His voice is calm and his tone of satisfaction. Rafael Nadal He speaks through a videoconference from the car that transports him to the airport, back to Manacor. After 20 days he returns with another Musketeers Cup in his suitcase. Number 13 of a story that seems endless. Is happy. With the peace of mind of having met your challenge. He did not see it at all clear when 20 days ago he arrived in Paris to play the Roland Garros more atypical than ever played before.
He feels happy and proud for the victory, for having beaten Novak Djokovic, the world number 1, the toughest rival, but above all for not “having failed myself.” He repeats it every time he can, he is happy to have maintained a positive attitude during the tournament. This Sunday he was able to eat for the first time with his family “in a quieter dinner than usual.”
-What feeling does this tournament leave you?
A great feeling. First of great joy for what has been achieved, but also sadness for the general situation. Seeing the central empty and so few people is disappointing.
-How have you lived these days in Paris?
I have spent the 20 days from the slopes to the hotel. Boring. When I was not training I read, I watched many series and I followed the news, which is worrying. I brought the ‘play station’ and played with Charly [Moyà], Rafa [Maymó] or Parcheesi. We killed the hours …
– The final was not the battle that was expected?
I am the first surprised. 6-0 and 6-2 to Djokovic, nobody expects that. On the track I had an almost perfect feeling. I saw the ball well, his shots, I was ahead. It was a special day in a very difficult match. It was what I needed to win and I did it that day.
It was an almost perfect match. I played especially well, very well. In Australia two years ago everything was the opposite. It was Djokovic who played perfect. But that’s how sport is. In Melbourne he felt like a favorite because it is his tournament, here in Paris it is mine. He had that feeling of near perfection.
-You said that what you are most proud of is your attitude.
If much. The situation was very difficult due to the conditions of the court, the balls, the weather … everything was against him. It is not usual at Rolad Garros. But I had a great attitude, determination and intensity to find solutions for my game and I am very satisfied that I succeeded.
-Do you train that mental strength, with yoga or some other practice?
I don’t do any of that to train mental toughness. Not yoga, not psychologists or anything. I work differently.
The daily effort. Forcing myself every day to do things well, especially those that I don’t feel like doing. I have always done it since I was little. Self obligation to be better.
– And can it be better, still?
You can always be better. In these years I have lost things along the way but I have added others to balance the balance. I train with the hope of improving things. That is one of my most important virtues and I think of anyone who wants to progress. And that, like me, they also have it Federer and Djokovic. The desire to be better every day has helped us in our progression. The three of us have a great self-demand.
– He said that in confinement he suffered. He had trouble getting back to training.
To get the intensity I needed. Have they been worse than on other occasions? There are worse and better times. The mileage is adding. I would never have imagined ten years ago that at 34 years old I could continue to compete at this level.
– How did you prepare the match against Djokovic?
My reference was the final in Rome a couple of years ago. It was played under similar conditions and I tried to follow the things that I did well there and improve those that I did not. I came out with a clear idea of what to do, how to play. He could have the conditions of this Roland Garros in his favor, but that scenario is unique to me. It is a very special track where I have achieved my greatest successes. That gave me great security to face the final.
–Federer congratulated him on the networks. What did Djokovic say to him at the end?
I could not talk to him. He congratulated me on the track and that’s it. It is normal. When you lose a game like that, you don’t really want to talk. I understand it.
– Does your relationship with him seem to be the best either?
I have a good relationship with him. Is a good person. We must relativize things between us.
– The season has been complicated with confinement. How have you lived it?
We did not know if we would play tennis again. Confinement was hard for me, but nothing to do with what people have suffered and suffer.
-The award has been worth it. Another Roland Garros and 20 Grand Slams to match Federer. Goal accomplished?
For me, it has been a great step in the history of this sport. I am proud to have 20 GS, but for now it is another step on my path. What really mattered to me was winning Roland Garros. When I finish my degree I will see where I stand. It is what I think and I have not changed. It is clear that I care having reached this figure and also that Novak and Federer compete for something else.
-How do you live this moment?
With all my intensity and I strive every day to keep working. That is the greatest satisfaction. The rest cannot be controlled. One day you lose and another you win. This is sport and this is how you have to live it.
-Just after finishing the final, he remembered the delicate moment that exists due to the pandemic.
We must trust that a solution is found as quickly as possible, the virus is affecting us all around the world. I said it the first day and I stick with it. We are privileged, doing our work, although I do not consider it work. We can keep playing tennis and it is a great luck.
-How do you approach it?
The only thing that we must demand of ourselves today is to strive to give a good show for all those people who are suffering the effects of this pandemic, to distract them and to bring them hope and happiness. I trust this situation, which is quite unsustainable, will not continue any longer. The tournaments are suffering a lot and I am worried about the future.