Rafael Nadal after winning his thirteenth French Open title

Rafael Nadal after winning his thirteenth French Open title

12-10-2020Julien de Rosa

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Rafael Nadal explained why he continues to live in Mallorca, when he could live elsewhere and pay less tax. "I am Spanish and I am happy to be Spanish. When the tax bill comes in, I am of course a little less happy. But I was lucky to have been born in a country with many virtues, one that has given me a good life. I feel deeply that I am from Manacor, that I am Mallorcan, Spanish and European. I am four times lucky."

In evading a question as to whether he is politically to the right or to the left, Nadal joked, "Don't talk to me about politics", but he did have observations about former king Juan Carlos. "He may have been wrong, but we must always remember what he did for Spain." There was also a question about religion. On the existence of God, he said: "I don't know and I don't question. For me the important thing is to act well, to help those who need it. I believe in good people. And if God exists, that will be wonderful."

Coming to tennis, he commented on having won his thirteenth French Open title. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to someone else. I am a normal person, with my uncertainties and my fears. But defeat is not among them. Fear of losing, never. I always think that I may lose. I think about this every day, against any opponent, and this helps me a great deal."

He never goes looking for enemies on court. "Cultivating enemies would wear me out. I have never allowed myself to intimidate an opponent." And he has never smashed a racket. "As a child I was taught that this is not the done thing. I'm the one who has made an error, not the racket."

Nadal spoke about the importance of his mannerisms, his tics on court. "I'm not superstitious, otherwise I would change the ritual with each defeat. I'm not even a slave to routine. My life is constantly changing, and competing is very different from training. What people call tics are a way of getting my head in order. I can be very disorganised. They are a way of concentrating and silencing internal voices telling me that I'm going to lose or, more dangerously, that I'm going to win."

As for retirement, he said that he will listen to his body. "Tennis is a sport of the mind. It isn't mathematics. When the time comes, I'll know. I will dedicate myself to the children. Our Foundation helps children at risk of social exclusion. It provides food, education, sport. We have the 'More than Tennis' project for twenty schools in Spain for children with disabilities. And we work in India, teaching English and computing to children."

He had words of praise for Roger Federer. "He is one of the great men of sport. He is my great rival, and this has benefited us both. In some ways we are alike. We care about family and a quiet life. In other ways we are different. He is Swiss, I am Latin. We have different cultures, characters and ways of life."

In 2009, he confessed that he had suffered a crisis when his parents separated. Another tough time was when he was just nineteen. "I had just won the first French Open and they told me that I could no longer play because of a malformation in my left foot. The pain was so great that I trained by hitting the ball while sitting on a chair in the middle of a court. Then I recovered, thanks to an insole that changed the position of my foot, but my knees became swollen."

He was able to overcome this "with a positive mindset, transforming the body into mental strength". "Sooner or later, things will fall into place. We must be prepared to resist, because there is no other solution than to resist."

After losing the 2007 Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, he admits that "he cried desperately for an hour and a half". "Disappointment is sometimes terrible, even if it is just a tennis match. I cried in pain when, in the 2014 Australian Open final against Wawrinka, I injured my back after winning the first set. I lost but I had completed the match, as one doesn't retire from a Grand Slam final."

On the coronavirus pandemic, Nadal expressed particular concern for his family. "I am still quite young. However, if I become infected, I can infect people at risk. I am concerned for my parents, my family, my community. It is the most difficult moment of our lives. So it's a time to fight for things that are far more important than a tennis match. We must cultivate trust."

He encourages people to overcome the crisis "with respect towards ourselves, towards our loved ones, towards others, and with responsibility and logic". "People die from the virus, but they can also starve. The blow to the economy has been very severe. We need to find the balance between health and work; between health and social protection. Safety is paramount, but so also are freedom and dignity." But he acknowledged that tennis without spectators is "sad". "The colours, the screams, the passion are missing."

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