It’s been 25 years since Rafael Nadal spoke to MARCA for the first time and now, 22 majors later, he hasn’t lost an ounce of that same sparkle when the tape recorder is turned on. He responds patiently, elaborates and does not dodge any question, although he can always surprise the journalist with one of his famous ‘banana shot’ if they persist more than is necessary.
A genius and star of a sport that has never been the same in Spain since his spectacular emergence in 2005. Long live the king.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’ve been told this before, but chasing your son around corners when he starts to walk is harder than a five-set match… Has it changed your life a lot?
ANSWER. Well, of course it has been a drastic change, but I have to organize myself to be able to continue doing my professional life in the best possible way. I am happy, enjoying a new phase, which was also due. I always thought that all this would come when I retired. That’s what I always had in my head. The thing is that my career, luckily, has lasted much longer than I expected. So I have to learn to live with this new stage of my life and try to remain as competitive as possible.
Q. Victory in Melbourne, victory in Paris, semifinals in London? Where does this 2022 rank in your prolific career?
A. Looking back, the first part of the season was very, very exciting and emotional, because I was coming from five very difficult months and my foot was not good. Also, during the exhibition in Abu Dhabi I caught the virus and I was at home for 10 days and I was devastated. In fact, when I traveled to Australia, just two days after recovering, I was not sure if I should go. Then I started to play well but I could not imagine what was going to happen later in Melbourne, with one of the most exciting finals I have ever played (Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev in five sets)
Until Indian Wells I didn’t lose any match – 20 straight wins – but in the semi-final against Carlos (Alcaraz), at the end of the third set, that’s when I broke my rib. That day, back in the locker room, I could hardly breathe, but I decided to play the final (against Taylor Fritz) because they told me it was probably a muscle spasm. Obviously, if I had known that I had a broken rib I would not have played it. From then on, the year was very complicated.
Q. In spite of that, you pull yourself out of the woods and win for the 14th time in Paris.A. Yes, but in a quite unexpected way because a week before I had come out limping from Rome. That’s the truth. It is clear that if the doctors had not found the solution to numb the nerve in my foot to remove the pain, I would not have been able to win Roland Garros. I arrived having had a very bad preparation but I had the confidence of having won in Australia and the day I needed to play very well, in the quarter-finals against Novak Djokovic, I did it. You also have to be realistic and admit that the semi-finals against Zverev were being very complicated and anything could have happened but the poor guy blew out his ankle
Q. The fairytale ended at Wimbledon. A pity.
A. Yes, it was. After winning at Roland Garros I was happy but at the same time I thought I was going to have to retire if a solution was not found for my foot because I could not continue with those chronic pains. The thing is that the new treatment worked and mentally I was much more comfortable. In fact, not since my second title in 2010 had I played so well in London. I was in a very good personal position to try to win it again.
On that stage I got hurt – Nadal retired and did not play the semi-finals against Nick Kyrgios – and from then on the year has been a disaster, because I did it again the week before the U.S. Open but I did not want to say anything at the time because I’m tired of talking about sorrows (Rafa laughs). Then I had to recover again and then my son was born, so it was difficult to reach the last stretch of the season with optimal preparation.
Q. But the bottom line is good, isn’t it?
A. Of course it is. When I look back on this year, the difficult moments and the injuries will fade into the background and it will be that I won two Grand Slam titles so the bottom line is fantastic and very exciting, but also very painful. That’s the reality