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INTERVIEWS

March 18, 2007

R. NADAL/N. Djokovic

6-2, 7-5

An interview with:

RAFAEL NADAL


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Rafa, please.

Q. It must be very satisfying Rafael to come through a tournament like this on a hard court after the struggles you've been through in the past few months?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, well, I was very satisfied with my game, for sure with the title. Well, yeah, was very great week for me, very, very important week. And it was very important. I have eight months without any title, but I come back with big one.

Q. After dominating in the first set, were you surprised how he came out in the second set and started fighting back?
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, for sure not. I know I play very difficult final against one of the best players of the world, and he's coming playing very well. So I was expecting a very tough match. Now the normal thing is the match will be close and I think pushing hard for try to victory.
So the second set was great, too. I play a little bit more defensive, but Djokovic play more aggressive. He was serving better especially with his serve, was serving very well, and very good attack with the forehand. Well, I can -- yeah, (in Spanish).
I cannot stay in the match the second set all time and was very important saving the break points, the 2-1 maybe, I don't remember, but 2-1. And after that, I come back well. I just tried to play my tennis. I know in the second set was a little bit hardest to play my aggressive tennis, but I'm very happy, no?

Q. Were you surprised things were that easy in the first set?
RAFAEL NADAL: What?

Q. Were you surprised that things were that easy in the first set?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, yeah, surprise, I don't know. I just go on court and try to play my best tennis, and, well, maybe Novak started the match with a little bit nervous, some mistakes.
But I was playing very, very good, no, without mistakes, not one mistake, play a lot -- very good with the forehand, very aggressive all the time changing the directions of the forehand. So I start very good, the match. The first set was unbelievable.

Q. A lot of clay court players, you know, you can see they're clay court players because they're run to the point almost try to slide, things like that. But you don't seem to have any trouble with the footwork, on the hard court, difference from clay. Is that something you actually work on and think about or does it just come naturally to adapt to the court?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, one of my best things is the movements, no? Normally I'm -- I am fast on court and I have good movements. So, well, that's important. But the most important thing is understand the court and move like the court. So in the clay, you only move a little bit, (Spanish), a little bit behind the line, analyzing a little bit more.
But here you need be on the line. You can't go out of court, and I'm trying always that. Well, maybe that's for that reason this week I play very, very good.

Q. I know it's not so easy to explain, but if you had to try to explain eight months without a final and now the victory. Why would you say that happened?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, first thing, for me it was not very hot. It was -- well, when you are not winning, you're thinking, yeah, I need win one title. But always the press ask me, "What's happening right now? You are not winning any title." But the thing is I am in -- well, true I always say the same, but that's true, no? I was playing bad in Toronto and Cincinnati, very bad. But after I play U.S. Open, quarterfinals in the U.S. Open. I always play in (indiscernible), quarterfinals in U.S. Open, quarterfinals in Madrid, semifinals in Shanghai. Well, but tournament in Shanghai, yes, was bad tournament. I was playing very bad tennis. But I was in semifinals, too, and Australia, quarters finals, too. But I wasn't win, that's true. But I always -- at quarterfinals, semifinals, I always there.
Sometimes you're a little bit luckier, a little bit more confidence, but, well, I wasn't half a disaster these eight months, you know.

Q. But now you said you are playing your best tennis in a long time. Do you agree?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, for sure, I agree. I don't know. When I go to every tournament, I just try to work hard and to -- when you are finding (Spanish), when you are looking your tennis every week, every day, well, any day come back, and that's happened before Dubai.
So the week before Dubai was practicing in Mallorca. I was feeling great, very good. Come back to Dubai, play very good tournament in Dubai, playing Baghdatis, and after, losing against Youzhny. I lose, but I play good match. I was needing a little bit more confidence for win this match.
But I arrive here with good confidence because I was playing very good tennis in Dubai. And when I started tournament here, I said before tournament, I am feeling great, one of my best moments.

Q. Rafa, is it hard to win titles when you're in the process of developing your game, too?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, yeah, the people speak a lot about the changes of my game. But the truth is just I'm Rafael Nadal, is the same. I can change and I always serve and volley. Right now, my game is my game. But, for sure, I am very young and I need to improve my game.
Well, for improve, my game, I need play a little more aggressive with my forehand, especially serve a little bit better, go to the volley sometimes, improve little bit the slice, improve a little bit the backhand. But I need improve because I'm very young, but I -- well, I wasn't changed too much things, you know. Just try to play a little bit more harder with the forehand, more aggressive, the mentality more aggressive, and try to play a little bit more aggressive with the serve, too, no?

Q. Have you had a better tournament serving in the last year than this one?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, Wimbledon was -- I was losing, one time the serve in the first round, one time in second round, and after that, I never lose a set before final. But after in the finally, I lose three times consecutive (laughing).

Q. You never seem to lose your mental, whenever you make a good point, you see this (indicating), but when you lose a point you always just turn around, grab a ball, come back. You never seem to lose it like a lot of the other players do. Has there been a time in your career where you did lose it and you'd real back and you now control yourself or were you always under good mental control?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, if you watch me play, a lot of times you never gonna -- you're never gonna see the racket down, no (Spanish).
THE MODERATOR: I never throw the racket.
RAFAEL NADAL: I never throw any racket, no? And I can say to you, I was playing bad times, too. Bad matches. Well, it doesn't work, that. Just the better thing is try to continue with good concentration all time and have the control of yourself. That's very important.

