After a break in injury for almost five months, she is now back on the big stage of tennis at the Australian Open. How do you feel?
Rafael Nadal (35): I am so happy to be able to compete with others again. This means everything to me. I’m still a tennis player all the time. Had a hard time getting away with it – especially when you think you can still play at your maximum level. I think so.
Are you bored without tennis?
number. I always find things to do. I was disappointed! I couldn’t play or train because I was constantly in pain or injured. I missed the competition.
I won the prep tournament in Melbourne on Sunday. What do your suits look like? Are you already 100 percent?
I never estimate my fitness level or level as a percentage. What I can say: Little by little, I am regaining the skills that will allow me to play at my best and be back to my old self again. It is only a matter of time.
What are your expectations for the Australian Open?
When I compete and play a tournament, I always have the highest expectations with all due respect to my opponent. A difficult road ahead. That is why I traveled to Australia as soon as possible to prepare as best I could. But I won’t know where I really stand until the tournament begins.
They have achieved it all and have been repeatedly set back by injuries. Why do you struggle so much for your return? You can resign and take care of your academy in Mallorca…
Movistar’s Rafa Nadal Academy is one of the key projects in my career and post-professional career, although it’s not the only one. It is developing wonderfully. But she and other off-field projects are not the reason for my return. I love the competition! I love the game! And I feel like I can still fight for titles! It always drove me when I came back from injuries.
Are you also driven by the goal of winning the 21st Grand Slam and thus bypassing Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who have 20 like you?
It’s not something that keeps me awake. When I was a kid, I never dreamed of achieving so much in my career. I am very happy with what I have achieved. If there is more, I will be happy. But me too when there is no other address.
Is Title XXI Possible? At the latest in the French Open in May, where have you already won 13 times?
I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in the 21st Grand Slam title. I will give everything I have. Obviously, Roland Garros is a very important tournament in my career, and I’m always looking forward to it. But for now, Melbourne is my target.
Have you ever thought about how many Grand Slam tournaments you could have won if you played in a different era than Federer and Djokovic? 30, 40 or even 50?
number. Nobody can answer that. I am a very realistic person. I belong to that era with Roger and Novak. I’m sure Roger and Novak made me a better player. And I made them better. We’ve had great moments and I think the fans are enjoying our competition.
Is it fun to beat Federer or Djokovic?
Fun is a wrong term. It is very difficult to beat either of them.
Who is the best of all time?
I’m glad that my name is in this discussion (laughs).
You have certain routines before and during the match. They pluck their shirt, nose and ears. Your drink bottles should be in line. Before the game, take a cold shower. How important is that to you?
All of this helps me raise my focus to the max. That’s it. I’m not off the field either.
Who is currently the best player in the world?
The rankings do not lie. Novak is the best.
Will Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas become the new “Big Three”?
They are great players, there is no doubt about that. Medvedev won the US Open, Zverev the ATP Finals. Those are the facts. They will fight a big battle for first place.
What do you like most about Zverev?
He’s a great player and he’s improved a lot in the past two years. His game has reached the next level. He has great weapons like his serve and backhand.
Tennis is a very demanding sport, and you can get yourself injured a lot. Do you fear long-term damage like the one done to Boris Becker?
Tennis is very hard on the bones, especially on hard surfaces. We do a lot of preventative exercises these days, which hopefully are paying off. Boris has suffered from many physical problems over the years. I hope I will not have to undergo such surgeries.
Step up in Supercross
First topless, then flying beer cups
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Will you train after your career?
I have a world class tennis academy in Mallorca with a system based on my experience and that of my team. I’m not ruling out anything: never say never.
Your uncle Mogil Angel Nadal was a football player for FC Barcelona, while you are a fan of Real Madrid. Were there family quarrels before?
Not at all (laughs). We are all athletes. The competitions only exist on the field.
I personally helped in the flood disaster in Mallorca in 2018 and donated 1 million euros. Are you deeply attached to Mallorcan Island?
I saw what was happening firsthand and knew people were dying. It was my mother’s hometown. It hit me hard. Coming from Mallorca myself, so I did what I could. I love the island and feel lucky to be born in such a beautiful place.
I have always remained very humble. How difficult is it as a successful tennis player?
I do not find it difficult. This is me. I am an ordinary person who was lucky enough to have a job that I love. And where you’ve been successful too. I’m just grateful for that.
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