Rafael Nadal is regarded as one of the best tennis players of all time.
At the age of 26, Nadal has won eleven Grand Slam singles titles, including an all-time record seven French Open titles.
He made a triumphant comeback in March after recovering from a knee injury, which kept him away from the courts for almost eight months. After a stunning victory at Indian Wells, the Spanish left-hander is getting ready for his European tour and Roland Garros, his favourite tournament.
His goal now is to work hard on recovering his world number one title.
David Martín Gutíérrez, euronews: “We are joined by one of the best sportsmen in the world. Rafa Nadal, welcome to euronews. The first question I have to ask you is: how is your knee?”
Rafael Nadal: “Well, it seems to be getting a bit better every week. I hope this will continue so I can do better and improve my chances of winning.”
euronews: “It’s not so common, coming back after a long break the way you did, and winning tournaments. What’s your secret?”
Rafael Nadal: “I don’t know… Luckily things have gone really well. It’s true that in the first two tournaments I took part in, I did well, but not really that well. But since the Acapulco tournament, I started playing really well and my knee was much better. Then, I played and won several matches, in a way even I couldn’t have imagined in such a short period.”
euronews: “So, we could say that your first victory of the season has been your comeback…”
Rafael Nadal: “Well, from my point of view, the most important victory was the 100% recovery of my knee, more than the comeback. This is a long-term victory, more satisfying than short term ones. Clearly, the first step to recovery was to resume competing. I did that, and it seems that it’s going better, week after week.”
euronews: “Did anyone give you advice, following your injury, about changing your style?”
Rafael Nadal: “The truth is that I’m not so good at changing my style, just like that. Every one has his own style, and I do what I can to improve every year. I’ve done that in my career, and obviously I think I’ve improved – I’ve turned out to play in a more aggressive way. But to drastically change your style, I think that’s quite impossible.”
euronews: “Before you got injured, you were in top shape. Do you think you can get back to that level?”
Rafael Nadal: “That’s my goal, and if my knee allows me, for sure I’ll work hard at it. I don’t think that in seven months I have forgotten how to play tennis. When I came back, I played at a good level. I suppose it won’t be that easy to regain the confidence, the level, and the rhythm I had last year – when I was forced to quit, after Roland Garros. It requires hard work, and that’s what’s nice in sport: to have great goals, that you can achieve by working, fighting and outdoing your achievements. That’s why, when you reach your goals, you’re happy”.
euronews: “What separates you from the world’s top players, Djokovic, Federer and Murray?”
Rafael Nadal: “I don’t know, it depends what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about points, we can see it in the ranking. If we’re talking about the level, I’m not sure exactly where I stand today. And I don’t know whether I’m at the right level to compete with them. We’ll find out in the coming weeks, we’ll find out whether I’m able to face these players, who are the best in the world.”
euronews: “Do you think it’s a realistic goal for you to reconquer your world number one title in the near future?
Rafael Nadal: “I don’t know, I can’t answer that. All I know is that I’m in Monte Carlo right now, I’m happy to be back in competition and my aim is to compete for the rest of the year, in good shape. If that is the case, we’ll see next year whether I succeed in becoming world number one again. But I don’t think it’s a priority at this point in my career.”
euronews: “Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid… Is Roland Garros the main goal this year, though?”
Rafael Nadal: “The goal right now is Monte Carlo. I want to play well here, and when this is over, whatever happens, I’ll have to play well in Barcelona.”
euronews: “You have said repeatedly that the thing that hurt you most was to miss the London 2012 Olympic Games, where you were supposed to be the standard bearer. Will you be in Rio, carrying the flag for Spain?”
Rafael Nadal: “That is my long-term goal, for sure. I want to be at the next Olympic Games. I don’t know if I’ll be the one to carry the flag, as I was supposed to be in London last year. The truth is that I would have been happy to do it, but I couldn’t, and I hope I’ll be able to do it in Rio. There are a lot of Spanish athletes, though, who are really qualified to be standard bearer.”
euronews: “Do you know that, for the third year running, you’ve been elected the person most Spaniards would like to hang out with and drink a beer? At least you haven’t lost the people’s support…”
Rafael Nadal: “Well, I’ll be happy to go and have a drink with each one of them, in a responsible manner, I really appreciate the support of my fans every day. In these seven months away from tennis courts, their support was really strong, stronger than ever. And now that I’m coming back to competition, I feel the support from fans all over the world, especially from Spain. It’s a good reason to be satisfied and gives me energy to continue fighting and being where I am.”
euronews: “Well, if you go out for a drink with an ‘average’ Spanish person, you know that you’ll have to buy the beer, because the situation right now in Spain is not good. As a sportsman, what do you think of Spain’s economic situation?”
Rafael Nadal: “Obviously it’s a sad situation. Seeing a lot of people suffering is hard. Each one of us is affected by this situation, directly or indirectly. We are not foreign to the reality of people all around us. In these last years, a lot of people have been through hard times, and I want to support them. By working together, every day, and with the will to reach the end of this tunnel, that we’ve been living in for some years, we will come out the other side and see the light again soon. I’m sure this will be the case, as Spain is a great country.”