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?FedEx better than Sampras?

In a freewheeling chat, Nadal talks to S Kannan on a whole gamut of issues. And unlike other champions, he is not boring.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2007 00:13 IST
S Kannan
S Kannan

Rafael Nadal is a tough lad, as his bulging biceps and laser-sharp forehand show. However, beneath the steely veneer, there is another side of the champion. He is simple and fun loving, a man who enjoys what he does on and off the court.

In a freewheeling chat, Rafa, as the world knows him, talks on a whole gamut of issues. And unlike other champions, he is not boring. He likes the beach, football and partying! Excerpts:

Your best matches against Federer?

I do not agree with what people say —  that I played better at Wimbledon than Federer did at the French. They were different matches in different places on different surfaces. Maybe I don’t play my best at the Wimbledon and maybe he (Federer) doesn’t play his best at the Roland Garros. For me the best match against him were the semifinals at Roland Garros and Masters Cup. These two matches were better than the Wimbledon final.

Who is better, Sampras or Federer?

I can’t say for sure. But for me, the better player is Federer. He is a complete player as he has all the shots. Though, in the end it will be measured by who wins more Grand Slam titles. I guess the thing that people need to see is not just the number of Grand Slam titles but also the points. Federer now has 8300 (ATP ranking) points. When Sampras was number one, he had just 5000 points. However, people can still differ in opinions. For me though, Federer is better than Sampras.

How do you manage Federer?

When I get on court, I try my best and that’s it. There’s no secret.

How do you view yourself — a 20-year-old or the world No. 2?

It depends on where I am. When I am playing a tournament and on court, I think I am the number two because that gives me confidence. But when I am at home in Mallorca with my family and friends, I behave like a normal 20-year-old guy.

Has life changed in the last three years?

Life at home has not changed for me. I still have the same friends. I still live with my family in the same place. But away from home, there are more things to do, more events with sponsors, and everybody knows I am better than before.

Do you get irritated when people come up to you for autograph?

No. I always try to be nice with everybody because everybody wants to get it!

How do you unwind?

I like playing golf. I go to the beach and fish. I love football and go to the stadium to watch games. And I do go to parties with my friends.

Your favourite teams?

Mallorca and Real Madrid.

Your uncle played in a World Cup... Did you ever think of a career in football?

I played football when I was around 15. I loved football and wanted to represent Spain. I was a good player too… And it was difficult when I had to decide.

For a player of your size, isn’t your speed a bit surprising?

No, I don’t think so.

How much of your training is on court and how much of it is in the gym?

I work more on court. I have a special trainer and a physio. I also concentrate a lot on my physical training because I think it’s very important to be 100 per cent for your game.

What is your advice to kids who want to become Rafael Nadal?

I don’t know. Just enjoy the game and enjoy the competition. When kids are eight or nine, they usually think about becoming a professional. For me, when I was eight, I went to tournaments only to enjoy. I used to play with my friends. We used to play football or go swimming.That should be the most important thing when you’re young. When you are 13 or 14, and your game is okay, then you can think of being a little more professional.

You were injured before the French Open last season. How difficult was it to stage a comeback?

When you are injured, it is very difficult to make a comeback because you are at home without practice, without decent competition. Well, I had a very good life (recovering) and when I came back and started winning, it gave me a lot of confidence. So it was difficult but it (coming back) was a very, very nice moment for me.

Do you mistrust fame?

No and why should I? I have my friends. I have friends from Mallorca and especially the ones from my school, who have been with me since I was three or four years old. There are seven or eight of us and we always hang out together. Those are my friends, my real friends. Apart from them, I have my friends on the Tour like Carlos Moya and Feliciano Lopez. Then there are others who become friends just because you’re famous but those are actually not your friends…

You have a sex symbol tag?

I don’t think about that.

Physically, you are a lot bigger than other tennis players, your arms…..

Maybe that’s not true. Maybe it seems like this because I play like this (in sleeveless singlets). You see my arms, you don’t see the arms of the rest — that’s the truth. My arms may be a little more well defined, especially the biceps. But they are not the biggest.

What is lacking in your game?

Although I am happy with myself now, I need to improve a lot. I am just 20. I need to improve my winners and volleying. You can improve in all aspects of your game.

Are you interested in fashion?

Not really. I do like to dress well, but that’s it.

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