For Rafael Nadal, the 2007 season was in many ways a mirror image of 2006 - a slow start to the season highlighted by a beatdown in the Australian Open quarterfinals at the hands of Fernando Gonzalez, an as-expected successful clay court season capturing his third straight French Open crown, a run to the Wimbledon final losing a nail-biter to Roger Federer, and another disappointing US Open campaign followed by a lackluster fall to end the season.
(image via AP Photos)
In a very revealing interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, the World No. 2 discusses his lingering foot injury, the never-talked about aftermath of his Wimbledon loss to Federer, current doping policies and controversies, and where his mental and physical health is now. (The interview was originally conducted in Spanish, but translated to English via Talk Tennis.)
Q: You’ve played this entire year without a lot of physical training for endurance.
RF: I have never said it, because it sounds like an excuse. I don’t like to talk about injuries. I do physical training everyday, except I can’t run. But now, during the pre-season, I am going to try. Ever since my foot injury in 205 (sic), I am very careful and I avoid running. And that shows. I need to get my physical form as I play matches, and it’s hard because I don't have a good foundation.
Q. Weren't you injured during Roland Garros?
RF: I played all of Roland Garros with a numbed, anesthetized foot. I didn’t want to go to the hospital so as not to put doubts into my head. I knew it was noting (sic) serious. My foot hurt. I went to the hospital after the final, and I had a small contusion.
Q. What have you done to counter this problem?
RF: I swim, I run inside the pool to get endurance, I do rowing, bicycle, the elliptic machine… But from experience, I know it does not replace running. It does not give you the same kind of confidence. It’s hard.
Q. What happened in the locker room after that [Wimbledon] final? There are some rumors going around…
RF: I kept myself together pretty well during the ceremony, I didn’t want to act like a child. But once I arrived in the locker room , I sat down, and naturally, after losing the final of the tournament that thrills me the most, against the number one player, and having had lots of opportunities, I started to cry – out of disappointment, sadness. It was the only match where I cried afterwards last year, and one of the few where I’ve done it in my entire life. It was a very even match. I spent 20 or 25 minutes totally crushed. Once people started to arrive, I sat in a bathtub. They were coming to encourage me. I would thank them and ask them to leave me alone. I don’t like to be seen crying.
Q. At some point, your uncle Toni even proposed he stop being your coach.
RF: This year, when things weren’t going well at the beginning, he did suggest that. I said no. That was not the problem I thought I had enough strength in me to turn the situation around, with no need of a new coach. Toni is, and will continue to be, my coach.
Q. Do [the media] ask you questions about doping more than any other player?
RF: I don’t feel more persecuted, but mistreated. A lot of these things seem ridiculous to me. When I finished my match against Ferrer, I had to stay there until midnight because I couldn’t pee. I ate on the floor.
Q. Now, a positive result would get four year’s suspension.
RF: A Frenadol [cold medicine], a Vicks Vaporub... it's considered doping. We have to be aware that, often, just a little oversight can become doping. I don’t know if Martina Hingis has taken cocaine. Do you think that’s going to help her? To me, it wouldn’t at all. And yet, they destroy her image. I am disgusted by drugs, but some things are just ridiculous. We the players should have more solidarity among ourselves, be strong, protest. We are not united. I am gone all the month of December and I have to report where I am going to be every single day. It’s ridiculous. You say to yourself: Why am I being treated as a criminal?
(image via AP Photos)