Tennisopolis : Tennis Social Network

By Lourdes Garzon | Translated by nou.amic for http://www.VamosBrigade 

Do you have the sensation that this year has been one of your best or one of your worst?

Until my knee began to give me problems again, at the end of Roland Garros, it had been one of the best seasons in my life. I felt capable of winning any competition. Then, obviously, there have been difficult moments since then, but injuries are part of sport and you have to accept them calmly. Stopping now will maybe also help extend my career a bit longer. You have to accept the situation as best you can, try to enjoy other things I've had little time for in the last few years, like being with my family and my friends. That's what I'm doing, working to recover as soon as possible, devoting a little more time to getting myself organised with my sponsors, trying to enjoy myself...

Are you afraid?

No. If my career were to end today, which is not the case because I hope to keep on playing for a long time, I'd feel very fortunate with all I've achieved. I think I'm someone who's lucky.

How do you imagine yourself in ten years' time? Will you be able to find a passion as intense as tennis?

I imagine myself working in something connected with sport. I'm a very active person, so I don't think stopping playing tennis will be a problem. What gives things meaning is doing them better than you did before or trying as best you can to do so. I'll have come to the end of an important part of my life, but I'll be happy.

What about in five years time?

I don't know. I don't know how long I'll go on playing tennis. In five years time I'll be 31 and, considering I started at 16... But anyway, who knows?

What was the thought that most occurred to you during the two years you lost Wimbledon to Roger Federer?

In 2006 I was very pleased to have reached the final, I didn't even go out there with the feeling I could win. Losing in 2007, yes, that was very hard. I had played very well all match and in the fourth set, when I was winning 4-0, 4-1, I felt something in my knee and I lost my concentration. Then I played the fifth set very badly. When you lose, you don't know if that'll be your last chance to win Wimbledon, so it's true, I was very much affected.

You won the next year, in 2008, and became world number one. What did that victory change?

Winning helped mentally in the following months. You feel as if you've passed an obstacle that you can jump again. You go to your bedroom, see the trophy, and are proud of having won it. But it's not at all something permanent. Then came 2009, 2010... Right now it affects me very little.

What was the most important victory in your life? and I'm not just talking about tennis. When did you feel the greatest sensation of success?

Success is not the victory, but all you've fought to obtain it. The certainty that you've done everything you possibly could to obtain what you wanted. That sensation makes me very happy. This year I lost in the final in Australia and, of course, I didn't like it, but, in a way I was content, it was a success to have lost like that.

Tell me about your rivals. I suppose that for anyone who's not an elite athlete it's very difficult to imagine what the relationship between you is really like. I'm thinking above all of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

I have no problem picking up the phone and calling them. We've worked a lot together on ATP matters to get initiatives going we believe can improve our sport, so we have a fluid relationship.

I suppose you know one another well. You spend many hours searching for each other's weaknesses.

We don't analyse one another that much! They've been concerned about me, asked after me, to see how I was, if I'd be ready for the US Open. We have a very cordial relationship. They are very good colleagues, but the concept of friendship is something else. My friends are those I've known all my life, since school, since I was four years old.

You keep repeating opportunities shouldn't be wasted. Do you have the feeling you've taken advantage of all of them in tennis and in life?

I mean that it's impossible to predict the future. You can try to make your life go one way and, suddenly, everything changes direction. Opportunities in sport are finite, so when one comes along you have to do everything possible. You don't know if you'll get another one, sometimes it's the only one.

You have an apparently very traditional and also very peculiar family around you. Your uncle has trained you since you were a child and still does. Your father handles your business affairs. For many years you lived in the same building as your grandparents and cousins.

I suppose being from a small town makes family relations closer. I now live with my parents and sister in a different house, but I still visit my uncles almost every day. I can only say I've been very happy with this way of understanding the family.

Seen from the outside, the Nadals are much more than a family on good terms with one another. Much more even than a clan. They give the impression of having raised a watertight iron structure that surrounds and protects him, but which also supports him and is capable of affecting him, and deeply, if it cracks. Such as when his parents decided to separate in 2009. Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon then, giving up the title that had cost him so much to win the previous year, and later admitted that, as well as the pain in his knees, what had in reality paralysed him was the fact that his family had ceased to be the wall of contention he had always known.

Grandfather Rafael Nadal was a musician and, as Rafa tells it, quite a character. In the years just after the (civil) war, he managed to get a choir of enthusiastic amateurs, but without the slightest idea how to read music, to interpret Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It is clear that his concept of unity is way above the average. Nadal has trained since he was a child with his father's brother, Toni Nadal, who is also a partner in the family businesses. It is not common, and it does not seem easy, to have the same coach from 4 years of age till you are 26. Nor is it common for your coach to accompany you from a small club in Mallorca to number one in the world. Much has been said about Toni Nadal's character, his exigence, his sense of discipline, his obsession with humility and, at the same time, with fomenting ambition. The Toni Nadal method appears to have two commandments: the first, work and the second, work. And between doing one or the other: do not think you are something special; do not give even a minute to selfcomplacency; do not celebrate a victory. But be able, for example, when you are injured, to turn up on court every morning on crutches and hit balls for hours seated on a chair. Why? To keep the brain busy, the body under tension, willpower trained.

When does Toni Nadal do his job best, in the good times or the bad times?
In the bad times I think.

It doesn't seem easy for a child and his coach to be able to grow so much professionally together. How has your uncle turned himself into one of the world's best coaches?

Sport is something that is pretty logical and simple. You succeed if you have common sense, live it with passion and take care to do things well. And he has done that.

You also have a very stable team, you've surrounded yourself practically all your career with the same people, so I imagine loyalty is very important to you. What would you consider a betrayal?

I'm an easy going person. I've never sacked anyone in my life. I value work and implication. Things can turn out better or worse, but when everything possible is done, I've no objections.

He did not say so but I imagine that for Rafa Nadal disloyalty may have much to do with indiscretion, a leak about his private life, which he has known how to safeguard all these years. We have seen only a few photos of his little sister Maribel and the little we know of her is that she studies Physical Education in Barcelona. About his girlfriend, Xisca Perelló, we know she works for an insurance company in London after graduating in Business Administration and Management. It is no easy feat to spend over five years at Rafa Nadal's side without anyone even having heard your tone of voice.

You are especially impenetrable about your private life. May I ask you why you find it so hard to talk, for example, about your girlfriend?

I think discretion is best for me and for her. Otherwise, in the end, it would all be turned into a show which seems to me totally unnecessary and very uncomfortable. I try to live in peace and quiet. I'm conscious that all this (fame) is fleeting and afterwards you return to a relatively normal life.

You've never really had a normal life. I suppose that being so famous and so rich from when you're very young makes everything very exceptional.

Yes, I've lived in anonymity and I remember it.

Do you know how much money you have?

No, to tell the truth I'm far from knowing it. It's not something I'm directly concerned with. My father takes care of it. I don't have too many whims, either. I've only bought one car for myself in my life, after winning the Wimbledon final. I haven't even bought a house for myself, I live with my parents and I'm happy like that. There'll be time for other things. I don't need more, I don't lack anything and I have much more than I ever dreamed.

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