Posted: Friday July 16, 2010 12:01PM ; Updated: Friday July 23, 2010 11:41AM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

Q&A with Rafael Nadal

The eight-time Grand Slam champion talks history, Federer, existence of God

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Just 24 years old, Rafael Nadal has bagged titles at the French Open (five), Wimbledon (two) and the Australian Open (one).
Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Shortly after he won his second Wimbledon title in June, Rafael Nadal met with a small group of reporters from international publications, including Sports Illustrated. Some outtakes from that Q&A session:

How much does history motivate you? Do you know, for instance, whose record you tied today?

The history is there for sure, being part of these players -- Connors, Agassi, Lendl -- it's amazing. Just an honor to be close to these players. But I am 24 years old and it's very difficult to talk about the history now, where I am. In my opinion the Grand Slams are not the only thing to value ... I don't have a lot of the information, but what Lendl did at the Masters was amazing. We have to see. We have to value different things, no? We have to see when I finish my career where I am. Right now I am very happy -- I never thought I can be here with 18 Masters 1000 and eight Grand Slams.

Does it mean anything to you that at the same age, you're ahead of where Roger Federer was with Grand Slams?

No, I think every career is different. For me, it's amazing winning here on grass, winning on hard court in Australia. I hope to do well at the U.S. Open for sure -- I've reached semifinals the last two years. For Roger, I think ... maybe it's easier than for me because I am especially [good] on clay and we have only one [clay-court Slam]. I can play very well on grass, too. But hard court players, they have more chances than the clay-court specialists. They have three. We have one. For sure I can play well on grass ... but the chances are less.

Do you still think of yourself as a clay-court specialist, even now that you've won two Wimbledon titles?

I don't feel like a clay-court specialist. Not now and not even when I didn't win [on other surfaces]. In 2005, I won in Montreal, very difficult. I won in Madrid [when it was an indoor event] on a very fast surface, too. I didn't play my best tennis at hardcourt or grass Grand Slams at that moment, but I was able to do it. I think I am a complete player. I can play well on all the surfaces. For me, the clay might be easiest but I am not a specialist on clay. I have five finals at Roland Garros. I have four here.

There are people who say Roger is over the hill, that he won't come to the top again. What's your opinion?

My opinion is that everyone said the same two years ago and after that he won in Australia, he won in Roland Garros, he won Wimbledon, he won the U.S. Open, so we will see what happens. Roger is good enough, he has enough experience. For sure it's difficult what he did the last seven, eight years, impossible to repeat for another player ... Roger is going to be there, I'm sure of it.

You talk about your difficulties, what is not easy for you. Is it more difficult to face problems on court or in your private life? Which, in your opinion, was the biggest problem you ever faced?

You're talking about the divorce of my parents?

No. Everything.

I think the tennis is only a game. You can lose. You can win. After that? In life, there are much more important things than tennis. I know that for sure ... I didn't have a lot of problems in my private life and I feel very lucky for that. But you always have things. For sure, the tennis right is an important pat of my life -- it's my work -- and I have a few health problems for the last few years, especially last year. But I feel lucky. Even then I felt, "You've won six Grand Slams, you've won a lot of titles. You're 23 years old. Be calm and be happy. What you have already is a lot."

Do you believe in God? We see football players crossing themselves. You don't do that. Do you do praying?

It's hard to say, "I don't believe in God." I would love to know if God exists. But it's a very difficult thing for me to believe. I don't know. It's private and I don't want to speak about it, but I say, "If God exists, you don't need [to cross yourself] or pray." If God exists, he's intelligent enough to [do] the important things, the right things.

Can you describe glory?

The glory is being happy. The glory is not winning here or winning there. The glory is enjoying practicing, enjoy every day, enjoying to work hard, trying to be a better player than before.

 
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