Everyone’s reacting differently to Rafael Nadal’s unbelievable upset today at Roland Garros to Robin Soderling. Some are devastated that their hero is gone. Some are doing a (premature) victory dance, thinking this is Roger Federer’s ticket to GOAThood. Some are mourning the hoped-for Roger vs. Rafa climax on Sunday. And some tormented souls are wondering if Andy Murray’s first major will be on the red clay.
But at least one guy is taking the loss well – with calm, dignity and perspective. And here he is, speaking to the press after the match:
Rafa has a nice way of expressing himself in English, but he tends to get more nuanced in Spanish. Here are some choice bits from that portion:
Q. As from the second set, some of us thought that you would be able to win the match. What made you lose your calm?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I never was calm; that’s the truth. Instead of losing my calm, the match started off very badly for me. I mean, the second set, I should have won it 6‑4. Then there was wind, and that wasn’t good.
Then not being calm enough to face the important points, so I had to fight. But sometimes it’s not enough fighting. You have to play a good level of tennis.
And sometimes people think I win because I’m physically fit, but, no. When I win, it’s because I play well, and that wasn’t the case today. I must say that at key moments I couldn’t take the opportunity because I was losing my calm, and I didn’t play well.
Q. This defeat makes your victories even greater?
RAFAEL NADAL: No. No, defeats never make you grow, but you also realize how difficult what I achieved up until today was, and this is something you need sometimes. You need a defeat to give value to your victories.
Q. Was it the wonderful game level of Soderling on this surface, or because you were on a bad day or any other phenomenon, like you played in Barcelona then in Madrid? Maybe you played too many tournaments.
RAFAEL NADAL: Stop it. Stop it. Had I played my best level against Soderling, maybe the results would have been different. But he played a very good level of tennis and I didn’t play well, so the results are what they are.
I didn’t play at my best level. I have days like this, and this was one of those days. I had someone playing very well in front of me.
I’m not going to modify the way I prepare, because I’ve always prepared in the same way for the last four years. So that wouldn’t make sense.
Q. A minute ago you were saying that, well, this day had to happen one day. So were you prepared, or are you surprised by this defeat?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, all of us athletes, we know that when we walk on the court we can either win or lose. I know it for a fact anything can happen, and I have to accept them both in the same way.
You cannot collapse either because you’ve won a match or because you’ve lost it. This is sport, and you can have victories or defeats. No one remembers defeats on the long run. People remember victories.
Q. When the crowd on the central court was supporting you in such a wonderful way, what did you feel?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I didn’t feel anything, because I’m used to hearing the names of players being shouted, whether the crowd supports me or supports my opponent.
But it’s a shame. I mean, this tournament is so important, such a beautiful tournament for me. Well,that’s the way it is. Maybe at one stage they supported Soderling more than me, and that was a bit sad.
But I wish when I’m back they can support me a bit more in key moments.
Q. Is this the worst defeat in your career?
RAFAEL NADAL: Oh, please. I never lost a final. I never lost here so far. It’s my first ‑‑ it’s the first match I lose. It’s the round of 16. So once again, people remember about victories and not defeats. So it’s not the worst in my career. Not even close to that.
Q. You said that now that you’re out, your favorite player is Federer. Now, tell us, who would you like to see winning the tournament, if you could pick one?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, no. Always one of my compatriots, a Spanish guy.
Q. If there were no one from Spain, would you like Federer to win?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, that would be great. He’s tried to win it for many years, and he was very unfortunate losing three finals and one semifinal. If one guy deserves it, that’s him.
Q. Rafa, could you please describe the moment when you met at the changing room and what you said?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, what we say in the locker room staysthere, and we said nothing. I mean, youwalk in there, you sit on your bench, and you’ve lost and that’s it.
Rafa may not have felt calm on court, but he definitely kept it together afterward. I hope his attitude helps his fans feel better!