An interview with Toni
Today’s recommended reading:
When he won that first Monte Carlo, that was really incredible to me, because I’d always watched that tournament on TV. Winning there was something special. When you go to Monte Carlo, you see all the names in the passageway behind the center court. Man, to think that Rafael would have his name there forever…it was a great day in sports for me.
So, the tournament is not just special to Rafa.
In regards to the 2006 Wimbledon final:
The lesson, mine especially, was that we hadn’t approached that match well enough. The message before going out is not to be merely contented that you’ve reached the final, but to actually prepare for it well. Whenever you’re in a final match, there’s always a chance you’ll win it. Sometimes you have very little chance, but anything can happen. You always have to go into a final with the desire and belief to win it.
Yeah, Rafa seemed to have very little belief in that first set. He was so nervous! But, it was his fist pump after winning a game in the second that make me a fan. If he thought he still had a chance after that horrid first set, I knew this was a guy who wasn’t going to give up – ever.
On why he’d instilled in Rafa the desire to win Wimbledon:
No, more than anything because in Spain, there were already players who had won at Roland Garros and my belief was that Rafael was a little better, that he shouldn’t be contented with just winning Roland Garros. This was the idea.
Plus, it’s Wimbledon.
The comments on the 2009 Australian Open pre-match talk in part 2 are very interesting (and a bit to lengthy to add here). I love this part, though:
I said to him, “Yes, We Can,” as a joke. I said it again, and I told him, “Listen, please say it to yourself in your chair. Repeat it to yourself that you can, and come on.” I said to him “Yes, We Can” as a joke…I said it to him so many times that I think it stuck. And at the end of the match, in the 5th, he was fresher than Federer.
Rafa’s most painful losses are not a big surprise:
Yes. It was one of his most painful losses. Rafael’s most painful losses, I think, are the final at the Australian Open against Djokovic, because of how close he was to winning it. That one against Soderling, for what it meant, although it’s not the same to lose in the quarterfinals or fourth round as it is in a final, when it hurts much more. And then the final of Wimbledon .
Re the losses to Djokovic:
When someone beats you, there’s a reason. It’s because you didn’t play well. Or, even more likely, because he’s better than you. And when he’s better, it’s that much harder to beat him.
My own personal (and probably totally wrong) theory is that it was mentally harder for Rafa because he was used to playing up – that is, playing and beating players older and more experienced than him – and winning. When he didn’t win, he could say, “they are older and more experienced.” Djokovic was the first player Rafa’s age to win against him consistently. Seems to me that would cause the mental side to be even more difficult to over-come. (Just remembered, one could put Del Potro in that category too. But Del Potro’s run of wins against Rafa in 2009 came when Rafa was dealing with many other issues.)