Rafael Nadal appeared in the Mutua Madrid Open press conference room on Tuesday before his campaign in the Caja Mágica gets underway. The world number 2, a five-time champion of the tournament, dispelled any doubts about his fitness and also touched on the following subjects:
How he is feeling: “It’s been a complicated week, but a positive one. I’ve trained well. It really has been one of the best weeks in terms of how I feel in training since I got back on clay. It’s true that I woke up on Sunday with a stomach bug. I came here to have my photo taken with David (Ferrer), but I had to return to the hotel. Yesterday I trained a little and today I trained a bit more, a little better. But I’m not going to lie to you; I’m still not feeling 100% physically, because I’m coming out of that process.
The positive thing is that I was able to train for about an hour and a half today. I hope to improve a little more tomorrow. I’m better today than yesterday. And yesterday I was better than the day before. So I hope that the progress continues tomorrow. It’s true that when you go through these recoveries your body is a little weaker, of course. There is a little more risk of things happening. Of course, it’s an important tournament for me. And I hope to be ready. I think that I’ve done things properly and I feel good. I hope that this doesn’t stop me from playing the way I’ve been playing”.
Felix Auger-Aliassime: “A difficult opponent, of course. A young player who started the year well, who’s had good results, who’s played quite a lot on clay this year… a difficult opponent. Maybe even more so here, where everything is a little more equal. I have to be fit. With enough energy. And my body has to respond well. Then, I have to play good tennis. If that’s the case, I hope to have my chances. And that’s what I’m working on”.
No titles on clay so far this year: “Of course I would have liked to have come here with four titles. But there’s no more pressure. In the end, I know everything that’s happened to me over the last 18 months. I’m not going to explain it to you now; there are things you know and others you don’t on a physical level. From there, I try to look at the progress I’m making positively. Barcelona was a positive advance for me. From there, both in training and generally, I’ve started feeling much better. And I’m on the right path.
We’ll see what may or may not happen. But in terms of energy levels and confidence in my body and my game, forgetting the stomach bug I’ve had, I feel much better now than two weeks ago, before starting in Monte Carlo. This is a positive change for me. I’m enjoying training again and playing every day. And this is a very important step for me. As for everything else, can I play well here or not? Well, we’ll see. Can I play well in Rome or Paris? We’ll see about that too. I’m aware that the main thing is to get my feeling of confidence back, in my body and in my game. If I get that back, I am confident that I will have more chances to win and that the rest will have a harder time”.
Going to the French Open with titles on clay: “It’s better to have won tournaments before, but I don’t think that I need to have won any tournaments to win the French Open. What I need is to be healthy and playing good tennis. If that happens, I know that I will have my chances. If that doesn’t happen, I won’t have my chances. Whether or not I’ve won before”.
Being a favourite: “More than seeing myself as a favorite, I honestly focus on this tournament as I do all of them. With a difficult match tomorrow, against a young opponent with great potential. And that is my tournament right now. Apart from that, we’ll see what happens”.
How he feels coming into Madrid: “I planned not to have fitness issues at all the tournaments I’ve played in, of course. It wasn’t my plan, but I have had them. When these things happen, you have to accept them and live with them. Unfortunately, I have experience with that. From here, I feel quite good considering how my season has gone in general. And it hasn’t been bad, it’s just that too much has happened. And I’m simply waiting to stay on the path I’ve been on in the last week and a half of work. If I manage to keep it up for the next two to three weeks, I think I’ll get myself into a good position”.
Federer and Ferrer: “Without being cold, this tournament is very special because it is one of the most important in the world and it’s played in our country. That’s the reality, no? Then, all these extra factors that can come in give it publicity and add sentimentality to what the event is in itself. I think the fact that David is saying farewell at this tournament is bad news for Spanish sport in general and for Spanish tennis in general too. But it’s his decision. Of course, it will be an emotional moment and a sad one for everyone I think. Because, whatever his decision, it’s also sad to change to a new era. An emotional moment without a doubt. So Federer is back? That’s great news as well, particularly for the tournament, without a doubt. And for the fans too”.
His rivals seeing him as favourite: “Guys, I’m almost 33. I’ve been here since I was 18 or 19. Every year is the same. I come here to do my best. Sometimes things go better, sometimes they go worse. So the other players see me as favourite? That’s great news. But really the only favourite is the person who has the cup in their hands on Sunday. Anything else is just talking for the sake of talking. You guys have to write. We have to answer your questions. What do you want me to say to you? I come here to give my all. Yes, I’ve had good results here and on clay throughout my career. What’s happened in the past doesn’t guarantee what could happen now. And my job is to try and get ready to fight for every match. And, from there, we’ll see how far I can go”.
Playing against Federer on clay again: “It’s his decision. This isn’t about how I feel. It’s about how the fans and the tournament feel about that. Of course, it’s very good news”.
Zverev: “No two people are the same, everyone needs different processes or works in different ways. Nobody can tell Sascha what he needs. He has a great team around him and his family. He’ll know how to take the advice for his education, for his tennis and for all the things that are really important for him in his life. Tennis is only part of all of our lives. There are so many things more important than tennis in this world. Losing a few matches is nothing serious. He’s a great player and he’ll fight for what’s important”.