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June 8, 2018

Rafael Nadal

Paris, France

R. NADAL/J.M. Del Potro

6-4, 6-1, 6-2

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. A tough first set today, but the way you played in the second and third set, does that give you great belief that only a bad performance will stop you from winning the title on Sunday?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. It was a good second and third set for me, of course, and a good hold in the first. Good tactic and mentality in the first set, of course, and that give me the possibility to play much better later on the match.

And no, my feeling is on Sunday I have a very difficult match against a player that is playing great. I know I have to play my best if I want to have chances.

Good thing is I played a lot of good matches this clay court season. So Sunday is the day to give my best, is the day to increase even a little bit more the level.

I hope to be ready to do it. That's the goal.

Q. What was Del Potro doing so well in the first set that was making that difficult for you?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, well, with his serve was so difficult. He was serving big and hitting very strong the first shots. It was very difficult to stop that.

And with my serve, of course he was playing well, but it was a little bit more an issue that I was not serving that well, and I was not creating spaces on the court, no? He was playing a little bit too comfortable in the first set. That's why I saved six break points in the first.

So in every game that I served, I had problems. So, yeah, when he's serving, it's not in my hands. When I'm serving, should be in my hands.

So Del Potro is an amazing player. And when he was serving, as I said before, no, no, was not a big chance for me. But when I was serving, I gave too many chances to him to have the break.

I was lucky or -- lucky or I don't know what to say for them. And, then, yes, converted the important one.

Q. You are here at home after so many years, after so many wins. How do you manage to be angry on yourself for just one wrong ball that you put on the ground?

Q. How do you manage to be still angry on yourself if you are losing one ball?
RAFAEL NADAL: You don't see me very often because I am not angry very often, no? I am in a positive way always on court.

Today in the first set, for example, I was not playing great, was suffering because he was playing better than me, I think, and I didn't put not one bad face. I was just focused and try to hold the situation and just trying to be positive on every point, no?

For me, the motivation to play here always is high, high as possible.

But for me, every tournament, I believe that there is chances, limited chances in your career. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert.

Then you lose, you lose, but I gonna play with my highest passion and love for the game and for the sport to try to have success.

I lost a lot of opportunities for injuries, and I know the years are going quick (smiling). So there is not 10 more chances to keep playing here.

So I just enjoy the fact that I am here again.

Q. After you won, you said on center court, and you have just told us again now, that you love tennis. After all your achievements, what is it about tennis that you still love?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I love what I am doing. I love the competition. I love the sport.

I can't say another thing. Because if it's not that way, it's sure that I will not be here after I don't know how many years of career that I already had. I started with 16 on the tour, so already 32.

So it's a lot of years of playing and doing the same things every year. But the only way to keep doing that and keep going on court every morning with the motivation to improve something, because you feel the game, no? You feel the sport and you appreciate.

Q. With your incredible record here and on clay, if you had to step back and say what gives you the most satisfaction in your play on this surface, the problem-solving, the consistency, ability? What would you say?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is very difficult to say one thing, I think, because I -- being honest, I really believe that it's a combination of things that gives you the chance to be successful, no?

Of course is a surface that combines a lot of things, no? Physical demanding, strategy, you know, tactical, and of course mental resistance, no, because is a surface that you need to fight.

You can play aggressive, you can play defensive. The surface allows you to play different ways, and there is not only one way that you can be successful like in another surface, that maybe on grass, you cannot play defensive, you cannot have success playing defensive.

Here you can have success -- playing too defensive, you will never have success, but some moments you can play defensive and you can play offensive, and both things you can have success with both tactics, no?

So I believe that the only thing that I am -- or the most important thing is I was able to be ready always to adapt my game or to adapt myself to the new times always.

Q. For a good reason, they call you the king of clay since so many years. Four years ago you played Dominic Thiem the first time here in Paris, and it was a clear thing. Now you've played nine times against him and you have had your losses against him. Did you expect that this matchup would be a final one day here in Paris against Dominic?
RAFAEL NADAL: Four years ago, I didn't know if I will be back in a final (smiling).

So I can't think about that. I know he has a great potential. I know he's a great player. But I can't predict the future, and I can't predict myself if I can be in another final, so I cannot predict if he gonna be in the final, no?

Q. I meant in the course of these games when you played against him...
RAFAEL NADAL: No, of course when you -- he's already for the third time -- two times in semifinals, first time in the final, no? Is already three years that he's already in the semifinals.

You know when you start the clay court season that Dominic, he's one of these players that have the chance to win every tournament that he's playing, and maybe even more here in Roland Garros because he's strong physically. He has the power.

So of course since three, four years ago, especially since three years ago, you see that he's one of the candidates, of course, to have success on clay, meaning that you have success on clay, Roland Garros is normal that you have more.

Q. You were down Love-40 and 15-40 in two different games in the first set, and it's very hard to come back. Your stats show that you come back better than most people. How do you do it? Is it a matter of concentration or what to recover from something like that?
RAFAEL NADAL: It's about everything. First thing, you need to still focus. Sometimes when you are Love-40 you believe that you have already lost the game, and the normal thing is that you lose the game (smiling).

Of course with Love-40 and 15-40, normal thing, at minimum, you lose one of these two games, but today was not that case. I feel a little bit lucky for that.

For me, the only way to approach this is just think point by point, just try to think about how to win the point of Love-40, then the 15-40. And then when you are 30-40, you know that you are close to save it. Because if you come back to deuce, the chances are better for you than for the opponent.

So just thinking in a positive way and just thinking that I have to hold. I can't give him the game. If he win the game, okay, but I will not give him. No, that's the only way for me to approach the tough moments.

