Rafa and the Olympics
Why have you pulled out of the Olympic squad?
It’s sadly down to my knee. It’s a problem I was suffering from at Wimbledon and I simply haven’t recovered fully enough to play. It’s such a huge shame because the Olympic Games only come around every four years but that’s life and I hope to be back soon.
Who is your favourite to win Olympic gold in London?
Tennis at the Olympic Games is such a special competition. Also because it’s on grass and it’s the best of three sets everybody can win…However I’m really patriotic so I wish David Ferrer or any Spanish player wins the Olympic Gold.
Rafa’s Sporting Heroes
Which sportsman or woman do you admire the most?
I admire a lot of people, but in terms of sport I’ve always loved the mentality of Tiger Woods on a golf course. I always love his eyes when he’s setting himself and focusing on his decision, he has a really strong, focused face and believes that he can make the shot.
So with golf it’s not so much the physical skill, it’s the mental strength you admire and determination?
For sure, with golf it’s not a physically demanding sport like tennis. That’s what makes tennis great, you combine both things. It’s a very mental sport and at the same time can be dramatically physical. But I do admire the mentality of sport more than the physicality because physical performance is much easier to practice than mental performance.
You could have been a professional footballer but you chose tennis. Why?
I was much better playing tennis than football! I love football but I love tennis too and I think I made the right choice. I do love team sports though and in tennis you don’t get much of a chance to play in a team, it’s only really when we are representing our country, and that’s something I miss.
(In tennis) you are alone and no one can help you, you need to overcome bad situations yourself and I think this is great because it’s a big challenge, you know? For example, in football if you’re not playing well it’s not the end because there are other players on the pitch, but with tennis if you’re playing badly you’re out. That’s why tennis is a very mental sport and you need to give one hundred per cent every day, and mentally you need to be one hundred per cent.
Rafa & Poker
Everyone knows you’re one of the greatest tennis players in the world, but poker is something new for you. As such a competitive guy, does the world of poker make you nervous?
No, not at all! I don’t mind being number 200 in the world, or being the worst poker player in the world – what I always do is try my best at everything I do. Even if I’m just playing golf with my friends I want to try my best and work really hard, and so with poker I’m looking to keep improving day by day. PokerStars has given me my own coach and I’m getting advice from their players around the world so I should progress!
Rafa on Roland-Garros
How did you feel when you won at Roland-Garros against Novak Djokovic?
Obviously I was happy – I’d been losing some important matches for a while, although in Monte-Carlo and Rome I had managed to change the dynamic a little. But in the end Paris was very important for me because I felt prepared for it, for the match after losing against him previously, and luckily everything turned out well. It was a very emotional moment and I was pleased.
Every year that you come back to Roland-Garros do you think that you have every chance of winning the tournament again?
Not at all. Every year that I’ve won Roland-Garros, I’ve never started feeling I have a chance of winning. I feel like it’s a difficult journey and I have to take it one step at a time. And then you have to try and see how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis, as the tournament goes on you realise more how you’re feeling – whether you’re performing as you wanted or a bit worse. You try to find a positive attitude and feel the best you possibly can every day.
Rafa Nadal, one of the world’s greatest sportsmen, was speaking to Victoria Coren, a Team PokerStars Pro. He has joined the PokerStars team and he is currently being taught to play by the brand. Follow Rafa’s progress as he learns a new sport at http://psta.rs/Ntn7z2