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January 15, 2022

Rafael Nadal

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: You've been in Melbourne for quite a long time already. How do you feel a couple days before the first Grand Slam of the season?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, good. Hopefully good. First of all, I'm happy to be here, more than any other thing. That's the main thing for me, be back on the tour. Already played an event.

Yeah, having some good days of practice. As I said before the first tournament, I came here just with the clear goal to be back on the tour. That's the most important thing. Then if I am able to win matches, be improving every single day, fantastic, no?

But main thing is to be back. I am enjoying that fact. I'm excited about play again in a Grand Slam here in Australia.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Could I ask you about how you're feeling after COVID. A lot of us who've had it noticed it does affect our physical performance, but we're not competing in Grand Slams. How do you feel now with the Australian Open about to begin?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I had been very sick during the COVID, take days to recover honestly. Feelings were not good during that seven days, especially the first four days have been really hard.

But after that day by day I felt a little bit better, no? I don't know if I have any negative feeling after COVID because I have been outside of the tour for such a long time, so you never know why one thing happens or the other.

In general terms, I feel happy. If you tell me that I going to be in my position today one month ago, of course I will sign without a doubt the paper saying that I will be in this position and in this situation after all the things that really happened.

Just enjoying the practices and be back and feel myself again a professional tennis player. I'm playing some good tennis.

Q. Do you feel you're in a position where if it comes to a best-of-five, do you feel you're well-positioned fitness-wise?

RAFAEL NADAL: One day we're going to see it. I can't tell you a clear or accurate answer because I didn't play best-of-five since Roland Garros, no? I only played three matches in the last six months. It's obvious that it's not clear anything, no?

I just want to go day by day. Of course, I going to keep trying my best to improve. But practices helps. Be practicing here with the guys, and play three matches last week, let's see how the things start in the Australian Open.

But every day I spend on court, I think it's positive, no? Every match that I am able to win, it's very important for my confidence, it's important for my physical performance, and you never know what can happen later.

Q. There have been a lot of distractions from all the Djokovic news. How different do you think this tournament would look with him in the draw and without him in the draw? What's the difference?

RAFAEL NADAL: I tell you one thing, it's very clear that Novak Djokovic is one of the best players of the history, without a doubt. But there is no one player in history that's more important than an event, no? The players stays and then goes, and other players are coming. No one, even Roger, Novak, myself, Bjorn Borg who was amazing at his times, tennis keep going.

Australian Open is much more important than any player. If he's playing finally, okay. If he's not playing, Australian Open will be great Australian Open with or without him. That's my point of view.

Q. You've seen so many things, played so many matches, the situation with Djokovic, what kind of lessons are there to learn from this? What should the sport take away from it?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. I think the situation have been too far. Honestly I'm little bit tired of the situation because I just believe that it's important to talk about our sport, about tennis.

We went through and are going through very challenging times worldwide, without a doubt, with this pandemic. I mean, I know tennis is zero important comparing from what we are facing now, this virus, no? Tennis is just an entertainment sport for people, and for us is our job. In terms of importance in the world, is no important.

Saying that, during two years we went through some challenging moments, no, because a lot of players haven't been able to survive through the pandemic because the prize money went down. We have been traveling with not many people next to us, without the full team, without the family a lot of people, and a lot of people from countries outside of the Europe or America, North America, when the tournaments are the most -- have been going through very challenging times.

Staying on bubbles, all this very challenging times at some point needs to finish because it's very difficult to keep running a tour with tournaments losing money, with players going through mental problems for all of that.

If there is any solution, and the solution is the vaccine, that's it. We need to be vaccinated and the situation needs to be better for the well-being of everyone and for the health of our sport.

But I repeat: we are here to talk about tennis. As I repeat: it's not important comparing what's happening in the world, that after a lot of millions are suffering. Talking about our sport, that is the thing, is the way to proceed.

Q. What, if anything, do you think this whole episode means for Novak's legacy and his perception around the world with fans and for the sport?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don't know. In some ways it's up to him because I have zero to do. I wish him all the very best. I had a good relationship with him I think during all our career. We did important things, as I said, for the tour, for our foundations, for charity.

We have been together when something negative is happening here in Australia or around the world. But in this case there is lot of -- from my point of view is lot of questions that need to be answered. In some ways I think will be good if everything clarifies soon, no?

About his image? I mean, everyone choose his road. I respect himself as a person, of course, and as an athlete, without a doubt. I respect a lot, no?

I wish him all the best. I really respect him, even if I am not agree with a lot of things that he did the last couple of weeks.

Q. You've had breaks from the tour before, long breaks. Do you find yourself appreciating the situation you're in now more to be back in this tournament, playing? Does it mean more to you now?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, unfortunately when I went through this situation a couple of times on my career. But you never know. Going to arrive the day that the comeback will be impossible.

But I just want to try again, no? I want to give my best. I want to give myself a chance to keep enjoying this beautiful sport, to keep fighting for the things that I have been fighting for for the last 16 years.

I really believe that if I am healthy and if I am able to play weeks in a row on the tour, have more or less a normal calendar, I will have my chances to be in an important position on the tour and give myself chances to keep fighting for important things.

That's the main goal for me. First thing, be healthy. Then hold the passion, that sometimes is difficult when you are going through a lot of physical issues. But is something that I am very satisfied because has been very challenging time for me, no? Last year and a half with my foot, I have been suffering a lot.

I think I hold the positive attitude and the working spirit all the time. That's probably why I'm here today.

Q. What questions do you have about yourself right now as you go into this tournament?

RAFAEL NADAL: I try to don't answer, to don't ask a lot of things to me. I mean, that's why you are here, but... (Laughter).

I don't know. I just try to not think much and just keep going, no? I mean, when you're coming back from injuries and from a period of time that you are not going on the tour, you need to accept that the things not going to be perfect.

That's the main thing for me, accept that you are moving sometimes a little bit slower, sometimes you are going to miss, sometimes things are not coming that quick and that automatic. You need to think more about how to play, about shots, about technical stuff.

But is about time. I know that. You need to forgive yourself the mistakes and be humble enough to accept the process, accept that sometimes things not going to go that way, and to accept there is, of course, bigger chances to lose.

Accepting that, then is the moment to move forward, to play with the best attitude possible, better than ever, then just try to play as good as possible to give yourself chances.

Sport change quickly. What today looks very difficult may be in a couple of days the perception, the personal perception, the perception of everyone, change a lot.

I want to give my chance to make that happen.

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