Mutua Madrid Open 2014. Interviews. Rafael Nadal: “I suffered a similar situation in Australia this year. So I know what I'm talking about and how bitter is it” - UBITENNIS
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Mutua Madrid Open 2014. Interviews. Rafael Nadal: “I suffered a similar situation in Australia this year. So I know what I'm talking about and how bitter is it”

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TENNIS Mutua Madrid Open 2014 – R. Nadal d K. Nishikori 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 ret. An interview with Rafael Nadal.

Q. Congratulations for your fourth title. Maybe it’s a little bit bitter because of the Nishikori’s retirement. Happened the same thing to you in Australia, or is it tennis?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, it’s not tennis. There are circumstances, and sometimes those things can happen. I’m sorry for him. I’m really sorry. Of course when you have the dynamic that he’s having, when you suffer something like that, it’s really tough, he’s hard.

Well, obviously I suffered a similar situation, nearly the same, in Australia this year. So I know what I’m talking about and how bitter is it, especially when you’re playing an important match. So for me it was that day was, and for him it was this day. That’s the way it is. All of us have a moment have to face it, and today it was his day. He had to face it today.

Of course for me it’s a really important title.

 

Q. Congratulations for another Masters 1000 for your career. I wanted to ask you about Nishikori. Seeing how he played the first set and the rest of the tournament and Barcelona, too, do you think that that potentially he can be No. 1 of the world?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I have no idea. To be No. 1 is pretty complicated. At the end, you know, I don’t like to put someone so high very fast, or when someone is not playing is well just throw them to the ground quickly. You have to keep your feet on the ground in every moment and think calmly.

Kei promised a lot of things, promised a lot a couple years ago, and he’s still very young. He has had a couple injuries. Whenever you suffer injuries everything is really complicated. I’m sure that he’s going to be within the best. I’m sure if he keeps playing that level he’s going to be a clear candidate to be up there.

To be No. 1 he has to show if he’s capable of playing with high regularity all year and being able to win on all surfaces.

To be No. 1 today it’s quite expensive. There are some players that play few matches, and to be No. 1, you cannot commit any errors. You have to commit very few errors, and the correct place.

If not, it’s really tough.

 

Q. Before he suffered, did you see another possibility to come back to the match? What was the percentage?

RAFAEL NADAL: You know I never look at the percentages when I’m playing. I just looking at the next point. That was my percentage, the next point, then the next one, and on and on. That’s all.

You know, I went through a really complicated moment in the first set. I think I played a really high level with the first two points. I played with aggressiveness, and then I was blocked.

There was some moments where, I don’t know, I couldn’t find myself. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play or I was missing intensity, I was just mentally blocked. I had to go over that block.

It’s also true that I had some moments to go over it, and I couldn’t do it, because at the beginning of the second set he played really well. He did a break and we were playing quite well. I missed two returns and he did an ace.

So there are circumstances of the match that strike you all during the match. When you’re blocked, you just need a spark to go out there and compete again. I think the most positive thing for me is that in the second set, suffering, having a bad time out there, I managed to find the way to compete. You know, I was competitive on the second set.

I was being competitive. I had to to get back into the match and I think I was getting closer. I think I was. I think when I broke him, I think he was not that bad. I think. I’m talking honestly. I try to speak honestly whenever it happens to me and when it doesn’t.

I think when I managed to recover from the break in the second set he was playing normally. I think I saved a couple good points. I battled with a lot of points to play aggressively. It’s true, after going back and doing the break that he was just gone. He was going down and he couldn’t play anymore.

So I was being competitive. I don’t know if I would have been able to win the match. I’m not trying to think on that. In this moment I’m pretty happy because of my attitude. Within the negativeness that was going on in the match, I was still with a lot of illusion. I still had the energy to keep on trying, even though it was pretty tough.

In the end, I was also thinking that I just    after the match that I lost in Barcelona, after the match that I lost in Australia, the match that I also lost in Indian Wells    I was also pretty close to winning in Dolgopolov    in some way I wanted to think that this year, you know, I just deserved something.

