Before competing on the Caja Mágica clay, Rafael Nadal saw in the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open in a very special way. On Thursday the five-time champion took part in a virtual chat hosted by Rafael Plaza and Antonio Arenas and also attended by Feliciano López, director of the Madrid ATP Masters 1000.
Spanish tennis’ biggest star covered a multitude of subjects before fastening his laces tomorrow and taking to the clay. Nadal, who is set to become one of the players with the most appearances at the tournament, with 18 in the main draw, looked back on his favourite moment in the event, a memory that proved to be the first step on a long journey.
“The first, which was in 2005”, he remembered in reference to the epic final against Ivan Ljubicic, when he came back from two sets down to take the title. “It was the final, but it wasn’t on clay. It was an unforgettable match, so exciting, I remember the fans were incredible. The match cost me a few months of my career. I broke my foot, but it was worth it. It was worth the emotion I experienced, that made it impossible to forget. The next day I woke up and I was limping, I couldn’t walk. The fans were very close, and as it was indoors it was louder. It was amazing to win at home in that way, also I was just a kid”.
After a lifetime on tour, the Balearic Islander and the Toledo native were able to look back at their favourite memories together around the world. Nadal took us back to some of his times with López that are etched in his memory.
“The last Davis Cup in Seville was special. Also the last semi-finals match in the Davis Cup in Madrid”, remembered Nadal, who paired up with López in the Caja Mágica to help Spanish tennis win its last salad bowl. “We’ve done a lot together. More than other moments, that semi-final against Great Britain was important for both of us because it allowed us to add something important to our careers”.
In a relaxed atmosphere, Nadal talked about his relationships with other players on tour, mentioning the change in the locker rooms that he has noticed in recent years.
“We used to be together more. When I joined the tour, we Spaniards were together more. When there wasn’t so much internet, it meant that we went out together more. Maybe that’s why I also had a closer relationship with the older players”, explained the Balearic Islander. “Nowadays, I have a good relationship with all the Spaniards, particularly with Marc, Feli, Andújar, Roberto… I get on well with them all. And of the foreigners I have a good relationship with Thiem, with Federer too. In general, I have a good relationship with everyone, but we Spaniards are together more. Years ago, when Pico and Zabaleta retired… we used to spend more time together with all of them”.
Above anything else, everyone’s attention is focused on the competition that gets underway this weekend in Madrid. In the Caja Mágica, where the ATP Masters 1000 is hotly anticipated, Nadal is preparing to play again in front of the fans that support him like nowhere else in the world.
“Madrid is unique. I’ve always had a unique feeling playing in Madrid. I think that this year it will be more than ever. Although there is going to be 40% capacity, compared with what we have been seeing it will be incredible. Let’s hope the crowd are as excited to cheer us on as we are to play”, said Nadal, who will start training in the Caja Mágica on Friday.
“I hope to be ready to compete well and play as well as I need to so that I can play in front of our fans for as many days as possible. Tomorrow I’m going to start the real preparations. I have a double session for the next three days. I’m going to prepare as much as possible, as always”.