Rafael Nadal spoke to media on a conference call from his home in Mallorca to promote his participation in the BNP Paribas Showdown scheduled for Monday, March 4 at Madison Square Garden as part of Tennis Night in America. Nadal will play Juan Martin Del Potro in the second match of the evening while Serena Williams will face Victoria Azarenka in the first.
Nadal has been off of the tour with a partially torn patella tendon since a second round loss at Wimbledon.
Nadal who has been swimming as part of his rehabilitation, said that he was encouraged with his progress and hopes to be able to practice soon.
“I don’t want to put any goals to play a tournament,” Nadal said. “I want to go day by day. I go every day to the gym and the swimming pool to continue with my recovery. I am trying to not think that far.”
“I am feeling a little bit better now than the first couple of months.
“It has been very, very tough for me because I feel my knee didn’t improve in the right direction, but today is something different. The last couple of weeks the improvement of my knee is something I really can feel.”
Hopeful of returning to the tour before the end of the year, Nadal is uncertain of how long it will take him to get back into playing shape.
“I will need a period of time of practice,” he said. “I don’t know if that will take a few weeks or one month and a half.”
Conference Call Transcript
Nadal: I want to tell everybody thank you very much for inviting me to play in this great event. Roger told me it was a great event and I’m looking forward to being there especially not having the chance to play in New York at the US Open … I am excited to be there.
Q: You missed the U.S. Open. How do you feel about coming back into New York with the atmosphere that we have here with the exhibition match?
Nadal: As I said before, I’m very excited it’s something different it’s something special to play, it’s very special. All the exhibitions in every place are important to me … Playing at Madison Square Garden will be something very, very special, especially after not being in New York this year. That’s something bad for me that I didn’t play in the U.S. Open. It’s something that I felt really, really bad about when I had to take this position, but having the invitation to play in this fantastic event next year will be great. I’m very excited. As I said before, playing at Madison Square Garden is something that I’m very excited to do it. This is a special opportunity and I want to enjoy it.
Q: How do your preparations for an exhibition differ from when you’re preparing for a tournament like a grand slam?
Nadal: Well, it’s difficult to compare. When I play in exhibition, I want to go out, I want to play my best, I want to have fun, to create a very good show for the spectators and for MSG…All the things that I can provide…I try my best in every moment.
Q: Can you please tell us how you are feeling, and what is the status and state of your knee’s rehab?
Nadal: I’m working hard every day to recover as quick as possible…I am …feeling a little bit better now than the first couple of months. I’ve been very, very tough for me…because I feel that my knee didn’t move in the right way, right direction. But today is something different now. I feel the last couple of weeks I can feel the improvement in my knee…It feels very different now. The groove on my knee is something that I really can feel and it’s something that helped a lot of me to keep working hard, to keep doing everyday what I have to do. Today, at the moment, I am working to try to come back to practice in the tennis court for not very long periods of time.
Q: Do you have thoughts on the debate about prize money, and do you expect the players to be united as this moves forward next of course with the French Open?
Nadal: Well, the last couple of months I have been out of the competition, so I really have no idea about all of these discussions about the rights of the players…Today they have more information than me…In anything, the prize money, anything that can improve hours for the players…
Q: Do you think the players deserve more of the money from the grand slams?
Nadal: You know the thing is not what I think. What I think is nothing because I’m one player that… what is best for the Grand Slams, what is best for the players …It has nothing to do…we have a great and powerful ATP…I think they are doing the job for us…they are working hard to create a better tour…Improve the relationship with the Grand Slams…It would work with the support of the players. I really have no right to say it’s…it’s not fair, who’s upset, how much they have to put…I can say that they’re happy about our sport and they continue moving in a very good direction. I am happy to be part of this sport …Things that can improve? Always things can improve…
Q: Were there some deeper concerns that you weren’t going to be able to come back from this as well as you could in the past?
