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Rafa’s match against Lacko is the third match schedule on Centre Court on Thursday. Play starts at noon local time.

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L’Equipe Interview
Yesterday, there was an interview with Rafa and Toni in L’Equipe magazine - print edition only. @mysoulblog posted translations of bits of the article and has allowed me to share them here:

Q: “7th RG title, one more than Borg. Has Rafael become the God of clay” ? Tio answers: “The God ? God is up above, if only He exists”.

Toni: “People seem to forget history a bit too fast. Yet, it’s quite easy to remember w/ the help of Internet. I lived throughout the age of Borg. When I watched Borg on TV, I was always telling myself it was impossible to beat him. When I watch my nephew, I always think it’s possible, but again, it might be because of the position I’m in (laughing) ! What’s sure is that it is really tough to win nowadays, more than ever. Rafael played 16 GS finals, 5 vs Djokovic, 8 vs Federer, one vs Berdych, who was ranked #6, one vs Söderling who was ranked #7. The only final he played vs a not really high ranked player, it was here against Puerta. Nowadays, the best players are always there. Don’t know if they are better players than the ones of the past, but what I know is that they never miss finals. Too bad ! We’re unlucky (laugh)”

then Rafa continues: “I think I am very lucky to be part of this generation. I have great rivals who make me play great matches. I loved the Wimbledon 2008 final vs Federer. Loved the one at AO this year vs Novak. I lossed it, I suffered, but it was beautiful. Now, I’m not the right person to say if I’m the best clay court player in the history. I don’t know. If we only judge by the results, they tend to say I am. But you know, comparisons… it’s incidental. What matters, it’s not to have won a 7th RG title. It’s to have won RG, period ! Second title, 5th, 7th, it’s not what matters.”

Q to Rafa: “We’ve seen you were really, really moved today. Would you say it’s your strongest victory here ? The toughest as well ?”

Rafa answers: “I had already played finals vs world #1. The 2006 final vs Roger was difficult. My first vs Puerta ? Difficult too…vs Puerta, difficult too as he almost pushed me to 5th set. In 2010, mentally, vs Söderling, it was tough… Last year vs Federer it was complicated because I had lost in Madrid and Rome vs Djokovic. It would take some time to analyze all that. My clay season this year has been wonderful. I won MC, Barcelona and Rome w/o dropping a set. I made it to the RG final w/o dropping a set. This year, I was playing better than in 2010, and probably better than in 2008. And then came this final. Difficult, very, very difficult”

Rafa about the RG final (interview conducted Monday afternoon): “I was so nervous this morning…”

Tio Toni continues: “this morning (Monday) when Rafael arrived at the stadium, he wasn’t feeling good at all. In the locker room, one hour before match restart, Rafael was extremely nervous. His face was dull. We had to talk. A lot. When we left the locker room, I told Carlos (Costa): we can’t win this. It’s impossible. But Rafael hugely surprised me. He entered the court and started playing very well immediately. On Sunday, his serve was not good. But now, it was excellent. He was moving fast, his forehand was a killer shot. Incredible”

Q: “Rafael, how was your night for you to arrive at the stadium in this state” ?

Rafa answers: “I had a troubled night (laugh). I went back to the hotel and I was tensed. Didn’t wanna watch the news on TV…I didn’t wanna watch the news on TV cause I didn’t wanna see images of my match (laugh). So, around midnight, I watched episodes of Dragon Ball. It’s my fave anime. I have seen all episodes at least 3 times. I have seen all Dragon Ball episodes at least 3 times, but I keep on watching…

Tio Toni “Rafael didn’t have a good night, but it’s normal. He was leading match 6/4 6/3 2/0. The RG title was very close. He was leading 6/4 6/3 2/0 and suddenly everything changed. Me, personally in RG, I never sleep well. RG are the 2 weeks in the year during which I have the worst nights. Here, it’s the only tourney where losing is horrible for us. The only night where I sleep tight during RG is the last one, after we won. So tonight, it might be OK (laugh)”.

Q: “Rafa, what happened on Sunday for you to lose 8 games in a row from the 3rd to the 4th set ?”

Rafa answers: “With all this rain, conditions were too unuasual. Balls were heavy, there was no more bounce, the conditions were in favor of Novak, who also started to play extremely well. He wasn’t making anymore mistakes”.

Toni: “Djokovic started to play incredibly well. But it was no surprise. We know him. When he has nothing to lose, he’s even more dangerous. I couldn’t tell Rafael I thought Djokovic was very strong !

Q: “Sunday, in the end, you both seems super pissed”.

Rafael answers: “Conditions were not the one we expect when we play a Grand Slam final. It was better for me to stop, but we needed to stop”

Toni: “I personnaly didn’t understand why the didn’t cover the court during the first suspension. I asked 3 times ! I was told: “it’s nothing, it’s not raining that much”. Oh really ? 30 minutes, it’s not that much ? We’re not supposed to play with balls soaked with water”.

Q: “Does the fact of beating Djokovic again in a Grand Slam final added some emotion to the emotion” ??

Toni: “Rafael knows, I know, the whole team knows: we had lost 3 consecutive GS finals vs Djokovic. Losing a 4th one would have hurt a lot. Losing a 4th would have hurt a lot. Do you imagine what it means, a “losing Grand Slam” ? It’s not pretty. That’s the reason why, emotionally speaking, I hadn’t felt something so strong since Wimbledon 2008. To have won here means that now, the season can’t be bad”.

Q: “Rafael, after losing vs Djokovic at the US Open, you said you knew what to do to defeat him. And you eventually found out…”

Rafa answers: “I said I knew what to do, but that I didn’t know if I was able to do it. But it’s true that since the AO final, I came close. To do so, I had to be more agressive than before”.

Toni: “In Australia, Rafa lost for a little ball which went out. But wait, we also could have lost in 4 sets. After than we defeated him in Monte Carlo and Rome. It was very important because the losses against Djokovic had too much weight in Rafa’s head”.

Q: “Djokovic double-faulted on MP. What does it mean to you ?”

Rafa: “On Sunday, he also double-faulted twice on 2 BPs. He’s been so fantastic to turn matches around those past months. But it can’t always work. For anyone.”

Q: “Forget about being #humble for just a minute and tell us why you are so strong on clay”

Rafa answers: “my game, the way I move. But you know, I also think it’s a mental thing. On clay you have to work a lot, run a lot, suffer a lot. And there’s something else: I’m always so scared of losing everyday, no matter who I’m facing, I’m telling myself I have to go all-out. In the last 7 years, I have not always been good, far from it. But I’ve always been 100%, mentally”.

Q: “At your age, Borg decided to retire. How long do you plan to keep playing tennis ?”

Rafa answers: “It’s impossible to tell ! As long as I feel good physically, as long as I have passion, I’ll come back. When comes the day I don’t feel like improving my game anymore, then it will be the end”.

Q: “Toni, would you have enjoyed watching a Borg vs Rafa match ?” A: “Oh no! I’d rather see Rafa vs the less good player of the draw” ;-)

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