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Rafael Nadal speaks about his favourite year in tennis, rivalry with Wawrinka

Siddharth Nair

Rafael Nadal is three sets away from winning an incredible, tenth French Open title. The legendary Spaniard has been playing some of his best tennis over the last few weeks, as he prepares to write his name in Roland Garros folklore. After beating Dominic Thiem in the semi-final, Nadal will now face Stan Wawrinka in the final of the French Open 2017. In the post match press conference,Rafael Nadal speaks about his favourite year in tennis, rivalry with Wawrinka.

‘I played a very good event, all the matches playing well’, Nadal said.

‘Today was not an exception. Starting a little bit more nervous today, normal, but then I played well. It’s true that Dominic played with more mistakes than usual, probably. At the same time was windy out there, and he didn’t play in the center court before that match.

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Probably that was not helping him. In general, to be in the final again here probably the most important event in my career. Means a lot to me. Just very, very happy for everything, and I gonna try my best on Sunday.’ ‘It was a tough match.

Before the third set was a tough match. In the third set it’s true that when I had the break in the first game, then he played with more mistakes. But before that was I think a good match, and he was a little bit unlucky, in my opinion.

He had 15-40, 1-All, 15-40, 3-1 for me, 15-40 too for him. So he didn’t convert the chances, and that’s change completely the match. And the real thing is in the beginning of the second set with 1-0 for him, then he had another 15-40.

So these kind of matches, you don’t get that opportunities, then you are in trouble. He had opportunities in the first, opportunities at the beginning of the second, and then I think I played well. I played a solid match and was tougher for him.’

Nadal gave his thoughts on his opponent, Stan Wawrinka.

‘He played a very tough match this afternoon, so he will be full of confidence for Sunday.

And he’s a very dangerous player because he can hit the ball very hard. I need to play aggressive, I need to play long, I need to try to don’t let him play from easy positions. If not, I gonna be in big trouble, and that’s my goal.

Then anything can happen, and I hope to be ready for that.’ A year ago, could you bring yourself to watch much of the tournament after you departed? Did you watch any of the semis or final last year? ‘I watch some matches of my friend Marc Lopez playing doubles and Feli.

And I watched the final, yes. I didn’t watch much more. I watched the final, everything, the whole match. I didn’t watch the rest of the matches. I went with the boat with my girlfriend. So that’s all. I was trying to forget a little bit about tennis for a couple of days.

But the final between Andy and Novak was a final that I wanted to see. But before that, after what happened, I needed to turn off a little bit (smiling).’ You’re on the brink of doing something that no one has ever done before in the Open era to win 10 Grand Slams at a single event.

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Given what you have been through with your physical issues in the last 12 months or so, would that be your greatest-ever achievement, and what would it mean to you to do it? ‘I don’t know. I think I always say the same, but it’s true, no? 9 or 10 is only 10% more (smiling).

Is true that 10 is a beautiful number, but actually my favorite is 9. But for sure it becomes 10 will be my favorite (smiling). I don’t know. The thing that I am more proud about my career probably is the 2013 year.

2013 was amazing. Because I had too many problems on my knee, so I was not able to practice at all. And I finished the year being World No. 1, winning here, winning the US Open. So that’s the thing that I am more proud.

9 here is probably difficult. I always say the same. If I did, probably gonna come somebody and gonna do it, because I don’t consider myself very special. But is obvious that you need to combine a lot of things, and a lot of things have to put together to have that record.

And if it’s 10, even more. You need to be lucky, you need to play well, you need to be healthy that week, that two weeks. So it’s a lot of things. I am not the right one to say, but play 10 finals here is something difficult.’ Toni said you worked a great deal on your forehand during the offseason.

Could you just talk about that and how you think your forehand compares now to what it was in the recent past? ‘In recent past was no forehand because I have injury of my wrist. So was no chance to hit good forehands.

I think I recovered the forehand last year. I was playing well with my forehand again, but then I take injury. It takes a lot of work and long time to recover that positive feelings and that confidence with the forehand after 2015.

That was a very tough year for me. But finally, when I get to the point that I could start playing every week having positive result, that’s what happen when I started the clay season. In Indian Wells, for two months I was playing very well and competing every event for everything.

So I get injury. So was too short, the period of time. Then I come back for the Olympics, US Open, but too many problems on the hand. I was not able to hit the forehand normal. Then I had to stop. I had my treatment. Worked well, and that’s why I was able to work for one month and a half very well, and it’s no secret.

It’s only about being healthy and having the chance to work as much as I want and the things that we wanted to work. If that happens, then the chances to be very competitive and the chances to be playing well are much higher.

Problem is during my career I didn’t have a lot of periods of this one month and a half without problems physically to work as much as I can.’ The 2014 Australian Open final was an important moment for Wawrinka.

Do you think this could be a revenge for you?

‘Revenge is not part of my vocab. I don’t think it would be the right thing to do to see it as a revenge. In my mind, each match is different. Every single time I play a match, I consider the match to be important.

The best player will win. The final at the Australian Open, he played very well. If I hadn’t been injured, I don’t know what the outcome would have been. But again, I think that trigger in his career happened before. He had been playing before that very well already.

He had been playing great matches. He played against Novak. He was able to win a Grand Slam tournament, and that is generally a turning point in a tennis player’s career. He has demonstrated that during important matches, he was always up for the challenge.’

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