Nadal: 'Having This Trophy Means Everything'
“For me having this trophy next to me again means everything. [It] has been [an] emotional victory, without a doubt. Unexpected in some ways. [I am] very happy,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “[It] has been a great two weeks. I played from the beginning, improving every day. Finishing [by] playing a good final. [I am] super happy and can't thank everybody enough for the support since the first day that I arrived here. [It is] very emotional.”
The 36-year-old, who now holds a 112-3 record at the clay-court major, struggled with a chronic foot injury in his defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome a little more than three weeks ago.
However, Nadal was not to be denied in Paris, moving past Top 10 stars Felix Auger-Aliassime, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to a first ATP Head2Head meeting with Casper Ruud. The 14-time champion admitted that it is an injury that is causing him problems, though.
“I didn't want to talk about the foot during the tournament. I said I'm going to speak after the tournament, and now I can speak because I wanted to focus on my tennis and respect my rivals… I was able to play during these two weeks with extreme conditions,” Nadal said. “I have been playing with injections on the nerves to sleep the foot, and that's why I was able to play during these two weeks.
“Because I have no feelings on my foot, because my doctor was able to put anesthetic injections on the nerves. That takes out the feeling on my foot. But at the same time, it's a big risk in terms of less feelings, a little bit bigger risk of turning your ankle… So of course Roland Garros is Roland Garros. Everybody knows how much it means to me this tournament, so I wanted to keep trying and to give myself a chance here.”
Nadal admitted while the situation is unclear he is aiming to find a solution so he can compete at Wimbledon later in June.
“I don't know how to say in English exactly the treatment, but [I am] going to have a radio frequency injection on the nerve and try to burn a little bit the nerve and create the impact that I have now on the nerve for a long period of time,” Nadal said. “That's what we are going to try. If that works, I [am] going to keep going. If that doesn’t work, then [it is] going [to] be another story.”
The Spaniard, who said that he is determined to continue to play as long as he is comfortable and happy on court, has now extended his lead over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Grand Slam titles race. The Serbian and Swiss are tied on 20 major titles, while Nadal has 22 Slam crowns.
Yet the former World No. 1 said that it is not the records that he is motivated by, but the love he has for the sport, which he started playing professionally in 2004.
“It's not about being the best [in] history. It's not about the records. It's about what I do. I like to play tennis. And I like the competition,” Nadal said. “As I said a couple of times in the past, and is not a thing that I repeat, is not the thing that I don't feel for me, we achieved our dreams. Me, Roger, Novak, we achieved things that probably we never expected.
“For me, what drives me to keep going is not about the competition to try to be the best or to win more Grand Slams than the others. What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, live moments that stay inside me forever, and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.”
In contrast to the Spaniard, who was competing in his 14th final in Paris, Ruud was playing in his first Grand Slam championship match. The champion was full of praise for his opponent, who has trained at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca since September 2018.
“Casper is a great player. He's going to be the fourth in the [Pepperstone ATP] Race [To Turin] now. Very high position in the ranking, improving every year because in the past he had been only a great player on clay,” Nadal said. “Now he's winning titles and fighting for the most important events on the other surfaces too.
“That's, for me, that's the most important thing in the sport. The value of the daily work, he has it. He's improving all the time, and even if today probably was a tough day for him, I'm sure that he's very proud and his team is very proud of him… I would love to see him with a trophy in the future.”