I was just fighting, because if I had the option I was going to be there to pick it up. It’s for sure that if I didn’t fight that tennis wouldn’t have given me that prize.

 

Q. The first day that you sat here you said that you had some doubts. How do you leave Madrid to face Roland Garros?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, much better, of course. Of course whenever you win in sport, well, it’s something basic. It’s a vital part of sport.

Because whenever you win, you see things more clearly. You see again how to play. You are calm once again. You know how to strike the ball properly in the key moments.

Even though I think that today I did a not so good first set, I think I did a great tournament. This is the reality of the situation. You know, I didn’t do this in Monte Carlo or Barcelona. It’s true in Barcelona against Dodig I did a little bit better. Against Almagro, I played a set and a half pretty well, but without being secure in what I was doing.

That security here in this tournament, I’ve really had it here. I have felt again that I had that    well, you know, it’s really complicated to explain. It’s a feeling that you have when you’re in the court. You know, the feeling of being secure.

The feelings that the things that you want to do you’re doing, that things are going in the line you want them to. I think I did that with Berdych and Nieminen, and with Bautista I did it for a long time.

Overall I think I did a pretty complete tournament. For me, you know, I should have maintained the level that I played during the first two matches during the whole tournament, which was the ultimate match for me to close this tournament.

I also have to face a complicated match and know how to battle them. That makes you stronger. I also needed to suffer and face complicated situations. I needed to go over them.

In this situation I hadn’t gone over them in the previous tournaments, and here I have. I won here, and it’s a pretty important tournament for me.

 

Q. Rafa, are you working on going up to the net? Today you didn’t do a lot of that, but it was very effective. The second serve, sometimes people that return well, they attack it. Are you working on those things?

RAFAEL NADAL: The second serve, you know, I served that way because of my general block. You know, my second serve was because of my confidence, because of my mental block. When going up to the net, you cannot go to the net when you are two meters behind the line returning.

Whenever you striking the ball, if you don’t have the confidence that it’s going to go in the court, you cannot go up. You do it three or four times and you see the space and you go up. That’s basic and logical in tennis. You cannot go to the net when you’re striking a good ball and then you throw three balls out of the court.

You just cannot go up. To go up to the net you need regularity. That’s what gives you the opportunity to go up to the net when you have opportunities.

 

Q. Two questions: First all, the crowd was of course supporting you. But as you just said, you were a little bit blocked. Was the crowd a support? And then secondly, you said that you are no longer 20 years old and we have another generation of tennis players coming. Which point do you think you are in in your career now?

RAFAEL NADAL: First of all, in my life I’ve had the feeling that the crowd, whenever I played, goes against me whenever I play home. And when I say that, the pressure is more than what the audience gives me. True that today whenever I had that negative feeling, whenever you’re playing home, maybe makes you a little bit more blocked because you want to do things properly.

You don’t want to disappoint all the people that are supporting you. You just want to do things well. But at the same time that I say that, thanks to the support of them. In the second set I was capable of competing again.

With what I was doing, the crowd just pushed me a little bit more and gave me the rest. So if you ask me, I’m always going to choose to play with the crowd supporting me, in my favor, of course. Obviously.

And talking about my career, I don’t know what you want to know. I am where I am. I’m 27 years old, nearly 28 in a few weeks. I don’t know. How many years have I been on the tour? 12? That’s a lot.

But I’m where I am. I’m competing for the tournaments that I’m competing for. I feel well physically. I’m feeling better and better physically, better than a year ago. This is the most important thing.

Mentally I still have the illusion for what I’m doing. It still makes me happy. I still feel fortunate for doing what I’m doing.

So those things make it worth it for me. Just doesn’t make me think on which moment I’m in my career. Just makes me think next week I’ll play in Rome and the next one, Roland Garros.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

 

Q. Can I get your assessment of the way you played today and what it means for you to have won this tournament four times playing in front of your home crowd in your home tournament?

