A multiple grand-slam winner and a Mallorca native, tennis champion Rafael Nadal is back in Monaco to compete in the 113th edition of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters - a tournament which he has won many times over. He sat down with us to talk tennis, fair-play, and what he likes to do around the Principality.
Over the course of your career, you have won every major competition and beat almost every record of every kind. Having achieved so much, how do you still find the motivation to keep going?
Rafael Nadal: I am passionate about sports, and tennis in particular. My main motivation comes from an everlasting will to play, to compete, and to feel the sensations that always hit me when I participate in big tournaments. I just love to do what I do, and the passion is always there.
How do you handle pressure?
R.N: The more you win, the more pressure you feel. That’s a normal thing. You have to learn to handle it very early on, as a kid even, to play with it, to beat it. You must be trained to do that from the moment you start competing.
Do you feel that protecting your private life has been a key factor in your success?
R.N: Definitely, and in my happiness as well. I do not feel any need to showcase my private life. I understand why some people would be interested, but I firmly believe that I need to maintain a certain level of secrecy. I was never tempted to join a big club – but then again, there was nothing like the Rafael Nadal Academy in Europe when I started out. At that time, I preferred to stay home and train with my very dedicated uncle Toni.
When you were younger, you played football as well as tennis. What made you eventually choose the latter?
R.N: I loved football, but I never played professionally. When the time came to decide between either sports, it was rather natural to choose tennis, because by then I was already competing and doing very well. I also liked that, with tennis, you don’t depend on a coach or on the people you play with: it’s just you against the other player. I do love team sports and I enjoy participating in team competitions. But I also love the feeling of being alone on the court.
Your “fair play” attitude has become quite well-know. What does it represent to you?
R.N: I have always believed that fair-play must be part of any sport, and especially tennis. Once you step out of the court, the match is finished, and then it’s better to have healthy relationships with everyone, including your rivals. It’s just part of my values, and it does not contradict having a winning spirit and a competitive mentality.
You will soon be competing at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, a tournament which you have won 11 times in singles and once in doubles. What is your state of mind before this new edition?
R.N: Monte-Carlo is definitely one of my favourite tournaments in the world. It has also been one of the most important ones in my career. For that reason, I always get a special feeling when I come back to the Principality and play at this unique event, in such a beautiful setting. I always try to be at my very best here.
What do you do on your free time, away from the court?
R.N: Sometimes I manage to take some time off before the tournament to walk around and admire the views. Once the competition is on, it gets more difficult, because I need to be practicing and resting a lot.
What routine do you follow before a match?
R.N: I eat something light and I start warming up 45 minutes before the game. I try to stay rested and focused. As regards well-being, I enjoy going to the spa from time to time at my academy in Mallorca, but I avoid doing it too often. Too much spa is not good to play tennis! Maybe that will change when my career is over. Besides that, I listen to Spanish and Latin music to help me concentrate. I am a big fan of Julio Iglesias in particular.
Nadal in Monaco
Nadal has long known his way around Monaco, both on and off the famed courts of the Monte-Carlo Country Club. As a native of the Mediterranean Sea, it is no wonder that he should mention Port Hercule as one of his favourite spots in town, a place where he likes to “go and admire those amazing yachts” (and sometimes be invited aboard to take a closer look). Next on his list is strolling around the Place du Casino while enjoying some ice-cream, then having a taste of local or international cuisine in various restaurants. In 2018, his favourite hotel - the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort - has named a suite after him to honour his fidelity, which he welcomed as “an amazing surprise”.