Smiling Nadal Savours Historic Moment
'The thing is to maintain high motivation to keep winning'
Spraying the ball-kids with champagne, speaking Italian at the ceremony and laughing all the way through-Rafael Nadal had won the title and he was going to enjoy it!
The joy he radiated came in stark contrast to the broody figure he cut before the tournament began, when despite coming off an incredible tournament in Monte Carlo, he seemed as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“When you have some bad moments and every week you are trying to be there and try to win…” said Nadal, before going through a litany of missed opportunities between May 2009 and April 2010 when he failed to win a tournament. “The semi-finals in Miami, the finals in Doha, in Australia the quarter-finals…… last year I played badly for the last six months of 2009 and so lots of times I was there but I wasn't ready to win important matches. But I was there – so when you lose the semi-finals or the finals it’s hard to accept, but at the same time, I worked a lot and started working towards the next tournaments. So, it's a nice moment now and I'm winning – after 11 months of not winning a title.”
Much of the Majorcan’s lack of success for that period was down to injuries, particularly with his knees, but here in Rome he was feeling 100% fit, even as the clay got heavier after the two rain breaks which interrupted the final. “I didn't have any problems with my knees the whole week which is unbelievable for me, for the last two tournaments, and so that is very important for me. But now is not the moment to talk about my knees. The important thing is that I've won a very important tournament and I’m very happy. Probably I didn't play as well as Monte Carlo, but the important thing is winning. Winning a tournament like Monte Carlo and losing 14 games doesn't happen every week. Can you remember lots of Master 1000 tournaments where (the winner lost) that many games? I can't. I lost one set and had a very difficult match yesterday (against Ernests Gulbis in the semi-final), a very difficult set against Wawrinka and a difficult first set (today). I am probably more happy winning without playing my best because it's more a mental thing.”
Talk, as always, turned to his seeming invincibility on clay and his amazing consistency, but again Nadal was both humble and realistic. “I've had a lot of bad days in the past five or six years. The thing is to maintain high motivation to keep winning. The important thing is to have enough motivation to want to improve all the time - this is the main thing for me, all of my career and all of my life and it's something that I'm still doing. For about eight months or longer I didn’t win a tournament and then I won some in the past two months. Every time I go on court I try my best and I try to do this all the time.”
And with that, he smiled. And when a supremely gifted player is finally fit enough to “try his best all the time” and explore the limits of his enormous potential, then tennis fans the world over can afford to smile as well.