RAFAEL NADAL: Always win at home is more special than wining anywhere. Have the chance to play in front of your crowd and enjoy the feeling, the full support, is unforgettable for me. This city give me a lot. Give me everything.

The feeling that it gives me to play in] Spain, and Madrid in this case, is very difficult to find this feeling away from here, no?

So a very important victory for me. Very sorry for Nishikori. I really hope that it’s nothing too bad and he will have the chance to compete very soon again. He’s very important for our tour.

Japan is a big market. He’s a good guy. He’s a fantastic tennis player. So he’s doing everything great, and I want to congratulate him for everything.

 

Q. Maybe somebody ask you in Spanish, but you said something on court after the match that he was kind of crying. You go there to say something to him. Could you tell me what you said to him?

RAFAEL NADAL: Just I was asking to him where was the pain. I thought was the back. He told me that was the leg.

I just tried to hurry up him, to give my support to him, because I know how tough is have these problems on court in front of a big crowd. Happened to me a few times in my career, and I can tell you that this is not fun.

These moments are tough to accept, and I felt very sorry for him.

 

Q. Maybe this also you answer, but could you just tell me your impression of Kei Nishikori, especially in the first set?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, he’s an unbelievable player. He’s a player that he will fight to be in London in the Masters Cup this year. I am sure of that. I really hope that the injury is not too bad and he will be able to compete in Roland Garros.

And he’s doing fantastic things since the beginning of the season. He’s playing at his best level of his career, and that’s great. I am really happy for him. It’s good to have a player like him on the tour.

 

Q. Congratulations on another victory. What was it that surprised you most about Kei’s performance in the first set, if there was anything that surprised you? And even when you were losing it did you feel you could still come back and win the match?

RAFAEL NADAL: Normally I am a positive guy in general, so I always believe that I can find a solution.

But it’s true that for moments it was really tough, because I really didn’t have not one good feeling.

So was frustrating for moments during the match, but it’s true that I was fighting and fighting mentally. Physically always is a little easier part. Mentally is the most difficult part.

I was trying to fight a lot mentally to change the direction of the match and to change my personal feelings. That was the thing that I was focused on, because I know he was playing great.

Okay, nothing to say with that. The thing that I had to do was play better on me, no?

I need to forget about the pressure and forget about the bad feelings and try to find my game.

Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: Djokovic-Led PTPA Accuse Officials Of Failing To Prioritize Players After Late-Night French Open Finish

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Court Philippe-Chatrier - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto Delli'Olivo)

The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) has told Ubitennis that organizers are ‘unwilling’ to recognize the issue surrounding late-night matches following a recent example at the French Open involving their co-founder. 

Novak Djokovic didn’t finish his third round match against Lorenzo Musetti until 3:07am on Sunday at the Grand Slam due to an extra match being added to the line-up on Philippe Chatrier. The first week of the tournament has been affected by poor weather with matches getting postponed, cancelled or moved elsewhere at the Grand Slam. Djokovic returned to the court less than 48 hours later to play Francisco Cerundolo where he sustained a knee injury during his five-set victory and has now been forced to withdraw from the tournament. 

In a statement, the PTPA has called for a collective gathering to take place so the issue of late-night matches can be addressed. Recently the WTA and ATP have laid out a framework to stop matches being started beyond 11pm unless both the tournament supervisor and players agree to do so. However, the four major events each have their own governing body and are therefore not affected by these rules. 

“It’s imperative that Grand Slam and tour leaders, tournament organizers, and players – through the PTPA as their advocacy group – come together to explore and determine a solution for preventing late-night finishes, whether that is a curfew or an alternate resolution,” the PTPA told Ubitennis via email. 
“We know that late-night finishes have tremendous negative consequences and force players into unfair, unsafe, and unhealthy working conditions. Yet these late finishes continue to happen because of an unwillingness to acknowledge the issue and prioritize players’ best interests.”

