An Interview With: Rafael Nadal (after his US Open semi-final win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny)
Q. The shot a lot of people were wowing about was the one where you kind of had to do the 360.
RAFAEL NADAL: It was not a big hit. I thought it was an instinct shot. I thought it was not another chance to put the ball inside, because I was running to the net, thinking I gonna have a volley, but Fernando hit a very good slice backhand and the ball pass at me and I had to hit the ball very late. I had to turn the 360 to have enough space to put the ball inside. I don’t know if you understand with my English.
Q. What do you think of the conditions out there?
RAFAEL NADAL: Difficult. Yeah, very difficult to play tennis tonight. But I think I did well. I did very well for moments. I started with very scared with — when I was playing with the wind and against the wind, too. But anyway, the game that I lost my serve in the third game, I think I played a great game. I lost the game 40 Love, Love 40, but he had amazing forehand down the line and two very good passing shots. So I think I played aggressive that game, but was not the right game, so just keep going. I thought that’s the right way to play well against the wind. And with the wind, in the beginning my feeling was I can’t attack the ball, because every time that I touch the ball the beginning, few forehands three meters behind the baseline. But I think because I moved — I was playing too aggressive, the shot too aggressive, because I was scared I was playing — I was moving the hands faster than usual, and I think was completely the other thing that I had to do is move the hands slower. When I found that, the game completely change.
Q. Do you like the challenge of playing in different conditions, or would you rather every day was 80 degrees and perfect?
RAFAEL NADAL: With a lot of wind, that I remember, I always played good matches with a lot of wind. Another thing is if not crazy wind, but wind to one side is a little bit more difficult for me, because playing against the wind was very tough last year. But I think I am doing better against the wind, too. Is important improve for me. You know, no one likes to play on these conditions. But at the same time, I think that one of the positive things and the two most important things that you have to do with these days is move. The movements must be all the time high intensity, and the concentration must be all the time full. So probably both things is one of my best things on the game.
Q. What’s your general emotion about having reached the semifinals for a third consecutive year?
RAFAEL NADAL: It’s great news for me, especially this year without losing a set. So is very good news. I think I played every day better. Today I played — for the conditions, I think I played a great match against very difficult opponent like Fernando. So for me, be in semifinals is amazing. But I have to keep going and keep playing better if I really want to have chances to be in the final.
Q. I understand you do not like to look ahead. You like to keep it from point to point, match to match. But Fernando was saying he thinks you’ll get to the final and play Roger. He says if he had to bet, he’d put a bet on Roger to win because he says likes Roger likes these conditions. What do you think about that statement?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, for sure Roger is the favorite of the tournament, especially because he won five times five times? And six finals in a row. No one doubt on that. And I am in semifinals, so I don’t think about the final. Everybody free to think, and what Fernando says is completely fair. I hope keep playing well and have my chance in that match in semifinal.
Q. Can you compare your feelings this year going into the semifinals to how you felt in 2008 and how you felt last year and how you’re feeling physically?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think 2008 I was ready to — maybe I was ready to — if we speak about the level of tennis, I think I was ready to do something very important here, no? But mentally I was destroyed in that moment of the season, no? Yeah, Roland Garros and Wimbledon for the first time, victory in Toronto, semifinals in Cincinnati, and Beijing champion, I think I started that match in semifinals against Andy without energy. Without energy, is impossible to have any chance to win one semifinals. Last year is no question. I don’t know, nothing to say, because I played against unbelievable player like Del Potro. He was playing amazing level, but at the same time, I had three centimeters of abdominal broke, no? It was very painful, and for me it was one of the greatest results of last year, be in the semifinals here with my abdominal broke, no? It was a great result for me. This year I think — I know how important is the US Open for me right now, and I know I have to arrive to this tournament fresh if I want to have any chance to have a very good result. That’s what I tried. I think I did. I am at the right round without problems, so that’s very positive? Right now remain the most difficult thing.
Q. I have noticed that you always leave every part of the center court with the right foot first. Why do you do that?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, that’s not true. You write that? You heard that?
Q. Every part of the court you put your right foot first.
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t know that before. (Laughter.)
Q. You do it all the time?
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, yeah? You know better than myself. (Smiling.)
Q. Can you just speak about your memories of 2006 against Youzhny and then just talk about the match coming up.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, I remember it was a painful match for me, 2006, because I think I arrived at the US Open playing better than before, because I had a not easy summer losing, I think, in round of 16 in Toronto, and quarterfinals in Cincinnati maybe. So I arrived playing so so, but during the tournament I was playing better and better. I think I lost that match because I was too yeah, I was too anxious for a moments. Remain a little bit of calm, because the match started bad, one set for him. But after that I won the second, and I had a set point I think in the third with easy, easy ball, no? So, yeah, was very difficult match. He’s a great player, very aggressive, very flat shots. This court I think adapts very well to his game, so he’s playing very good tennis. Gonna be very difficult to beat him. That’s what I can say. And I have to play aggressive, because if I am losing court against him, gonna be impossible to come back. I have to play aggressive, serve well, and try to put him away of his right position with my forehand.
Q. Is this the freshest you’ve ever felt in New York physically and mentally? I mean, obviously you’re healthy. But is it also because you changed your schedule at all? What adjustments did you make so that you get to this point where you feel so fresh?
RAFAEL NADAL: I didn’t change a lot my schedule. My schedule just changed don’t play in Barcelona. So I am fresher because I know how important is the US Open, and I’m fresher I think because I had to stop three weeks during the summer without tennis because I had to do a treatment on my knees. After that I started playing in Toronto and Cincinnati a little bit slow, slower than usual, no? Probably after that very well, after three or four months, very intense for my head, and a lot of emotions in that moments, since Monte Carlo to Wimbledon, 11 months without win a title, and after that win all these tournaments, very important tournaments for me. The body goes down a little bit, because you don’t know I don’t know, but the body, without no (through translation) with no intention, the body goes down a little bit. And after all these tournaments, when I started to play in Toronto was a little bit hard for me to not for the motivation, but you start a little bit more slower than usual, no? I think I was a little bit tired at that moment or without the right energy to play at my 100%. But arrive at these tournaments, everything change.
Q. Going back to the conditions today, which side of the court is harder to play from if you’re looking at the umpire?
RAFAEL NADAL: In this court, normally the wind goes the main entrance for the players, other side?
Q. Uh huh.
RAFAEL NADAL: Other side. The winds go to other side. That side.
Q. Do you find it easier to play on the right?
RAFAEL NADAL: When you are playing when you are on the when you have the umpire to the left, left hand, that’s always with the wind.
Q. Just quickly, could you describe the change you made to your serve?
RAFAEL NADAL: Another time, no, please? It’s nothing decisive. It’s part of the confidence, and I changed only a little bit the grip. That’s all. Maybe tomorrow — or after tomorrow I gonna serve disaster. For the moment works well.
(Source: US Open)