Rafael Nadal has arrived at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia where a tough draw is waiting for him, including a possible rematch of the quarter-final he had just lost to Alexander Zverev in Madrid. The world number three, however, is not worried about his form and feels ready to battle for more slam titles, despite the obvious pressure the new generation is bringing.
“It is something normal”, he commented on the fact that no Master 1000 has been won by any of the Big Three since Rome last year: “First thing is that we are missing events. Second thing, there is a new generation of players that are good. I think we are 34, 34, 39. That’s something usual that nothing is forever. You need to be ready to accept”.
“It is normal that after almost 20 years on the tour there is another generation that are winning tournaments”, he went on: “We have been achieving almost every single important event for the last 19 years. Nothing strange. 100% ready to accept that. But I am going to keep fighting. That means that in three weeks there is another Grand Slam that I like to play. I am going to fight to try to play well there”.
And there is no doubt that the defending champion and most decorated player in the history of Roland Garros will come as a favourite to Paris, however, he is focused on doing well in Rome first. Here, he will make his debut against local rising star Jannik Sinner.
“All the matches are difficult”, he commented on the match up against the Italian: “If you talk about a player who is very young and he’s improving every day for sure, and he’s in a moment that he’s ascending in the ranking, he’s confident, he played a great tournament in Miami, is normal is going to be a very tough one”.
“I always try to play enough good to win the match. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it goes other way”, he explained, but he did not hide the fact that a match against a young and up-and-coming prospect is always thrilling: “Tomorrow I need to play well, of course. I know he’s playing well. I know he’s going to be excited about the match. So I am, too. I am excited. I am happy to be in Rome, a place that I know very well and I had great, great tournaments. So, yeah, let’s see. I am quite excited to play that match, too”.
There was also room for some smiles, as reflecting on a 20 years long career, he was asked whether he still surprises himself when he hits one of his crazy winners: “Sometimes you enjoy when you feel yourself ready to produce any kind of shot. There is couple of days that you feel like this. And, of course, it’s a great feeling, no? I mean, the surprise is to be where I am after 20 years more than produce the shot”.