In recent days, some players have spoken out about playing into the early hours of the morning. One of the latest to do so is Ons Jabeur who also sits on the PTPA’s players’ committee. Speaking to reporters following her quarter-final loss to Coco Gauff in Paris, the Tunisian says it ‘isn’t healthy’ to have late-night matches for all of those involved. 

“We deserve a better scheduling. We talked about this in Australia. We are still talking about this here,” said Jabeur.
“Even for you, the journalists, I don’t think it’s healthy to have these night matches. It’s for everybody I’m speaking…
“We have to find a way out so that everybody is happy — the players, the journalists, the full team.
“The ball kids are young and they’re still on the courts when it’s really late. I don’t know if it’s logical to have all that.”

Meanwhile, women’s world No.1 Iga Swiatek says she prefers day sessions because she likes to ‘sleep normally.’ However, the Pole adds that she and her peers need to accept what is thrown at them as they have limited say on such matters. 

When asked about Swiatek’s remarks, PTPA says their objective is to give a voice to those players. The organization was co-founded by Djokovic and Vasel Pospisil, who are both now listed as directors. It aims to campaign for players to have a greater say in the decision-making process as an independent entity. Although they have been accused of trying to divide the sport, which the PTPA denies, and others argue that the Tour’s already have their own player councils. 

“Unfortunately, to Iga’s point, players have historically had no say in scheduling, and that is exactly why the PTPA exists – to amplify their collective voice and to advocate on their behalf.” They said.
“We are committed to protecting players’ well-being and empowering them to compete to their highest ability. It’s long overdue that tennis’ stakeholders come together to explore and vet viable, logical solutions that protect players, and we look forward to being part of the solution.”

Another ongoing argument at the French Open concerns the evening match slot, which featured male players every day at this year’s tournament.  Wednesday will also be the fifth day in a row that the women’s matches have been scheduled to take place before the men’s on their premier court. However, a reason for this happening is due to the women’s semi-finals and final being scheduled a day earlier. 

“There are a multitude of factors that impact scheduling, including matchup quality, but gender should not inherently be one of these factors.” The PTPA states.
“The PTPA believes in equitable opportunity for men’s and women’s players, as indicated in our official principles. No player or matchup should be deprioritized based on gender alone.”

There is yet to be any specific response from French Open organizers regarding the issue of late-night matches and the selection of which players will play in the evening slot. However, these topics will likely be addressed later this week in their annual end-of-tournament press conference.

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Interviews

(EXCLUSIVE) French Open: Alex Corretja On Alcaraz, Sinner And Comparing Swiatek To Nadal

The two-time Roland Garros runner-up shares his views about a group of players ahead of this year’s Grand Slam.

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The French Open is a place of fond memories for Alex Corretja who won more matches at the event than at the other three Grand Slams combined. 

Corretja, who peaked at a ranking high of No.2 in the world in 1999, twice featured in the title match at Roland Garros. He lost in the 1998 final to Carlos Moya before being denied the trophy yet again three years later by Gustavo Kuerten. Overall, he made 13 consecutive appearances at the tournament before retiring. 

The Spanish 50-year-old continues to work in the sport as a media pundit for Eurosport. Ubitennis managed to catch up with him shortly before this year’s French Open draw took place. In a brief exchange, he shared his views on how Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner will fare on their return from injury issues. Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue which made him miss a trio of events and Sinner has been nursing a hip problem. Meanwhile, in the women’s draw is the title Iga Swiatek’s to lose? 

UBITENNIS: You are a former Roland Garros finalist. So I guess you have some great memories of the tournament? 

CORRETJA: Yes, you’re right. Roland Garros is probably the most important tournament for me of the majors I played in my career. For at least five years I reached the later stages (of the draw) from quarter-final to final. At the same time, it hurts a little to feel that I was so close to winning the tournament. In the end, I didn’t but I gave 100% I had. I can’t say anything about my tennis. I didn’t do better because the others were better. 

I’m very happy with my collaboration with Eurosport, which gives me the opportunity to do interviews on the court. It’s a great satisfaction for me to talk about Roland Garros. 

