Right before this press conference, I was watching Rafa practice with Mikhail Youhzny. They were playing quite a heated practice set. Now I’m no expert, but it looked like Rafa was moving quite well and ready for the hard courts at the BNP Paribas Open. Yesterday he had no wrap around his knee but it’s there today. What does that mean?! Am I reading too much into this? Probably.
It’s 12:38 p.m. Here comes Rafa. Opening it up to questions now. Note: Due to my listening/typing skills, or lack thereof, the interview is paraphrased.
How is your knee on the hard court?
I’m here to try my best, I will see how the knees answer on the hard courts. On clay the results were positive. The knee feels better and better every week.
How do you train today vs when you were 15 or 16?
The training is different. Much more. Not a lot of time to prepare for the season. In general, I still have my original team. Not going to change it.
Back on the knee, does knee feel different playing on hard court than on clay?
On clay, I had good days, I had bad days. The important thing is that I have much more good days than bad days now.
In the 7 months, did you get depressed at all thinking you’ll never play again?
I never thought about that. It’s a long time. A lot of gym time and not on court. Not depressed but sometimes it’s frustrating, you test yourself and you aren’t improving.
Years of playing the circuit, was there one time that was particularly tough for you to sit out?
The hardest was the first one, the Olympics.
What were your thoughts on not competing at the Olympics?
I had no choice, I couldn’t move. It was a sad moment for me to lose the opportunity to not carry the Spanish flag. All I could do is try to be positive and keep working.
Even with knee pain, you dominated in Acapulco. Do you think you can win Roland Garros?
Forget about the knee please (laughs) if the knee stays well, and it recovers, I’ll be playing Monte Carlo, Rome, and we’ll see if I have real chance of winning Roland Garros. Then we’ll see. Not right now at Indian Wells.
Did you miss tennis and find other things to do?
Sure. When you cannot do what you want to do, it is not easy. I really enjoy being a tennis player. I get to work as one of my hobbies. Tennis today is an important part of my life.
Were you happy to see the players?
I am happy to be here on the tennis court, competing. Going out to full crowds was amazing. it was fantastic all the time.
What was the biggest difference in your head between the final against Horacio Zeballos and David Ferrer?
The biggest difference was my knee. My level of tennis was much better.
Was it difficult to maintain patience in Latin America when the level was not where you wanted it?
I didn’t consider myself that good after 7 months (off). I played much better than what i thought. At Acapulco, I played a fantastic tournament.
Are you confident to maintain that level you had against Ferrer, to have it here?
No. I haven’t practiced a lot. I don’t expect much here. iI really love this tournament. This is one of the best tournaments of the year. even without having success here or not. I’m saying that from my heart. Thank you to organizers and volunteers.They make the players feel at home. The tournament gets better and better every year.
Serena came back from injury and was beating players with ease. People were saying there is no depth in WTA. You came back and started winning easily. How do you compare the ATP and WTA?
I have no comment on that. I don’t want to compare. It not easy for me to say. I don’t know how to answer your question.
When you enter every tournament, you feel like you can win it. Do you feel like you can win it here?
No. I don’t feel like that here. I don’t feel like that at every tournament I enter.
The ITA announced they will adopt the biological passport. Is this good for tennis?
I think all the things that make the sport clean is good.
When you away, what did you do the most? What did you enjoy the most?
Most was in gym working on recovery. I was able to play golf and fish more than usual. Spend time with family and go out with friends more than usual. I have
fantastic people around me. I was happy to receive thousands of messages on my phone. It helped me a lot. Especially in those type of moments.
Press conference is over and Rafa walks out to do TV interviews.
From what I could gather, Rafa seemed a bit annoyed at all the questions about his knee. He basically told us that if he’s here and he’s playing, then he doesn’t want to use his knee as an excuse or a distraction.