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Controversy – Rafael Nadal: “I don’t care much if I’m the best in history”

Rafael Nadal chats to the press after he won his 21st grand slam title at the Australian Open 2022.
RAFAEL NADAL: No drinking alcohol for the last four months (laughter).
CRAIG TILEY: It’s late. 21 Grand Slam titles, what an epic match.
RAFAEL NADAL: Thank you, Craig.

CRAIG TILEY: You made us all proud. It’s going to be something we’ll never, ever forget. Congratulations to you. Thank you, everyone, for being here at 2:40 a.m. in the morning.

RAFAEL NADAL: Thank you very much. Thanks for everything.

RAFAEL NADAL: If we put everything together, the scenario, the momentum, what means. Yeah, without a doubt probably have been the biggest comeback of my tennis career.

Q. Down two sets to love and facing those three break points in the sixth game of the third, what turned it around? What happened that you were able to come back from that stage?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I don’t know. In that moment, of course, situation have been critical. But sport is unpredictable, no? If you fight till the end, normal thing is lose the match in straight sets after that situation. In the other hand I had a big chance in the second, too, no?

I don’t know. I was repeating to myself during the whole match, I lost a lot of times here having chances, sometimes I was a little bit unlucky. I just wanted to keep believing till the end, no? I just wanted to give me a chance.

That’s what I did. Just fight, just keep belief on trying to find a solution. Of course, I was lucky to save that moment. Yeah, have been a lot of moments that can decide the final like this, no? He has a big advantage.

But I don’t know. Tonight was for me 2012, 2017, 2014 with the injury, too, I have been in that position couple of times in my career here in Australia. Tonight have been unforgettable. I feel very lucky. At the same time I think I fighted a lot and I worked a lot to try to come back to the tour and to give myself a chance to keep playing tennis.

Q. The numbers now say you’re the best male Grand Slam player of all time. How do you feel about that? Do you feel like the best player of all time?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, I don’t want to change my point of view honestly. Of course, for me it’s amazing to achieve another Grand Slam at this moment of my career. Just means a lot to me. Of course, I know it’s a special number, 21.

I mean, I know how it means, no? Is a big significance this title, no? But from my point of view I really believe what I said the other day, I hope, no, I believe today is an unforgettable day. I never will say I deserve, because I think a lot of people fight and a lot of people deserve. But I really believe that I hold a very positive spirit. For the last six months, I really fighted a lot to try to be back on court.

Have been very, very tough moments, moments to really… Conversations, tough ones, because you don’t know if I going to have the chance to be back on the tour.

But, yeah, I feel honored. I feel lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career. I don’t care much if I am the one or not the one or the best of the history, not the best of the history. Honestly today I don’t care much, no?

For me it’s about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me, no? Means even more to achieve the second Australian Open more than any other thing.

Q. You said it’s your greatest comeback. Do you think this is the greatest achievement of your career given everything you’ve been through?

RAFAEL NADAL: The most unexpected, without a doubt (smiling). And most surprising I think for everyone. For you guys, too, I think. For me personally, especially, no? Because I know how I arrived here.

I don’t know. Have been a very emotional night. Even now I am destroyed, honestly, physically. I can’t think much, I can’t remember a lot of moments of the match.

Yeah, the support of the crowd have been just huge. I got very emotional during the whole match. Even if I was super tired, I couldn’t celebrate with them as usual, but I feel it inside, all the support helped me a lot during the whole match.

Q. Did you see anything change for Daniil during the match? He was up two sets, had triple break point, then things started going wrong for him a bit, you were playing well. He was saying he was having a lot of problems with the crowd, that was affecting him. What did you sense from what you saw from across the net?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I think Daniil is a great champion. He accepted very well the lose.

Yeah, I just can say thanks to him because have been a very hard night I think for him. I know how tough is to be in that position after all the chances that he had.

He always have been nice with me. He understood how emotional and important was this match for me and this title for me. He was very nice at the end of the match, no?

I don’t know if the crowd affect to him. Of course, is better to have the crowd on your side. Tonight was crazy for me. But I really believe that he has a great future in front. He going to feel this love of the crowd in the future, no, because he deserve.

Q. You often say that you have to suffer to win big matches. With your foot and with the time you’ve been away, are you suffering even more than usual tonight?

RAFAEL NADAL: I was not ready physically for these kind of battles, honestly. I didn’t practice enough to be ready for it.

But tonight have been very special. I give it everything that I have inside, believe me. I am, yeah, super, super tired in all ways. I even can’t celebrate.

But was the day to give everything, no? I enjoyed. I enjoyed the fight. I enjoyed the emotions. At the end have this trophy with me means everything today, no?

