During a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open, Rafael Nadal recalled an incident from Roland Garros in 2005 when the crowd was constantly on his back. The Spaniard said the atmosphere at times was "unplayable" but that his job was to maintain his focus and find a way to carry on.
Nadal made his debut at Roland Garros in 2005. He defeated home favorite Richard Gasquet in the third round, much to the crowd's displeasure, and was drawn to face another Frenchman in Sebastien Grosjean in the last 16.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion began the clash in dominant fashion, taking the first set 6-4. After a controversial line call early in the second set that went in Nadal's favor, the audience decided to take matters into their own hands. They continually booed the Mallorcan, making it impossible for him to serve.
The jeering continued for minutes on end, despite repeated requests for calm from the chair umpire and Grosjean himself. After play resumed several minutes later, Grosjean took control of the second set, winning it 6-3.
But Nadal was unfazed and bounced back in the third set to take a 3-0 lead. An unexpected downpour forced the match to be abandoned, but the Spaniard returned the following day to close out a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win.
Speaking at his press conference after beating Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals of the 2022 Indian Wells Masters on Friday, the Mallorcan reminisced about his state of mind during the ordeal.
The World No. 4 admitted pointed out that while some players managed to weaponize their anger when confronted by such a crowd, he was not capable of doing so. Instead, he relied on positive emotions to steer him through difficult times both on and off the court.
"I've always had a very basic point of view and it's to do the things that are going to help you play better or win more. You can be sad, you can be very upset - if that helps you play better or win more, do it. But that's not true in my case," Nadal said. "When I am upset or lose my concentration, I say, I am not this kind of guy [who gets upset]. I like to be positive, not negative. Not just on the tennis court, in my normal life too."
The Spaniard added that the atmosphere in Paris was extremely hostile but that it was not his job to control the crowd. Nadal asserted that he simply tried to do what kept him going, which he could not have achieved by becoming sad or upset about the crowd's behavior.
"So, of course, I remember that match and for a moment it was unplayable, but was not my job to stop that. It was the referee's job to stop this atmosphere that was making it impossible to play tennis in that moment," he said. "But then I think we stopped for light or rain, I don't know, and then we come back the next day. But I just tried to do the things that help me to keep going."
Rafael Nadal will take on Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals of the 2022 Indian Wells Masters
Following his victory against Nick Kyrgios, Rafael Nadal will square off against compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals of the 2022 Indian Wells Masters on Saturday. Alcaraz defeated defending champion Cameron Norrie in straight sets in the quarterfinals to set up a meeting with his idol.
Nadal won the only previous meeting between the two players, at the 2021 Madrid Masters, in straight sets. A win in the semifinals would mark the Spaniard's 20th straight victory of the season.