Nadal Leaving Nothing To Chance In Madrid
Five-time champion will play Monfils or Basilashvili in his first match
Rafael Nadal may be 19 matches (and 46 sets) unbeaten on his favourite surface, but even one of the sport’s greatest icons isn’t leaving anything to chance in his preparations for the Mutua Madrid Open, where he is a five-time champion.
“I think that I go through a process of adaptation,” said Nadal on Monday. “I have played a couple of tournaments before where I have played really well. In Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, you have the feeling that you are in control of the situation. Here, it’s different. It takes you time to adapt to how the ball bounces and flies.
“Day by day I keep improving. I have better feelings. I’m happy to be back here. It’s always special to play at home. It’s a very, very special moment, a very special occasion for me to be able to play here.”
The 31-year-old superstar, who has sunk his teeth into five titles from nine Mutua Madrid Open finals, arrived early in the Spanish capital to acclimatise in training sessions with Dominic Thiem, who he beat in last year’s championship match, Grigor Dimitrov and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Nadal has already picked up 11th titles at both the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (d. Nishikori) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Tsitsipas), where he also passed 400 match wins on clay courts. With a 401-35 lifetime record on the surface (.920), according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone, the best winning percentage of any player in ATP World Tour history, Nadal remains humble of his achievements.
“I don’t think that I am superior to the other players [on clay],” said Nadal. “Maybe some tournaments have been better than others, but that doesn’t guarantee that in the future I’m going to be better than my opponents.
“I’m very happy for all the things that have happened… I’m not worried about being the favourite player or not. I try to do things the best possible way, to be in shape. When I’m able to do this, well, it’s all fine. The day I’m not going to be worried about my shape or about my tennis, that will be the day when I won’t be successful any more.
“I just have to be ready in every single moment [and] be patient. That’s what I’ve done. I’ve always been very respectful of my opponents because each day it’s completely different when you go out there and play on a tennis court. You have to bear in mind that you can either win or lose.”
In the 10th year of play at the Caja Magica, the 31-year-old will be hoping to draw inspiration from the fantastic atmosphere in his first match against France’s Gael Monfils or Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
“The crowd is always great. Every year that I’ve played here, I play with the full court with the crowd supporting. The crowd here is special… We had a great event in indoor, [conditions] too, before. But, at the same time, this event is even bigger than what used to be in indoor. The tournament is a great event and hopefully will stay here for a long time.”