Nadal: That’s not an issue today. I never thought about that and the doctors never thought about that…I never really tired nobody so that’s something good for me…right direction…The only thing we tried to make conservative treatment…nothing serious…it feels that is working well…that’s what we tried and it seems like it’s working well…
Q: How soon do you expect to return to competitive tennis?
Nadal: I wouldn’t know. That’s something I will know when my knee is completely without pain. When I start to practice and I am … at long periods of time outside of the tennis court without competitions. I can imagine that when I come back on the tennis court, I will make period of time at practice to start slow and to improve and do more and more everyday … It could take 3 weeks, it could take one month and a half, I don’t know. Today what I think is continue with the treatment, continue with the…and when I don’t feel nothing, I’m hoping that will happen soon, I will come back on the tennis court…I will have a period of time to…and ready to compete.
Q: You’re seven and three against Del Potro, I know it’s an exhibition, but does the competitive nature in you really wants to win this or is just more for the fans?
Nadal: Well, whenever you are in an exhibition you want to do the right show for the fans. You want the fans to have the best time possible watching the match, but sure I want to win … I think everyone will try their best. At the end of the day to play an exhibition match you want to have the best show for the fans … I will do my best possible to have the fans enjoy the match.
Q: Did you watch any of the U.S. Open at all, and how hard was it not to be there considering it’s the first one you’ve missed since you played your first one back in 2003?
Nadal: I watched a few matches. Sure, it was tough to take a position like them playing in one of the most important tournaments of the year to know I played in the finals the last three years it’s something bad … It’s hard…I had success the first part of the season … I have to work hard every day to be back as soon as possible on the tennis court and back to competition …
Q: Novak said after Andy Murray won the US Open that tennis would be more interesting in 2013 because now you have four guys who won majors. Do you agree with that and how much more interesting can it get with all four of you having won a major?
Nadal: I really don’t see a big difference. Even if Andy doesn’t win a Grand Slam before this US Open Andy was ready to win a Grand Slam … The level was no difference. Now that he won a Grand Slam that is not going to change my thoughts…when I go on a tennis court with Andy Murray … hopefully I will have the feeling that I can win. Even he doesn’t win the Grand Slam I think he is a fantastic player and his chances to win Grand Slams … are always high. He is a fantastic tennis player.
Q: To clarify – you’re not hitting on a tennis court but you hope to hit soon? And do you expect to play in London or Davis Cup or is that now impossible?
Nadal: Impossible? No. Difficult? Yes. Let’s go day-by-day. After missing the Olympics and after missing the US Open I don’t want to make goals to play a tournament. I want to go day-by-day in the gym and in the swimming pool … to continue with my recovery. I’m trying not to think that far and take it day-by-day … after not going to the Olympics and after not going to the US Open that was two important goals for me … I wish today the situation was different, but I’m going to go day-by-day …
Q: You’ve had a long time now since you’ve been resting your knee to think about this. Is there any chance because your knees have been a problem for quite some time that you will make a serious adjustment or change in your schedule for when you come back?
Nadal: My feeling is that the hard court is probably the most … frustrating to play for my knee and for my ankles. Today the hard court is probably one of the most important surfaces on the tennis tour. I really do not have too many chances to change my schedule. If I want to keep having chances to be in the top position in the rankings I really have to follow the ATP Tour schedule. I can make a few adjustments, but not much …
Q: Have you spoken to other athletes who have had the same injury and talk to them about how they felt after they came back or the time table?
Nadal: I have the right people I think and they are really confident about my recovery. There is no information on the different athletes … my recovery has been very satisfactory …
Q: Spain has drawn Canada in February on the vote. Does Canada have any chance at all against the powerful Spain under those circumstances?
Nadal: I’m sure. Yes, Spain has a great team….it’s going to be a difficult confrontation for the Spain team …
Tennis Panorama News participates in many tennis media conference calls. “On The Call” serves to give readers an inside view into the world of tennis news.