UBITENNIS: I’m going to go back to this because I imagine that for Spanish players in general Roland Garros is the tournament of excellence. I want to ask you if Carlo Alcaraz is ready, in your opinion, for the tournament starting next week.

CORRETJA: If his arm doesn’t hurt, he’ll be ready because in Paris he’ll find all the good sensations he couldn’t get from playing during the clay season. 

The first week can be very important for him to build up his confidence, the rhythm that he couldn’t find in tournaments like Rome, Monte Carlo, and Barcelona that he didn’t play. He just played three matches in Madrid and it’s a shame because normally the clay court season is very important for him. But he has to adapt to what he has and I think he’s still in a process of evolution and improvement. He’s still very young, he turned 21 a few days ago and I’m pretty sure that if he doesn’t have any issues with his arm, he’s going to be one of the toughest protagonists to beat in Paris.

It is true that this (year’s) Roland Garros is the most uncertain. For almost 20 years Rafa has always been the top favorite but right now it’s quite unpredictable because no one knows which conditions of form Djokovic will arrive with, how Alcaraz will arrive, how Sinner will arrive, and even Rafa. But we know that these players are special and when they are able to play a little bit and get into a rhythm, they are very dangerous because playing the best of 5 sets with players like that is not easy. 

Roland Garros is very hard and mentally it’s not easy to channel all the emotions. Physically, it’s very demanding. You have to have a lot of patience with the playing conditions. One day it’s very hot, another day it’s very windy. You play night session, day session. Everything changes and then I think some are more adaptable than others.

UBITENNIS: As for Sinner, if you were in his shoes, would you prefer not to risk, maybe looking more to the grass swing, or would you try in every way to step out on court?

CORRETJA: It’s up to him. If he’s fine and doesn’t feel pain, I think it’s normal that he wants to play and not think, “I’ll rest and see what I can do on grass.” 

It’s very difficult to say “No, I’m not going to play Roland Garros because I can take some time”. If he’s not hindered by injuries, it’s normal for him to try to play and then let’s see what happens.

For me, Jannik is a good guy, impressive and very professional, someone very serious who always tries to improve his game. He has a team that I really like with Simone and Darren and all the others. He is an example (for others to follow).

UBITENNIS: Finally, the men’s tournament is the most uncertain we’ve had in the last 20 – 25 years. However, the women’s draw has become like the men’s tournament of the past because we have a favourite (Iga Swiatek) who is like Nadal because she seems unbeatable. What’s your view?

CORRETJA: Well, Swiatek has her own personality and you can’t really make such comparisons, but it’s true that it’s a bit like when Rafa arrived, after winning all the other tournaments he had played before, then he used to come and win again. She’s won three times in Paris and she knows the surface perfectly. It’s going to be very tough to beat Iga because she’s very consistent. I think she’s playing a little bit more aggressively and let’s see how she does it. But she’s hungry to win again and that’s really to be admired because I think she’s a very young player. 

But she has a very strong personality and works a lot psychologically. Physically, I think she moves much better than the others. It was very important for her to beat Sabalenka in Madrid. In fact, after that, she also won the final in Rome. 

Sabalenka may have come up a little tired but at the same time, it was very important for her to endure fatigue and still reach the final because this means that she has also matured a lot and has found a nice system.  

NOTE: The original interview was conducted in Italian by Luca De Gasperi and has been translated into English by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

SEE ALSO: EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

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Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

The former world No.1 tells Ubitennis her favourites for this year’s title, what underdogs to look out for and speaks about Dominic Thiem’s farewell.

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Ana Ivanovic pictured with the 2008 French Open trophy (image via https://x.com/anaivanovic)

16 years have passed since Ana Ivanovic was the player lifting the French Open trophy. 

In 2008, the Serbian socred back-to-back wins over Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina en route to the first and only Grand Slam title of her career. At the French Open, Ivanovic won more matches (37) than at any other major event and was also runner-up in 2007 to Justine Henin. 

