This time, there were no crowds of people like there had been on other occasions. His friend Pau Gasol wasn’t there, nor was it possible to spot any other familiar faces from the world of sports.
That’s because for several years now, Rafael Nadal has been turning the extraordinary into ordinary. Even his closest circle was more contained about its celebration of the Spaniard’s 12th French Open victory on Sunday with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 win over the Austrian Dominic Thiem.
Rafa’s father Sebastià was there, cracking jokes, while his uncle Toni dealt with all the people who wanted a word with him. As always, there were cousins, uncles and friends on hand. His wife-to-be Mery was there, as well as his sister Maribel, his agent Carlos Costa, and Manolo Santana, a Spanish tennis champion from the 1960s.
Manolo Santana, former champion
“What Rafa’s done is unbelievable,” noted Santana. “I won here twice, and it almost sounds like a joke!”
Meanwhile, sitting inside his own sacred space, the champion took a few moments to enjoy the taste of glory before meeting with reporters at 9.15pm.
“It’s tough when you go through a lot of things at the same time. A couple of months ago I lost my energy because I had many problems in a row. When you get slapped in the face repeatedly, in the end you get hurt,” said Nadal, who will compete in Wimbledon in July.
“I had the option of stopping drastically, or changing my attitude, and I was able to do the second. It’s the little things and the passion that keep you going,” he said, alluding to his trouble on clay courts this year.
“Rafa has been through some tough times,” confirmed one of his trainers, Carlos Moyà. “I’ve had to be more of a friend than a trainer. At times like that, you have to drop your technical side and become more of a friend, someone that Rafa can talk to and listen to. It wasn’t just me though, it was the entire team.”
Regarding Roger Federer, who is two Grand Slam titles ahead of him, Nadal said that catching up with the Swiss champion is not what drives him.
“Of course we push each other,” he acknowledged at the press conference. “He motivates me, but I am not obsessed with him. I feel very lucky about all the things that are happening to me. You can’t be frustrated all day, thinking that your neighbor has a bigger house, a bigger garden, a bigger TV than you. The last thing I am thinking about now is catching Federer, I am enjoying this thing now, and whatever happens in the future, we will see.”
English version by Susana Urra.