LONDON: There was an edge to Rafael Nadal’s press conferences. For a fair part of the 2010 Wimbledon championships, the world number one appeared fidgety and on the edge. As if he had left behind some unfinished business, which he was in a hurry to get back to.
Then, on Sunday, the winner’s trophy tucked safely away, the long-haired heartthrob arrived for his post match briefing in a stripped tee and tracks. He spoke easily and at leisure and smiled in fair measure. The job was done, the king of clay was also the lord of the lawns.
“Every title is special,” Nadal said. “The 2008 win was more dramatic. It was also my first title here because of which it is very, very special. Last year wasn’t easy for me.
“To be back at my most favourite tournament and play well another time and finish with the trophy is amazing for me.”
Most clay court players struggle to make the switch to grass. The two surfaces, so different in character, like a truck and a sports car perhaps, require a total overhaul of the mindset that begins with where you place yourself on the baseline.
Nadal explained it was all between the ears. “If you want to do well, you will find a way,” he stated. “For me to play well on this surface was always a dream. The one thing I already have that works for me on grass is movement. I move well on grass. Then, over the years, my serve also started improving.
“It’s also important to play more aggressively on this surface than the other surfaces.”
Nadal, 24, has eight Grand Slam titles in his kitty – French Open (5), Wimbledon (2) and Australian Open (1). The only Grand Slam he is yet to win is the US Open, but the Spaniard, understandably reluctant to leave his moment of glory, said the season’s final Grand Slam was still some distance away.
“Right now, I’m very happy to win Wimbledon,” he said, smiling. “We’ll think about the US Open in one month’s time. Right now I’m just going to relax and enjoy this amazing season. I’m going to enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends and partying in Mallorca. But sure, winning the US Open is a goal for me.”
Nadal, shocked at Roland Garros last year after which he couldn’t defend his 2008 title at Wimbledon due to a severe tendonitis problem in his knee, said that, among other things, made last season a learning experience.
“Every day, I woke up with the desire to practice and improve, there was that hope that I would play well another time. In the last six or seven months of 2009, I wasn’t ready to play at this level,” he explained. “I was ready to fight, but not play as well as I’m doing now. The positive thing about those months is that I didn’t lose in the first and second round.
“All the time, I was in the semifinals or quarterfinals and in one final in Shanghai. So, without playing well, I didn’t have bad results which was very good for my confidence. When I finished the 2009 season I went back to Mallorca and started practicing and working hard to be ready for 2010.”
And what a comeback it has been for the champion: back-to-back triumphs at the French Open and Wimbledon. Rafa said, “After Bjorn Borg no one managed to do this back-to-back wins, now it has already happened thrice. How crazy is this life?”