Rafael Nadal’s opening singles match at the Miami Open is scheduled for Saturday. Prior to meeting his second round opponent, Damir Dzumhur, the four time finalist sat down with the media to opine on a variety of topics including the state of his game in comparison to a year ago, the pluses and minuses of having one dominant player on tour in reference to Novak Djokovic and reaching soon the age of 30. Here is an excerpt of the what the world number five had to say.
Thus far, Nadal’s career has been one for the record books, including 67 titles, 14 major and an Olympic gold medal. Yet, the desire for to add to his tally is ever present ” I am happy doing what I am doing. I enjoy playing my sport. It’s about love for the game, about passion for what I am doing, and I am going to be here until I am unhappy doing what I am doing.”
Despite being denied Miami’s grand prize several times, Nadal enjoys coming back season after season to compete. “I played well in my career here, Four finals; another semifinals; some more quarterfinals. So a positive tournament for me. the atmosphere here is great. I enjoy being here. The fans here are amazing with me”.
Rumors abound that the tournament may change venue. It’s certainly preoccupying to the Spaniard” I think it’s obvious that Miami is an amazing city and is unbelievable for us to be here in Miami, to play here in Miami. . . for the Latin people, Spanish people, we feel close because very big community of Latinos here. So in my opinion, will be not good if the tournament moves from here. At the same time, it’s obvious that something needs to happen. . . all the tournaments are improving . . .making improvements on facilities and everything, and is true that this tournament didn’t make that happen for a while. . . [With] Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, you see all the things that Indian Wells is improving day by day. Miami it’s obvious that probably for the situation it’s difficult to make something bigger because you are just almost in the middle of the city. So probably of the comparison is not helping this tournament. But still, an amazing event. For sure I love being here. I love this tournament. I would like to keep watching this tournament here.”
With regards to his uncle and coach Toni expressing his concerns that tennis “will become a game of speed and power and not so much skill and tactics”. Nadal cited “the sport in general needs to improve in all aspects, and it’s obvious that the players today are taller than before. The racquet hits the ball harder than four years before. [At] the same time, it is true that nothing changed in our sport in terms of rules. So for the moment, it is obvious that the tennis has had tremendous successful for I think a long time now. The sport is healthy, but at the same time we need to move to predict the future. I’m not talking for my generation, but for the next generation. People, in my opinion, like the drama, the rallies. I don’t remember amazing matches that were only one serve and one shot. The matches that the people remember most, are slow matches with unbelievable points, and the applause of the people or the emotions of the people are not only with one serve and one shot. People get emotional when the points are intense, long. If every time we make that happen less often, it’s obvious that our sport can be in trouble for the future”.
Djokovic has been gobbling every trophy in sight. Nadal was asked whether that’s healthy for the sport or are rivalries better:
“Unfortunately, it’s obvious that now it is better for Novak. I don’t know. Depend for who. I think the real thing is rivalries are good. In my opinion, it is not good if a different player wins a tournament every week. Because if there is 20 players winning tournaments different weeks, the people arrive to the tournament and nobody knows who are the favorites to win. It’s difficult because people need to support one player. So you need the stars. To create the stars you need players who have been there for a long time and players competing for the most important events very often. At the same time, it’s good to have combination of styles; it’s good to have different players who fight for the important things, and one or another can win. So I think happened the last 10, 12 years, and now for last year and a half, two years one is dominating maybe too much. But he deserves.”
Nadal feels much more positive about his form on court n 2016 as opposed to last year where his belief was lacking “The difference is I’m enjoying on court. I’m not feeling that nerves on court. I’m not feeling that strange feeling that I never felt. I am enjoying on the practices, I am enjoying on the tennis court. I feel with the right energy. I can lose, I can win, but I am happy on court. That’s the most important thing.”
In order to get a shot at hoisting his maiden Miami Open trophy, Nadal may need to go through Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals and Andy Murray in the semifinals.