Originally Posted by Subventricular Zone
I want to become like before
LíEquipe, 7 February 2013
By Frťdťric BernŤs
So, there is a post-Lukas Rosol. But, we had to wait almost 8 months before Rafael Nadal could turn the page on that nightmare of a defeat in the second round of Wimbledon on the 28th of June 2012. Heís suffering from Hoffaís syndrome on his left knee, infiltrated since Roland Garros and it still hurts him today. But, according to the doctors, the healing is right around the corner, very close.
The idea for this interview in Chili was discussed and sealed with his PR agent during the Australian Open. When we arrived here, we were suddenly stopped. He was said to be stressed, worried, not wanting to open up and not very eager to have an interview before his first round. And since Monday morningÖring, ringÖthe telephone sounds. If we could meet in his hotel. Arriving there, we witness him undergoing a weird event organised by the sponsor of the tournament. A room, teenage music and whole collection of guests from reality tv shows. All in mini-skirts and revealing shirts, the jet-set of ViŮa del Mar has its time in the spotlights with Nadal. The women ask him questions he canít hear because of the music, cameras light up and then, it stops. Done. So, we go upstairs to his room with his press agent Benito Perez-Barbadillo and his manager Carlos Costa.
As usual, Nadal doesnít look at his watch. At the end of his last answer, after a 50-minute conversation, the tape recorder is stopped. But Nadal kept on talking. He went downstairs to the lobby to join his uncle Toni and his physio Rafael Maymo after which the discussion continues. Since two or three lolitas are still in the vicinity, he had to pose for more pictures. Which he did, calmly.
Q: Whatís the predominant feeling today? Relieved to have been able to put an end to the forced stop, joy to be able to play again, stressed out of fear of not going to do well or fear of still hurtingÖ?
Rafa: Fear? No. Stress, yes. Thatís normal. I feel relieved and joyful, thatís certain. In fact, the theme of the moment is patience. I need to take it step by step and accept that Iím not going to be at my maximum level right away. I havenít played in seven months. If Iím not humble, itís not going to work. Iím not afraid because I know in what state my knee is in. Since three weeks, all the tests I have undergone have shown perfect results. The truth is that my left knee is in fantastic shape compared with the other one (laughs). I know now that if I run, I wonít risk torn tendons. Thatís ďimportantissimeĒ. The doctors have promised me that. So, itís alright, no anxiety. Even if the tendon still gives me pain...
Q: Is that pain normal. Did the doctors warn you about it beforehand?
Rafa: Yes, they told me that it would disappear gradually. Normally, it should be gone by the end of February. I will regain my normal mobility on court. I just need to give my patellar tendon time to get used to intense efforts.
Q: How would you describe that pain?
Rafa: Itís a settled pain. I could feel it in the morning while getting up and in the afternoon while Iím eating or while hitting a backhand. My first two days in Chili were difficult: I was feeling a lot of pain and I didnít have one good training session. On Sunday and Monday, it went well. So, I was very pleased by that. I need to accept it. Before, I had pain 9 days out of 10, then 8 out of 10 and itís getting less and lessÖ.But, well, pain or not, the overwhelming feeling is the joy of being here, to train with the pros, to have a match, to play, to feel the competitionÖ
Q: You have never had to stop for such a long time. Starting again now must be more stressful than in 2006 when you had a foot injury which forced you to stop for three months.
Rafa: Honestly? No. Remember that my foot injury was bad. Doctors painted me a picture of the end of my career. With my knee, that was never the case. What was different is that in 2006, I was just starting out. Today, Iím still only 26 years old. I still have time and I want to continue playing for years. What both injuries have in common is that nobody found the formula to get rid of the pain.
Q: Being sidelined for nearly eight months, what was the toughest moment?
Rafa: The worst was when I realised that I could not compete in the Olympic Games. At the start, I thought that I would heal quickly. What was difficult is that my knee let go at the best moment of my career.
Q: The best? Youíve won more in 2008, 2009 or 2010Ö
Rafa: Yes, but in 2012, I really played better. The Australian Open final against Djokovic, even if I lost it, was great. I continued to win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Roland Garros. I exploded on court.
