World number two and six-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal sits down for an in-depth interview on this week’s Talk Asia. CNN gets rare access to the tennis player on and off the court at the Shanghai ATP Masters 2009. Fighting his way back from injuries, the Spaniard shares with CNN’s John Vause thoughts on his comeback this year, his rivalry with Roger Federer and how long he hopes to continue playing. (Airtimes: Indian Standard Times ,Wednesday, Nov 4 at 1900hrs ,Thursday, Nov 5 at 1000hrs , Saturday, Nov 7 at 1730hrs , Monday, Nov 9 at 0500hrs )
Nadal says of his rival Federer: “When I play against him, it always seems a special feeling. But I don’t know if it’s rivalry because I never think that…I don’t know if he is the best of the history…I never saw one player like him – very complete in all aspects… he’s almost a perfect player,” he says of the Federer Express.
Nadal admits the Swiss inspires him to become a better player: “What makes me a better player isn’t seeing Roger being a perfect player. What makes me a better player is to watch Roger always improve because when he was number one in 2004…I saw him and he was an unbelievable player, but after a few times, he was better and he was improving during all his career. And that says to me is you must improve all the time.”
Widely considered as the greatest tennis match in history, Nadal admits that winning the 2008 Wimbledon final against Federer is a turning point for his career: “It was amazing. A lot of emotions in the match. It was one of the most important matches in my career if not the most.” Yet, the long tennis season has put a toll on even the most talented player: “Tennis is a hard sport, a very very tough mental sport because you play a lot of matches during the season and you have to be ready every week…I played every week since long time and I forgot I had to stop for an injury.”
Severely sidelined by injuries in the knees and abdominals, Nadal was forced to withdraw from many matches in 2009, losing his ranking as world number one to Roger Federer. While many harbor doubts on Nadal’s career longevity due to his aggressive style of play, Nadal is frank:
“Everybody can have his own opinion…A lot of people finish their career at 29 years old and he started at 20 or 21. But I started at 16 and already I have seven years in total. I am not finished. I expect to be here and hope to be here for a long time. That’s what I can say.” He adds: “I have few injuries this year. I had a very difficult year, but the last five years I was playing, I was the number one or number two who plays more matches on the tour.”
But unlike Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi who played well into their thirties, Nadal does not see himself continuing to play if he isn’t in contention to win tournaments : “I think if I am not having chances to win important tournaments, I’m gonna go. That’s my feeling. I have already seven years like this and I hope be here as long as I can, but having 14 or 16 career years seems a lot.”