By Luis Miguel Pascual
Paris, Jun 6 (EFE).- A day after clinching his record-extending 14th French Open title and 22nd Grand Slam win, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal told Efe Monday that he is not motivated by breaking new records.
The man from Mallorca got his hands on the trophy once more on Sunday afternoon with an emphatic straight set victory over Norwegian Casper Ruud, a product of Nadal’s academy.
Clad in a crisp white polo shirt and jeans, the 36-year-old sat down with Efe in a decadent, Baroque-style Paris hotel room to discuss his most recent success, his future, the ongoing medical treatment for his foot, his rivalry with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer and his motivation.
EFE: After so many trophies, is there something special about this one?
RAFA NADAL: I am a fairly stable person emotionally, I usually take things calmly. I am very happy, I have achieved something special, especially in the conditions in which I arrived, which were difficult. I haven’t had much time to stop and think, I haven’t stopped since the match ended. From experience I know that when a few days go by, you get home and settle in, you begin to enjoy what you have achieved.
EFE: Where do you get your motivation from?
RN: From liking what I do. I’m a competitive person, I like competition in general. Also, I like to play tennis. My motivation is not to break records, it lies in giving myself chances to keep doing something I like.
EFE: Does your capacity for perfection have limits?
RN: I have always been a very determined person when it comes to wanting to improve. From a young age, they forced me to have a good capacity for self-criticism, not to look for (someone to) blame besides myself, and to accept mistakes as personal. When you accept that the mistakes are your own fault, you look for the solution and how to improve.
EFE: The issues with your left foot add to the mix of challenges.
RN: I’ve been dealing with this problem for years, but in recent years it has become more pronounced and that complicates everything. It cannot continue as it has been the last few months. A solution must be found. And if not, then maybe it will be time for a think, but we’ll take it step by step. I always try to approach things the right way and do one thing at a time.
EFE: When you said that this could be your last Roland Garros, did you really mean it?
RN: I keep thinking about it. In the end, there is a year until the next Roland Garros and many things can happen in a year. I know what my day to day is like. Hopefully it will not be the last, I’ll say that, but it will depend on how things evolve. I can’t give you a clear answer to a question that I also don’t know the answer to.
EFE: If it were the last one, we could say that it comes after you’ve successfully won over the Paris crowd?
RN: The fans have supported me unconditionally for many years. They know how important this place is to me and everything that I have always strived for. They value the history of Roland Garros and so do I. This year two more things come together. First, that I have won Australia, that I come from a few months with problems. And that the crowd has not been here for two years.
EFE: Let’s talk about your French Open run. Was your match against Djokovic in the quarterfinals the highlight?
RN: The tournament has gone from less to more. I needed it because I arrived with almost no preparation; I had to build strength from day to day, to create options for myself.
The third round match against (Dutchman Boti) Van de Zandschulp was a step forward, but there was still room for improvement. Against Felix (Auger-Aliassime) I didn’t play well. But the last set, especially the last three or four games, I started to play at a high level. And I kept that energy against Novak, against whom I ended up playing my best match of the tournament. It was special. Between us it always is, for all the history we have together. This time I won. It was exciting, with the crowd that supported me in an incredible way.
EFE: Is the rivalry with Djokovic an additional motivation?