Q: If you had lost against Delbonis, would that have been bad?
Q: How about having high expectation? And ambitions?
Rafa: I havenít lost them. That, never! But here, the result is the least important of all things. Same with the ranking. If all goes well, my goals will change obviously within two months. I aim to be at 100% to attack in Monte Carlo and in the following events on clay. To lose here, pffft, thatís no problem. Seven months of rest, seven months of never being able to practice at full tilt: the logical thing would be for me to lose here. It would only be a drama if my knee would hurt too much.
Q: If those knee tests are perfect since four weeks, that means that even without that stomach virus in December, you wouldnít be ready to compete in the Australian Open.
Rafa: Thatís correct. The question was: can I win in Melbourne? The answer was no. I donít see myself going to a grand slam with that answer is no. Here, in ViŮa, it would not affect me as much as if I would have lost early in Melbourne.
Q: A lot of people are talking about your return as if youíre starting a second career. Is this correct?
Rafa: My career is already quite full as it is. I donít feel like beginning another one. (laughs). I will continue with this one if thatís alright with you (laughs). Iím still the same. I still feel passionate about the game. I still have the same demands with every shot I hit. Iím still as motivated as before to train. If my knee allows me to train for longer than three hours per day at full tilt and if I can run without thinking about my knee or the pain, why wouldnít I be able to do what I did before? The fact that I was playing excellently when I was forced to stop, is helping me right now. The memory (of those good sensations) is really fresh.
Q: With whatís happening with your knee, are we going to get back to the Nadal of before? Very strong on clay, capable of winning Wimbledon but in difficulty on hardcourts?
Rafa: Everything depends on the knee. If it holds up, I donít have the intention of changing my schedule by playing more on clay than before. Why? Because if you want to become the first, second or third in the world ranking, you have to play and win on hardcourts. Honestly, I think itís possible.
Q: If we tell you that you will win the US Open next year, do you think that this would be possible?
Rafa: I will tell you that I donít know. And Iím telling you that I didnít know it in 2010 before winning it. But if my knee is well, give me a reason to prevent me from believing in it. Just one. I spent the previous eight years being the world number one or two, so I dare to hope that I havenít forgotten how to play tennis within seven months. I donít want to appear arrogant but I just want to say think that I can go back to that level.
Q: And if we tell you that youíre going to win Roland Garros in four months, does that seem possible to you?
Rafa: Iím telling you that I donít know (laughs). Nobody knows. If I can play Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome the way I want it, I will have a chance. And I will try it.
Q: In Australia, Mats Wilander said that you wonít have enough time and that even if your name is Nadal, you will be an outsider in Paris this yearÖ
Rafa: Good. Alright. Weíll see. Itís true that I wonít be the favourite in Paris but I donít need to be in order to win.
Q: Agreed, but do you need this here in order to get back to the top 4 in order to prevent a quarter final against Djokovic, Federer or Murray?
Rafa: First of all, I still need to get to the quarter finals and given all the points that I have to defend in the coming months, it will be difficult from here to the end of May. After that, do I need it to win Roland Garros? No. I can get back to the level needed for the top 4 without being in the top 4. After all, whatís more difficult: to get back to the top 4 from now until Roland Garros or to win Roland Garros? In my opinion, the first is harder.
Q: After the recent finals in New York, Melbourne, some Ė among which Marian Vajda, the trainer of Djokovic Ė have said that this is the start of the Djokovic-Murray era. You have an ego. How does it take this?
Rafa: My ego is calm. (laughs). It doesnít bother me to hear that. Itís not wrong. Itís correct at the moment, isnít it? These are two superb players who have played the last two grand slam finals. It would imply and end to the Federer-Nadal rivalry one but who knows. Iím only one year older than Djokovic and Murray so perhaps now is not the time to bury me. Eight months ago, I was in an excellent position to become world number one again. Letís not forget to quickly. Now, I will try to nudge myself in that Djokovic-Murray era (smiles).