Q. If there was one thing you could improve in your game what would that be?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I said -- I say it every day, just I need improve a lot of things. Well, I just have 20 years old and I need to improve every day. That's important and that's true. I can improve the serve a lot, serve faster; I can improve the movements in the volley, the volley, too, the slice. I was slicing better this week, well, some good slices. And that is working very well now in the tennis today, no? It's important have good slice. Well, the backhand, too. But everything you can improve, no?

Q. Even when you were younger, you never threw the racquet around?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, never. If I throw down racket when I was young with my uncle, he sent me out of court. That's never happened, but if that's happen, that's gonna happen.

Q. Do you believe now that you've gained more confidence here winning, that the rest of this year you can be a good competitor against Roger and perhaps win another major beyond the French? Have you built up that much confidence?
RAFAEL NADAL: Right now I am No. 2 and Roger is No. 1 and far away of the others. That's the thing, no? I just have 22 (smiling).
Right now it's not my competition, Roger, because Roger is best in history, so why -- for sure, my goal is continuing winning tournaments and continue being in the top positions of the ranking. But, no, right now, maybe go to No. 1 is very, very difficult, and I am not thinking about that, no? For sure, I can. I think, if I play like this, I can win another major, no.

Q. Is that the heaviest trophy you've ever lifted?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. Barcelona, I saw the trophy in Barcelona, yeah, the big one. Yeah, that was unbelievable.

Q. That's a big whale, isn't it?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, it's tough.

Q. You didn't bite it, did you?
RAFAEL NADAL: What?

Q. You didn't bite it. You normally bite -- you didn't bite?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I did.

Q. You did?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Q. I missed that.
RAFAEL NADAL: You missed, you missed. Always.

Q. How will you celebrate the title and where does that trophy go?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I gonna celebrate after Miami. I have important tournament in Miami right now, coming with good confidence after this win, and just try to continuing playing good in Miami.
So after Miami, when I (lose) in Miami, I can -- I gonna days for celebrate this title. Well, in the same place like others, no? I have a room, my room, my bedroom, and after I have a room upstairs in my house. I have one little bit gym for practice sometimes, and I have (Spanish), sofa, television, and I have --

Q. Shelves?
RAFAEL NADAL: Shelves for the trophies. I have all Master Series there.

Q. You said a week before Dubai, you went back home to Mallorca and started feeling really good.
RAFAEL NADAL: What?

Q. A week before Dubai you went home to Mallorca and you said you started playing really well. What happened there? Why?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. I just work hard every week. That's true, because if you are working hard always, well, any day come back and play well. Tennis come back because it's impossible be one year without playing well, no?

Q. How do you start a game with (indiscernible)?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I have a nice smash, smash today I smashed to the net with the sun, yeah. But with the serve, not.

Q. Not an issue?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, it's fine.

Q. I believe that you said that Roger is not your competition. If he's not your competition, who is your prime competition now?
RAFAEL NADAL: My competition is continuing -- why -- my goal, I say my goal before the tournament and before the tournament, no, before the season, my goal has been the Master's Cup. That's the first goal. Well, last year, last two years, I was in the Master's Cup after Rome. Well, if this year happen the same, I gonna change the goal. But right now, that's my goal.

Q. When you were practicing before Dubai, was that on clay, Mallorca?
RAFAEL NADAL: No.

Q. Hard?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah.

Q. You have all kinds of courts, they're hard, clay?
RAFAEL NADAL: Grass.

Q. Grass also?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, just clay and hard and indoor grass, artificial. Artificial grass. I was practicing there two years ago before Wimbledon, but that's not working very well.

Q. Rafa, when you go to that room in your house and you see all the trophies, do you sometimes think maybe my goals should be higher, maybe I should say I want to win five more grand slams, ten grand slams, become No. 1 very soon. You have seven Master Series crowns and two Roland Garros at 19. That's very, very good -- 20, excuse me.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I was good record, no? Have seven Master Series is very good and two grand slams is very good, too, no? But, well, yes, I just thinking about continuing to improve my game. I know if I continuing improve my game, continuing to be in the top positions, I gonna have the chances for a win more title and important titles. So that's my goal. And, for sure, my goal is continuing to have titles and, well, like this, like this one, or try to win another Grand Slam.

Q. Were you nervous to speak to the crowd today after not speaking to the crowd for eight months, nine months?
RAFAEL NADAL: I was not nervous, but, well, sometimes if I, when you win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, you have the speech. You remember the speech, just change little bit thing (laughing). But right now it's --

Q. That's funny. So would you say it's a relief for you to win today, a relief?
RAFAEL NADAL: (Spanish). No, no, because I feel like this when I was feeling good on court, not after title, but when I was playing good, I am, no problem.

Q. Rafa, I know you have Miami next week, but Davis Cup is coming soon in the United States, and this win for you here on hard courts and American soil will make a big difference. So can you just talk about that and then maybe say who you think the other Spanish players will be on your team?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know yet. I know nothing of the team. I don't know if I am in the team. I know nothing. Well, always what's gonna happen in Miami, but right now, I just thinking of Miami, no? After that I am will be thinking Davis Cup.

Q. You're the third Spaniard to win this tournament?
RAFAEL NADAL: Second or third?

Q. Third. The others were Jose Higueras and Alex Corretja.
RAFAEL NADAL: Higueras, yeah.

Q. Do you have a kind of relationship with either one of those gentlemen?
RAFAEL NADAL: If I have good relationship with?

Q. Do you have one at all with either one of them, do you know very well?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, they have good relation with him, Alex. I was playing two times against him when he was when he was playing. I lose (smiling).
And with Higueras I never play. But, yeah, I have good relation with him, no?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

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