Rafael Nadal 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – Few players have had to endure as much criticism on their way to
reaching a Grand Slam quarterfinal as has Rafael Nadal over the past
If you walked into one of the world No. 1’s press
conferences during this year’s French Open you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking
that he had actually suffered a shock early exit rather than cruised past
another quality opponent.
Nadal has time and again been interrogated on
his “disappointing play,” “mediocre performances” and “unconvincing victories,”
all the while reaching the last eight at Roland Garros with three consecutive
Nadal is the first to admit that he isn’t playing
as well as he had hoped, but even the level-headed Spaniard is beginning to grow
frustrated with facing unrealistic expectations.
“All the day we are
talking about I am playing very bad, but I am in quarterfinals,” Nadal said
after his 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 fourth round win over Ivan Ljubicic.
“I play six
finals in a row this year. I am having a very good year. One player is doing
better than me. That’s all. But I’m in good position to finish the year in a
very high position of the ranking.
“It’s true I am not playing that well.
But I am in quarterfinals another time, and I going to fight to play a better
match next time. Sometimes it’s much more important to win when you are not
playing that well than win when you are playing well. Win when you are not
playing that well is the more difficult thing. Only the top players can
Despite Nadal’s five Roland Garros titles in the past six years
and a 38-1 career record on the Parisian clay, the streaking Novak Djokovic is
currently the oddsmakers’ favorite to lift the Coupe des
Nadal understands that in many people’s eyes the Serbian
has overtaken him as the world’s best player, but believes that the current doom
and gloom regarding his game is much exaggerated.
“People talk a lot
about the problems I have. That’s true. I’m not playing my best tennis, but, you
know, people who want to find problems can always find them,” Nadal
“The objective is to look beyond that.
“It’s a good thing I
have reached the quarterfinals. If I play that bad, I don’t see why I would have
reached the quarterfinals. The problem is you can’t always play your best
tennis. That’s the problem. I have been ranked No.
1 and No. 2 for seven
years. So week in, week out for seven years I’ve been playing rather
“I will continue and fight until I reach the finals. I don’t know
if I’ll succeed, though, but I’ll do my best to do this.”
Perhaps it is
his two straight defeats to Djokovic in the recent finals of the clay
tournaments at Madrid and Rome that have shaken his confidence.
the reason, clearly lastyear’s dominant Nadal has only appeared briefly in the
first four rounds of the 2011 French Open.
However, he has still made his
way through to the quarterfinals with little trouble and is eager to prove his
doubters wrong over the next five days, starting with Wednesday’s clash against
the only man to have ever beaten him at Roland Garros, Robin
“I am not confident. I am not playing enough well to win this
tournament at the moment,” Nadal said.
“But I’ve won five times already
here and I’m going to try for sure.
“If you are not optimistic, you are
never going to find the solution. The important thing is to keep positive and
have an open enough mind to keep finding solutions and to keep fighting every
day to find a better performance.
“Soderling is an incredible, allaround
player. It’s going to be a hard match. I will have to play really
[well]. I will have to live up to my own expectations.
managed to play good tennis in the past, so I’ll have to be optimistic. I
think I can do the same again.”