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May 16, 2017

Rafael Nadal

Rome, Italy

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Welcome to Rome. Just a question on the clay court season. Don't you think it is a little compressed? Madrid and Rome and two Masters 1000 back to back, and then you play Barcelona in the previous weeks? Should not be better to have more days, more weeks for clay court?
RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing new. Is something that we have for already a long time. That's how it is. Important thing is that we don't lose more weeks on clay, because I think today we have less tournaments on clay than probably ten years ago.

But is important that ATP save or protect the clay and the same time that protects the grass, because are important surfaces for our sport.

The ideal thing will be another way, but that's how it is today, and is stupid to think about what should be or what not, because today we don't have the possibility to change anything here.

Q. You played a great match in Madrid. Which is your percent at this moment, your percent and form in this moment? 85, 90?
RAFAEL NADAL: I was never very good in mathematics. (Laughter.)

I don't know. I already won three tournaments on clay, so I am playing well. I am very happy about the beginning of the season. Not only on clay. On every surface. I think I am playing great events in all the surfaces since the beginning of the year.

So is important for me that the clay court season started very, very well. Is very important part of the season for me. Very emotional events everywhere, because in all of the events I'm playing on clay, I had a lot of success in my career, so try to enjoy every day the fact I am playing again in these events.

Here I am in Rome. What happened in the past is past. Now I am here to keep trying my best in an event that I love so much. I had some unbelievable memories in this court. A lot of important matches in my career I played here. So just try to be ready for that, no?

I don't know the percentage. I am happy to be here again, happy the way I am playing, and let's see what happens tomorrow.

Q. Obvious question. Yesterday Roger Federer announced he will skip the French Open and to sit out the entire clay season. Does that change the complexion of the French Open for you in any shape or way, or in a similar vein, would you maybe even consider skipping, for example, a surface like grass altogether in order to rest your body in the middle of the season?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. Everybody does what's feels better for them and is normal. If he doesn't play no one tournament before the French, is normal that he finally skip the French, no?

Probably he had that decision before. Probably he doesn't want to announce before. But thinking in a logical way, is strange that if you don't play on clay in no one event and then you start on the biggest one, playing best of five, will be not very logical thing. So is normal his decision when he decided to not play in no one event before.

Q. In the old days, '80s and '90s, players used to skip the French Open or maybe skip Wimbledon because they didn't like grass at all. Do you think that's something more players could do as a strategy to sort of preserve their energy and health and avoid the surfaces they don't like?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. The answer is easy that the way that the ranking was before is not the way that the ranking is today. When you don't play, is zero points. Before was not like that.

No, you had the possibility to count the best 18 results, and the players tried to play -- if his favorite surface was clay, they tried to play as many tournaments of these 18 on clay.

Today the ranking way is completely different, so is very, very difficult to skip surfaces, and at the same time, to skip Masters 1000s or skip Grand Slams probably is not the best idea possible. It's true Roger is in a moment of his career that he can do it because he played very well beginning of the season. He can do it, obviously. But I am sure that for everybody is not the ideal situation.

Q. You played against Austrian player Dominic Thiem in the Madrid final. It was a great final. Can you comment a little bit about him, how far you think he can go on the top of the tennis? Maybe if he can win a Grand Slam once? And which weaknesses he still has in your eyes?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think he's a great player, no? He's young enough to keep competing for the important things for the next ten years, probably, or eight years, I don't know. Depends on him.

If he preserves a little bit the body and choose the right calendar, probably he will have the right to fight for important things for a lot of years.

He has a big potential. Probably his best surface is clay today, and if I have to say one tournament that he can win is Roland Garros, no?

So let's see. Hopefully not this year (winking) but let's see.

Q. At this stage of your career, how much do you care or not about ranking? Do you care about becoming No. 1 again? Do you care about being in top 4 absolutely or don't you focus on this anymore?
RAFAEL NADAL: I want to be high in the ranking, no, because if I am high in the ranking means I am playing well. That's all.

No, but I said before the season, no, somebody asked me about try to be No. 1 again, and I said I not gonna try to be No. 1 again. If happens because I am playing so well, great. But I am not going to do a calendar to try to be No. 1. I am going to try to do my calendar the normal calendar, and if happens, will be something amazing, but that not worries me a lot.

What worry me is try to be healthy, try to be competitive, and the most important thing is be happy, no?

And I am playing well. I feel myself competitive in all of the matches that I competed this year. And that's what makes me happy, no? More than being 4th, 5th, 6th or 2nd. Doesn't matter. Most important for me is enjoy every week and feel myself well.

If that happens, I know that probably gonna have option to be high in the ranking.

Q. Football question. Do you think to see the final of tomorrow evening, the Italian Cup here in Rome, or your idea about the final Champions League?
RAFAEL NADAL: Tomorrow night we have a final in Spain, too, Celta against Real Madrid, competing for the title. So I'm gonna follow Madrid. That is my team.

Champions League will be a great final between probably -- well, they deserve to be in the final. They won against the best teams. Will be an emotional final, very open final. Hopefully Madrid wins.

Q. You will play against Almagro, and Seppi went out with Almagro, and yesterday five Italian players went out from the tournament. If you have advice for the Italian movement of tennis, for our future, what do you think of the Italian tennis?
RAFAEL NADAL: I don't have the whole information to speak about the future of the Italian tennis. I don't know the young players that are coming, being honest, and it's difficult for me to say, no?

But at the same time, what I can say that is having an event like this one that is owned by the Italian Federation, if I am not wrong, is a big advantage, because that's a lot of money to invest. This tournament creates a lot of money to invest for the next generation, so that's a big advantage for the sport here in Italy, no? Probably will have a positive future.

Playing against Almagro tomorrow always gonna be a very hard first round. He's a great player. Last week in the first, second round, he almost win against Novak. He already won three matches here, if I am not wrong, because he's coming from the qualifying. For me, is always dangerous. First day after Madrid, different conditions, will be a dangerous one, no?

I need to be focused. I need to play my best. Let's see if I am able to do it.

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