Now retired from the sport, the 36-year-old continues to keep an eye on what is happening on the Tour in both the men’s and women’s events. So what does she think about this year’s French Open? 

The women’s draw – Is the title Swiatek’s to lose?

Iga Swiatek is targeting a fourth title in Paris which would make her only the fourth female player to achieve this milestone in the Open Era. The Pole is currently on a 12-match winning streak after claiming titles in Madrid and Rome. As for those who are the biggest threat to her, Ivanovic has two names in her mind. 

“I think the biggest threat is Ayna Sabalenka – they (her and Swiatek) played an amazing match in Madrid. It was a very tight one. And Elena Rybakina even though clay is probably not her favourite surface,” Ivanovic tells Ubitennis via email. 

Another player Ivanovic tips as a dark horse is Danielle Collins, who is playing the last season of her career. Since January she already rocketed up the rankings from 54th position to 12th, winning the biggest trophy of her career in Miami. On clay, she won the Charleston Open and more recently reached the semi-finals in Rome. 

“Danielle Collins had an amazing tournament winning back-to-back Miami and Charleston and also playing well in Rome again. I think she is a dark horse for the French Open.” She said.
“She seems to play very freely and enjoy herself out there. She has been in very good form this year, winning a lot of matches. She has a big chance to come far into the second week of the French Open.”

The last player ranked outside the top 10 to win Paris was Barbora Krejcikova in 2021 and the last American to do so was Serena Williams in 2015. 

As for other contenders, Ivanovic hopes a rising star of the sport will perform well. 

“I think now in women’s tennis we see more similar faces in the semifinals and finals. But I would really like to see Mirra Andreeva go far.” She commented about the Russian 17-year-old, who is currently ranked 38th in the world. 

The men’s draw – will Djokovic regain his form in time?

It can be argued with good reason that the men’s draw is the most open it has been in recent editions. Defending champion Novak Djokovic is still to win a title this year and experienced a turbulent time in Rome where he received a blow to the head during a freak accident. Meanwhile, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz have been hindered by injury setbacks in recent weeks with both of them missing the last Masters event. 

“There have been a lot of new players in the last few weeks reaching far in the tournaments and beating some top players,” Ivanovic said about the state of men’s tennis.
So we are going to see many new faces on the men’s side. Of course Novak is still the strongest contestant for the title, but also Alcaraz and Sinner.”
“Novak had a little bit tougher clay court season so far than usual, but I think he is for sure peaking his full form for the French Open.”

As for the ‘strongest contestant’, the former world No.1 picks Djokovic and Alcaraz. Although there is a chance of a new Grand Slam champion. So who would Ivanovic pick for glory out of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud?

“Out of the other 3, I would pick Zverev as the highest chance to win the French Open.” She replied.

Thiem’s Paris Swamsong 

Beside chasing for glory, one of the storylines of this year’s event will be the depature of Dominic Thiem who will play in Roland Garros for the last time before retiring later this year. The two-time finalist is playing in the qualifying draw after being controversially denied a wildcard. Whilst some ruled the decision as unfair, Thiem later said he has no hard feelings. 

“Honestly I had a long time to be in a good ranking,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I had enough tournaments and enough time to climb up the ranking and I didn’t do it, so I kind of didn’t deserve it and that’s fine. I had 10 main draw appearances in the last years so that’s more than enough.”

The former US Open champion has been praised by Ivanovic who says it is ‘always great’ to watch him play. Ivanovic played her last Tour-level match in 2016 which was the same year Thiem reached his first of four French Open semi-finals. 

“Dominic had a great career and it’s been always great to watch him play,” she said. 
“It has been very unfortunate with his injuries the last years so it has been tough years for him. I really hope he can do well at the French Open and has a nice farewell.”

During her career, Ivanovic played in 48 Grand Slam main draws and won 15 WTA titles. She held the No.1 ranking for 12 weeks during 2008. 

The French Open main draw will get underway on Sunday. 

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