Rafael Nadal is by far the greatest French Open champion of all time, having won the tournament a staggering 13 times. Despite that, he isn't always the crowd favorite in Paris; the spectators often root for a player like Roger Federer or a Frenchman over him. And Nadal has no qualms with that.
During a recent interview on a show called 'Alvarez Cafe', Rafael Nadal opened up about several subjects, including crowd behavior at Roland Garros. Nadal admitted that fan support in Paris wasn't easy to come by at the start of his career, but he also believes the French have always had a soft spot for him.
"To be honest, in the beginning, in some matches in Philippe Chatrier things got complicated," Nadal said. "I never took it personally and France is one of the countries in which I feel more loved. Before, when people thought that in Paris they treated me very badly, it was not true. I was walking around Paris and the affection and recognition was total."
"It is true that when I played with the French or with Federer, who at that time had never won, the balance leaned the other way," he added. "But I never took it personally."
Rafael Nadal then went on to talk about his crushing victory over Novak Djokovic in the final of the 2020 French Open. Nadal believes the scoreline of that match was an aberration given the stature of the match and the ability of the Serb.
"The final (scoreline) was impossible," Nadal said. "You cannot imagine that such an important game and with a rival like this (Novak Djokovic) could turn out that way. Although the result was bulky (lopsided) in the first two sets, there were key moments and those moments fell on my side and made a decisive difference."
According to Rafael Nadal, the lower temperatures in Paris coupled with the new balls affected him physically and negated his natural style of play.
"The conditions were very tough in Paris," the Spaniard went on. "Playing cold is difficult for my body and my style. My punches are less effective. Roland Garros is a very big court and I control the angles very well, but for that you need the ball to respond to the racket. This year they changed the ball and that along with the cold, effected my game."
I have many things in life that make me happy outside of tennis: Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal also touched upon the topic of retirement, and explained why he doesn't live in fear of that moment.
"I think I'm still looking forward and wanting to move on, but without any fear of that day coming," Nadal said. "I have many things in life that make me happy outside of tennis and that takes away the tension of not wanting that day to come. I take it naturally."
The 20-time Grand Slam champion acknowledged the injury-prone nature of his career, but pointed out that he has always managed to fight back strongly from the setbacks.
"It is true that I have had many problems during my career, but it is also true that I have always succeeded," Nadal went on. "Sometimes it has cost more, other times less, but the medical, tennis and mental solution has always been found."
Rafael Nadal also recalled an incident from the 2007 Hamburg Open, where he asked Roger Federer for his T-shirt after the Swiss snapped his streak of 81 consecutive wins on clay.
"I lost the final in Hamburg (2007) and had 81 straight games without losing on clay," Nadal said. "It was the historical record, above (Guillermo) Vilas. That day I lost. and I was excited to keep Federer's shirt after losing. I have it saved and I'm excited to have it up on my museum."