect.

  2. shamababes says:

    He sounds fired up!! Love the comments he made re Christopher Rochus.
    I am curious though.. where did all this Nadal/Doping conspiracy start? This is just beyond me. The reasons I see the haters give are just ridiculous. Can one hate a person that much to want to destroy his career? Now that the Armstrong saga is out that will not dampen the theories – but sheesh

    • robert says:

      “where did all this Nadal/Doping conspiracy start?”

      In the minds of crazed Federer’s fans. After kid Rafa started to almost regularly beat their idol right from their first match.

      They blogged, tweeted, messaged, obsessed. They started doping-themed websites.

  3. Dee says:

    Great interview form Rafa. He sounds positive and ready for the hard work needed to get back his rightful place in the top 4. That is reallyu good for us Rafans to hear from our boy.Rafa is clam and realises that he has to be patient in the coming months. Vamos Rafa!

  4. Ch F says:

    I am still impressed at how level headed this guy is. I mean I should be used to it by now but he never ceases to surprise me. He gives natural straightforward answers to seemingly difficult questions like if the answer was the most self evident thing in the world. I really admire that in people.

    I like his positive attitude and motivation to break the Djokovic Murray duel and the fact that he doesn’t underestimate himself. Good job, Rafa.

    Now the knee info in that statement confused me. His knee is fine but he is still in a lot of pain? How can this be? The only thing that changed is that he doesn’t have to worry about the pain? I find that strange but then again I’m no doctor. Also, the left knee is now fine albeit still painful but the right isn’t? Sounds really complicated :-(

    I love, just love, his answer to Wilander’s comment about him not being the favourite in Paris. It’s perhaps one his best answers ever! No Rafa, you don’t need to be a favourite to win, in fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t the favourite this time ;-)

    • Ramara says:

      Pain can be an odd thing. It’s well known that amputees quite commonly feel pain in a limb that isn’t even there. Rafa’s played with pain all his life. He just needs the assurance that he isn’t doing himself damage by doing so.

    • SpanishRNfan says:

      In this interview is not mentioned explicitly but in other of his recent interviews (in Spanish), he’s said that knee is OK because the images of the tendon (through MRI/ultrasounds) show it so. It’s perfectly compatible both saying that the knee is OK (the tendon is healed) and that it hurts, since the pain he’s feeling now doesn’t come from the tendon being torn, but because it has to adapt to the demanding effort of playing pro tennis. They’ve been told this pain could last till the end of Feb.

      • Ch F says:

        Thanks. I guess I missed the other interviews explaining what to my mind was a contradiction. Hope the pain will go away soon!

  5. JayDee50 says:

    What great answers – you tell ’em Rafa!

  6. Dee says:

    No LIVE stream for the doubles tonight :( I was looking forward to it, too.

  7. Elfie says:

    I also loved his answers…so sensible and level headed! and also his reply to Wilander’s comment too, just perfect! But I also LOVED “To lose here (Viña del Mar), pffft, that’s no problem.” – I just love that “pffft”! – I can just imagine him saying it, maybe with some good eyebrow raising! Vamos Rafa, so glad you’re back!

  8. Dee says:

    No LIVE streams tonight :(

  9. Sharon/London says:

    Thanks Miri for the interview. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    What I love about Rafa is he is realistic and logical and never has a bad word to say about anyone even though there are media and certain players who have said some nasty things and made serious accusations about him.
    C Rochus is an ageing under achiever tennis player who is envious of Rafa and was out of order saying Rafa was doping but what’s new? How many times have different people said it in the past ,usually people who haven’t much in their own careers. It does make me angry.
    Rafa is right you dont have to be top 4 to win a grand slam. Del Potro was ranked no 6 when he won the USO.
    As for RG im sure Fed,Murray and Djokovic would prefer not to face Rafa in the quarter finals than the other way round. After all None of them have ever beaten him there. I don’t think it’s a Murray / Djokovic era now,it’s happened because Rafa wasn’t around. Time will tell .

    Great to see him back and winning keeping his integrity as always.

  10. Serin says:

    Great interview.. I loved it.. Rafa is so intelligent, so sensible.

    What hurt me was the way he described how well he was playing in 2012 when the injury struck. He had won the Masters and RG and “he exploded on court.” ..But it was not meant to be.. Hope he starts exploding on courts and keeps winning this year.

  11. Ramara says:

    Of course he never “looks at his watch” during an interview. That would be RUDE and Rafa is never, ever that.