Rafael Nadal talked with euronews about the best season of his career. A season that will be capped off with a lucrative Shanghai Masters tournament and a Davis Cup final showdown in November against Argentina.
euronews: To start with euronews would like to congratulate you on winning the Prince of Asturias Award for sport.
Nadal: Thank you very much.
euronews: What does it mean for you to win such a prestigious award?
Nadal: To win such an award is, without doubt, the most important thing that has happened to me outside of a tennis court. To receive this accolade goes above and beyond tennis because you have that humane aspect about it which is fascinating and that is why I am so proud.
euronews: If we take a look at 2008 – you won your fourth Rolland Garros title, your first Wimbledon crown, gold at the Olympics this summer in Beijing and secured the world number one ranking. You also won the Prince of Asturias award… what more can you ask for?
Nadal: You can’t ask for anything more… you can always do a little bit more, but I am extremely happy with what life has presented me. I am a very happy person and I am going to try and work hard to keep hold of the feeling I have at the moment.
euronews: Now that you top the world rankings, what is the hardest part of that achievement for you, getting there or maintaining that position?
Nadal: I have always said that both are very complicated, getting there and maintaining that position. I am very happy to have reached the number one spot and now I am going to put in the work to stay at the top as long as possible.
euronews: Given the enormous amount of points you will have to defend next season, do you think the 2009 calendar is a little too busy and needs to be scaled down?
Nadal: That’s just the way the calendar is and talking about it is not going to help matters. When something is already put into place, complaining about the situation isn’t helpful. But having said that it is true some changes could have been made at certain moments in time and if I don’t get a chance to take advantage of possible future changes, maybe the players of tomorrow will benefit from a less strenuous calendar, so they can play tournaments without the pressure that playing each week brings.
euronews: Looking at the number of tournaments there are, will you give priority to quality or put everything into quantity?
Nadal: It’s not a question of opting for quantity or quality. You go for what there is, you play what you can play. There is no alternative but to play. Nothing more nothing less. So I am not going to give priority to quantity. I have just gone about it like every other player in the world. I have not necessarily played more than others, just the same amount. What happened is that I played more matches because things were going well for me. I reached a lot of finals, semi-finals which means you are forced to play a huge amount of matches. Nine Masters series are on the calendar as well as four grand slams, five other tournaments, the Masters and the Davis Cup. In actual fact I play the required minimum, no more.
euronews: Your progression in just a few years has been staggering. You have gone from being a clay-court specialist to an all-surface player. How do you see your evolution?
Nadal: A few years ago I played on all the other surfaces, but I was quite young at the time. It’s true that all the great players get to where they do because of their capacity to improve. Federer plays well on all surfaces as did Agassi. Sampras also, even though he never won the French Open he was great on all surfaces. Bjorg won on all surfaces, McEnroe was good everywhere, so if you want to be a great tennis player you need to improve continually in order to be better on all the surfaces we compete on.
euronews: Lets talk about you opponents, what qualities do they have that you would like for yourself, and what are your qualities they would like to have?
Nadal: Well… you will have to ask them that. Personally I would like to have a better service, a more powerful and better-placed service. After that I would like to position myself better on the court, a little further forward because that helps you see the spaces more clearly. But these are things that need to be worked on day in day out and I hope that I will continue to improve.
euronews: Concerning the Davis Cup, the Argentines are extremely provocative, masters of the mind game… can we expect a dirty war in the final in Mar del Plata?
Nadal: I have no idea what to expect. Whatever happens we will go there and do our best. Personally I have a good relation with all the players we will confront. I don’t think anything underhand will happen. It is going to be very important for us to play in the final and we are going to give it our best shot for our country and hope we come away triumphant. We are aware that we are not favourites but I hope we can give them something to worry about.
euronews: What have you given tennis and what has tennis given you?
Nadal: I don’t know what I have given to tennis… For me tennis is a very important part of my life. It is where I invest myself the most. It is a short sporting career, I have to make the most of it while it lasts, live it to the maximum…up to now it has gone really well for me.
euronews: Is tennis a clean sport?
Nadal: The majority of sport in general is clean. At least I would like to think it is and I believe it is. It is true there are a lot of sports where doping cases are in abundance and that casts a doubt over all sportsmen, but I do think that in reality most sports, football, tennis among others are clean.
euronews: Lastly, some believe you have one flaw, one single flaw, that you are a supporter of Real Madrid. Will you one day wake up a fan of Barcelona like your uncle Toni Nadal?
Nadal: In my opinion it is neither a flaw nor a quality… I am also a supporter of Mallorca, my regional team. I am a Real Madrid fan… but I have lived some really special moments at the Nou Camp, I’ve chanted the club anthem thousands of times and I do have a soft spot for Barca.
(via Euronews, photo/AFP/Getty Images)