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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, November 1, 2022


Rafael Nadal talks joys and challenges of fatherhood, the chase for year-end No. 1 and the fire he aims to bring to his Rolex Paris Masters return.

Photo credit: Antonio Borga/Getty

Affecting arrivals are powerful parts of Rafael Nadal's process.

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Nadal bounces back into action at this week's Rolex Paris Masters playing for a maiden Paris Indoors title—and to close the gap on Carlos Alcaraz in the race for year-end No. 1.

Grand Slam king Nadal will face American Tommy Paul in his Paris opener on Wednesday. It will be Nadal's first singles match since he fell to Frances Tiafoe in the US Open round of 16 in September.

Meeting the media in Paris today, Nadal said he's eager and energized ahead of his first tournament since becoming a new father.

"Happy to be on the tour again after a while. Yeah, excited, no?," Nadal said. "I was not able to play much the last five months. So, yeah, always happy to be back in a city that everybody knows how important is for me, even if it's true that at the same time that in this event I never had a lot of positive things in my career. But as always, no, very excited to be here. Yes, just trying to put myself in a position to be competitive."

Departing his Mallorca home is even more difficult these days as Nadal's wife, Mery, gave birth to the couple's child, a baby boy, on October 8th.

Tennis Express

Consequently, Nadal says he's spending spare time in Paris doing some zoom calls with his family.

"It's quite interesting how even after two or three weeks, leave your son at home and not be able to see him, it's something quite interesting how even with this after only three weeks knowing him, you start missing him, no?" Nadal said. "Yeah, new experience. All the changes are difficult in this life, and you need to adapt to it.

"But, you know, it's at the same time is true that we are lucky today that with the technology, everything, we can do video calls any time that you want, so it's always that helps."

Since crushing Casper Ruud across town in Paris for his mind-blowing 14th Roland Garros crown on June 5th, Nadal has been limited to just 10 singles matches due to an assortment of injuries and his wife's pregnancy. The former world No. 1 also partnered Roger Federer in doubles for the Swiss superstar's Laver Cup farewell in September.

Recall, it's been 15 years since Nadal fell to David Nalbandian, now a coach, in the 2007 Rolex Paris Masters final that was his tournament debut. So how will Nadal, who has contested semifinals or better in six of 10 tournaments he's entered this season, physically respond from his layoff?

"I don't know. Let's see on the competitive level how I manage," Nadal said. "It's always an issue when you are not... I mean, in older bodies like my one, it's easier to know how the things are going when you are playing tournaments in a row.

"When you are coming back from a period of time outside of the competition, it's difficult to know how you're going to be playing, how your body gonna respond, because it's obvious that the tour level is different, that the amount of practice that I can have at home, no."

The second-ranked Spaniard said snaring the season-ending top spot for the sixth time is not his priority.

"I don't fight to be No. 1, you know? I just fight to keep being competitive in every event that I played," Nadal said. "Something that I said since long time ago: I will not fight anymore to be No. 1. I did in the past. I achieved that goal a couple of times of my career that I have been very, very happy and proud about achieving that. But I am in a moment of my tennis career that I don't fight to be No. 1."

The battle begins tomorrow for Nadal, who has reached the Rolex Paris Masters semifinals in each of his last two appearances.

"It's true that have been an amazing year in terms of results, but at the same time is true that have been a tough year in terms of injuries," Nadal said. "Just excited to be here. I am here to try my best. Then accept the things how the things are coming, no. Hopefully I will be ready for tomorrow, and I gonna try to be competitive. Let's see. I am excited about it."


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