Five-time Madrid Open champion Rafael Nadal recently spoke about a wide range of topics at his pre-tournament press conference. Nadal gave his thoughts about the epic semifinal encounter against Novak Djokovic in 2009, and also touched upon what makes the city of Madrid special.
2009 was the first year that the Mutua Madrid Open was played on clay rather than a hardcourt. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in the semifinals of the Masters 1000 tournament that year, producing one of the greatest matches ever seen.
Nadal had gotten the better of Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters a month earlier, beating the young Serb in straight sets. The Spaniard then captured yet another Masters 1000 title in Rome, where he ran into Djokovic again.
However, all was not well despite Rafael Nadal's immense success at the start of the clay season in 2009. The Spaniard admitted in his presser on Tuesday that he had 'quite a lot of problems with his knees' that year, which would subsequently mar the rest of his season too.
But he went on to insist that his participation at the event was a good experience, as he could hear the raucous support of his Spanish fans.
"It's just that I was with quite a lot of problems in the knee," Nadal said. "But in the end, good being able to play at home. It was a nice experience."
Novak Djokovic, on his part, largely played second fiddle to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal back then. But he was already showing signs of becoming an all-time great, and he pushed Nadal to the absolute limit at the Madrid Open.
Nadal praised Djokovic for his role in the legendary match, where the Spaniard eventually prevailed 3–6, 7–6(5), 7–6(9) after four hours and three minutes. The King of Clay went on to add that he was not surprised by his arch-rival's level that day, as the Serb generally plays well at the Caja Magica.
"I think it went well and I could come and play the game for four hours," Nadal said. "I remember the semifinal match against Novak was very exciting, [really] good at the end. I don't know if it was a setback, he generally plays here at a very good level."
It is well-documented how much that match took out of Rafael Nadal, as he put in a meek performance to lose against Roger Federer in the final the next day. As fate would have it, Nadal wouldn't win a big title on the tour for almost a whole year after that, before finally triumphing at the 2010 Monte Carlo Masters.
"Madrid is an atmosphere always in the positive" - Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal was also asked during the interaction to describe the city, which is located at an altitude of around 2,100 ft. The Spaniard used the words "happiness" and "isolation" in his response, and also insisted that the atmosphere in the city is always positive.
"Madrid is an atmosphere always in the positive. I think that the people of Madrid are very sociable," the Spaniard said.
Rafael Nadal then claimed that although the city has every luxury to offer, the natives still like to follow their own unique interests wherever they can find them.
"They want to do things apart from Madrid, on their own. Even though it is a beautiful city," Nadal quipped.