Toni Nadal on why his nephew Rafa has had to become “more aggressive” on a clay. Toni was speaking to Eurosport analyst Mats Wilander for the tennis programme Mats’ Point.
Mats Wilander: “During Rafa’s injury and the time off, some people thought that maybe Rafael is never going to play tennis again. Were you worried about that?” “Yes we worried because during the injury period there have been quite complicated moments because the recovery was slower than expected. So, it’s normal to have doubts… On some occasions we were thinking that it was going to be really difficult to go back at the top level he was in the previous years. We still don’t know today if we will go back as high or a bit lower.”
Mats: “Players usually get confidence from winning matches and winning tournaments… and it seems Rafa’s confidence is way up where used to be. Are you and Rafa surprised that the confidence lifts quickly after 7 months off?” “Confidence is very important but in tennis the most important thing is the hands and legs… if both are working well, then it’s easier to be confident. Normally the best players in the world are those who have a high confidence level… I have hardly seen people with a low tennis level and having high confidence. It’s true that it’s been a surprise at how fast it’s been to win important titles such as Acapulco or Indian Wells but I think that the tennis level is what has made the difference. I think Rafael has a very good tennis level. Maybe the key moment was the Acapulco final against Ferrer which helped him realise that he can compete against players of a very high level. That pushes up the confidence level…”
Mats: “Well, Rafa has won French Open 7 times, Bjorn Borg a good friend 6 times… Can you believe that your nephew, Rafael, has won the French Open more times than Bjorn Borg?” “For me, even today, it’s unbelievable. I still remember Bjorn Borg, an amazing player. When I saw him playing, for me, he was better than Rafael. I still remember the first time he won it in 2005, I always thought that he would win more as he was still too young, but 7 times looks unbelievable to me. There are things in tennis that looks unbelievable to me… this and the 81 consecutive wins on clay. I would never have imagined it.”
Mats: “To me Rafael is always favourite playing the French Open, he’s been my favorite for 8 years… Is he your favourite to win every time?” “He is not my favourite… I always have a fear feeling of losing, so I don’t assume the favourite role. I know Rafael is part of the group of candidates to win the final… This year I think the favourites are Djokovic, Del Potro, David Ferrer, Rafael, Murray… I’m not sure about Federer… For me these are the favorites… Rafael is just part of this group but I’m not sure he is one of the big favourites…I never see it like that”
Mats: “After the break for the injury, have the goals changed for you and Rafa?” “No, no… In our philosophy of the sport, our first goal is to win and that’s motivation for anyone. It’s not about being Number 1, 2 or 3 but winning tournaments. That’s the main reason for you competing. What really changes is the way of winning. We know that if we want to win, we need to do some things different. We know we have to be a bit more aggressive, we have to go to the net more times and mostly to run less but the goals we have and Rafa has is the same… To win”.