I can’t be happier. I just want to recover a little bit and enjoy a little bit, yeah.
Q. Congratulations.

RAFAEL NADAL: Thank you so much.

Q. In terms of the foot, how painful is it? How painful was it over the latter stages of that match?

RAFAEL NADAL: Tonight was no pain at all. I was able to, as you can see, run without limitations. I don’t know what can happen tomorrow, but I feel lucky that I was able to play, to feel free to just play tennis, no? That’s an amazing feeling.

I know things can change because, as I explained the other day, my injury is difficult to fix, impossible really. But I was able to play for one month. That’s a lot, something unexpected, something that give me plenty of energy to keep going.

I just want to enjoy this moment and, of course, try to keep going. I really enjoyed the feeling to be back on the tour. I going to try to follow my personal calendar.

Q. You’ve gone through a position where one month and a half ago —

RAFAEL NADAL: Sorry, can you repeat that?

Q. You’ve gone through a position where one month and a half ago you had doubts over your career. Now tonight you say you have the energy to keep going. Talk about the confidence you’ve gained in the last few weeks to know you can still play against the top players over the next months and years.

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. The things can change quick, no? I feel lucky to have the chance to compete that way for the last month, no? Have been just amazing for me, unforgettable.

Of course, after this month of practicing hard, playing very long matches, the foot was able to hold all this stress, of course I feel more confident that I going to have the chance to keep going, keep fighting, keep enjoying this beautiful sport. That’s what make me happy in terms of professional thing, no?

Yeah, I don’t know, I just feel confident now that I going to have my chances to keep playing tennis for a while, yeah.

Q. You said on the court to the crowd, You don’t know how much I fought to be here, you don’t realize how much.

RAFAEL NADAL: Sorry?

Q. You said on the court to the crowd, You don’t realize how much I had to fight to be here. Can you talk about the things that were the hardest part of that journey for you. Based on the fact that this was such an important match tonight, is part of you in some way glad that it was so difficult and so incredible as a match, such a fitting moment for the end of the journey there?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, talking about the match, of course. At the end for the history is about the victory, no? But the way that you win the match in terms of personal feelings is different. The way that I achieved this trophy tonight have been just unforgettable, one of the most emotional matches of my tennis career, without a doubt. Means a lot to me.

Can you repeat the beginning?

Q. The hardest parts of what you went through.

RAFAEL NADAL: I always say the same, no? When you turn an ankle, when you break the wrist, you have a calendar, you know. That’s much easier to accept. I went through this process a couple of times in my career. You know you going to have four months off and you have a calendar to follow.

Personally, my feeling is much easier to accept because every week you do a different thing and you see the improvements and you know that after this period of time the normal thing is you going to be fine, no?

My position is completely different. We were trying things. And for a long period of time without any success, with zero success. After all the things that I went through all my career, of course at my age the doubts are there. Knowing that you have an injury that you can’t recover from that, of course the doubts are there. Mentally is much tougher.

In terms of going every day on the gym, on the recover, on the swimming pool, on the practice court, not to be able to do the things that you really need to do to try to be back for such a long time, yeah, it’s tough, it’s painful.

Mentally sometimes is heartbreaking, no? All the spirit, all the working, the working, discipline, every single day make a big difference for me. I feel very lucky that I have a great team next to me that supported all the time. Have been there more sometimes like friends than like a team. I have a great family always next to me, in the good and especially in the low moments. Without them, I will not be here.

Q. You looked as happy at the end there as you have when you won your first Grand Slam title. How did you manage to keep that joy going all the way through? How much confidence does it give now you looking forward to the clay?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I even don’t think about clay now (laughter).

Have been more emotional than the first one. No doubt about that. I don’t know. At latest stages of your career, I think you are able to enjoy more these moments because you know the chances are less. When you have 19, when I achieved the first, of course is super special, but you know if you are playing well, you’re going to keep having chances to enjoy moments, no?

Today you never know what can happen. Yeah, of course I am proud. The personal satisfaction is higher than years ago, no? I think I just stay more in the moment without thinking so far in front.

Yeah, I don’t know what can happen on clay or not. I have hopefully some events before clay. Just enjoying these moments, hope to share with the family this unforgettable moment, then I’m going to think what’s next for me.

Q. Given everything that you’ve told us and the difficulties and all that, what do you think are the biggest reasons that you were able to achieve this achievement? What has carried you through this process to win another Australian Open?

RAFAEL NADAL: Love for the game, passion, positive attitude, and working spirit. That’s all, no? And the right people next to me helping every single day. I think that’s all.

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