Q. Do you think that Dominic is right now in 2018 at this French Open, is he the toughest opponent you could have faced for you in the final?
RAFAEL NADAL: He's in the final, and he had a tough draw, so yes.

Q. What has worked for you when you have played Dominic in the past? What has the difference been, if you could sum that up.
RAFAEL NADAL: Play well (smiling).

It's true that I understand that everybody here, you are to write things.

I can say a lot of things, but the easiest answer and the real answer is play well. If I play well, I normally have my chances. If I don't play well, it will be almost impossible, because I play against a player that he gonna play well, no?

He's playing well. Had a great match today. Good match the other day against Sascha. Is a player that will be a big challenge.

So I can think about tactics, but you can do tactical things when you are playing well. If you are not playing well, it's very difficult duplicate a strategy.

So what I have to do is play my best. If I play my best, I believe that I can have my chance.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in Spanish.

Q. Del Potro had his opportunities, his break points, but you were able to convert your points. I don't know if it was luck or ability?
RAFAEL NADAL: Luck is when things happen that you don't want. But when things happen which you're trying to get, you wouldn't call it luck. You would say that at this very moment, things came out the way you wanted.

Okay, there is always some luck in things, but the idea is to try and do things. Obviously you have luck when you're hitting the wrong way and the ball still is in, but it's more luck when he was hitting a good shot and failing. That's when it was luck for me.

But, yes, I feel lucky to have saved the first set. Yes, I feel that I faced the match mentally as I had to. And the result is what it is.

But normally, the way the game went, I should have lost the first set, but I managed to save the points. And from then on, when I managed to win the set, the game changed.

He was playing very good, but when I started playing really well and with more intensity, I managed to win the two sets. And I would say that after the first set, the match was very positive for me.

Q. If you remember the last time you played against him in Madrid or when you played him in Rome, the conditions were very different. Does this mean anything in your head when you're playing?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I prefer to have won than to have lost.

For him, what can I tell you? Monte-Carlo was what it was. Madrid was a completely different thing.

These matches are difficult. You're playing against the best players in the world, as it should be at this level of tournament. The one who wins is the best one that day.

And I will do my best to be the best on Sunday. That's reality. These are difficult matches. You have to face the challenge, and you have to be ready to fight for it and to face the adversity and whatever may happen during the match.

But these are things that I will think about tomorrow when I go and practice. Today is a day to rejoice. When you're in a final like Roland Garros, it's a great happiness. Being in a final here is something I should rejoice about and be happy about.

It may sound easy and logical, but I don't want it to be. It's not a routine. I don't want anyone to think that it's a routine. It's a day that I should rejoice about, enjoy.

And from tomorrow on, I will do what I have to do to get ready for Sunday.

Q. Thiem says that he has a plan. He knows how to play against you, that it's not like in Madrid or Rome and even more as you're playing five sets. But he knows that he's beat you several times on clay.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, he's been a very complex opponent. He's one of the best players in the world on this surface. I hope that I can win.

Q. You were saying that you don't want to fall into the spiral of not recognizing the importance of being here, okay, but do you take into account the fact that you have played 11 finals here?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, when I say things, it also depends how you write them. I don't want to sound arrogant. I have never been arrogant.

So what I simply mean is that even though you have to remain humble, you also have to give the value to whatever you're doing.

It would be even more arrogant to think that all this is normal. I have to value what's happening to me. Three months ago, things were different. I don't know what things cost me. I know what's happening in my career. In Acapulco, for example, or in other places, I have had an opportunity sometimes to be in finals and had to retire because I hurt myself.

All these things are things that I have inside of me. And when things change and you have good moments, it's time to enjoy them and to recognize that you're having good times.

As you suffer, when you have bad moments, for example, in Acapulco when I was stuck and couldn't play in Miami, as well, these are difficult moments. But when you end up in the finals of Roland Garros after winning in Monte-Carlo and in Rome, you have to be happy and recognize the value of things.

But the truth is I'm happy to be where I am. I value this very much, especially at this advanced stage of my career and in view of the injuries I have suffered throughout my career.

So it's great to still be in the competition at this time.

Q. When reaching this point of the tournament, what have you learned about yourself, the weak points, the strong points? What have you learned over the years and what has changed?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, you know, each year is different. And with the years, you know yourself a bit more. You know when you're doing well, when you're not doing so well, when things are okay or not.

But with the years, you learn that things change very quickly. You think that things are not good, but suddenly they change and they become good. Conversely, they can turn very badly when they were good.

So I always say the same: You have to be ready so that when things are going wrong, you have to be ready for them to overturn and turn well, and conversely. And for that you have to work. You must never let opportunities go by.

You must always think that things might get better or you have to be with your eyes open so that you don't lose your positive energy.

As I said, things change very quickly in sports and in life, and you have to be ready. That's the only thing which I can say about all those years. You never know what things are going to happen, and you have to be ready.

Q. Very often one talks about being in the finals like being in steamroller mode. What do you feel?
RAFAEL NADAL: I can't tell you. I'm just in the finals. Sunday will be the moment when I have to give everything I have inside. I have to fight till the end.

And I have to have a clear plan at the time of coming out on the court. For that, I'm going to practice tomorrow with this idea in mind. I know I have to give a little more than I have given until now in this tournament.

This extra thing I have to give, I feel I have it inside me, but I have to go and get it. I have to find it inside me and find the right options for Sunday, the options that will be the right ones to succeed.

But I will have to fight, and I'll do my best. I can't tell you more. The behavior and the mental will be there, but the tennis can fail. You never know. You have to be prepared.

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