Is motivation more important in individual sports than in team sports?
I understand motivation to be the same–or it should be the same–in individual sports and in team sports, because motivation is always really individual. The circumstance that allows us to appreciate it differently is that on the day that motivation fails in individual sports, things tend to go badly. Salvation is not possible. When you’re part of a team, your teammates can help you once or twice; they can even replace you. But that is not ideal. Motivation should always be the same. It’s really a question of commitment. This value seems paramount to me because it is the one that gives the most satisfaction to the person who has it.
What do you think is most important: motivation, achievement, or adaptation? Is there method for motivating yourself?
As I see it, motivation is always paramount. If you’re motivated, you naturally achieve, you are able to adapt, you can take on any characteristic that becomes necessary at any given time. Motivation feeds the will to find solutions, to do everything necessary to take on challenges. In any case, this cannot be blind motivation, of course. Reflection and appropriate analysis should always accompany it.
To motivate yourself, the most important thing is undoubtedly to be passionate about what you do. Without this passion, it’s more difficult. When passion is missing, a sense of responsibility is a good alternative that will lead you to motivation. The pleasure of having completed the task and commitment are great motivators. Passion, however, has a higher strength, in my opinion.
To what extent does competition influence the personal life of an elite athlete like Rafa?
Competition is clearly the culminating moment in Rafael’s professional life. This clearly influences his personal life. On a day when he wins an important tournament, I imagine that his life seems a bit better and when he suffers a defeat or is affected by injuries, his spirit must falter a bit. If he weren’t affected, it would be because he doesn’t care about his work and because he doesn’t feel committed. Fluctuations being a determining factor in his life would be another thing entirely. I think that is not the case and he has always understood the importance of putting things in perspective, both when they’re going well and when there is a bump in the road. I think that Rafael has always done a good job of fitting tennis into his life and not the other way around.
How does being aware of one’s limits help?
I think that you must always know your limits. Not fooling yourself is helpful. If you are able to reflect well and know your limits, it’s much easier to recognize what you’re missing in order to improve and to succeed in life. Today, there is a tendency to believe that knowing one’s limits will negatively affect personal or professional development, and I think the opposite is really the case. You should always try to make sure that recognizing your limits does not undermine your confidence in your ability to overcome them or to find a way around them. Knowing oneself is always the first step. If you don’t, progress is much more difficult to achieve and it remains in the hands of fate.
When people talk about Federer they always talk about the elegance and technique of his game. When people talk about Rafa, they talk about his physique and, above all, his mind. Technique, physique, and mind… which of the three is essential?
I think that technique, physique, and mind are fundamental whether you’re Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. Both of them, like anyone else with the opportunity to be number one, have developed these three elements extensively. One specializing in technique and another in the mind is another thing all together. There is no single path or single combination of these elements that is the key to standing out in tennis or in any other sport, in my opinion. Everyone at the top is usually quite complete. One can have technique that’s a 10, an 8 in the mind, and an 8 in physique; but you can’t succeed with a 10, a 4, and a 3.
What is your best memory from your career together? What would you do differently?
I have great memories from all of the years I worked with Rafael: in training, at competitions, in the life on the circuit, and at clubs and tournaments. I have been fortunate enough to be with a player who was, in turn, lucky that everything went well. I’ve had the opportunity to experience incredibly special moments at Wimbledon, Monte-Carlo, Roland Garros, and so many other tournaments, but I didn’t have any less fun all those years when Rafael was training, when we worked every day in our town with hopes of improving, trying to achieve our goals. Seeing that he was improving and learning filled me with satisfaction. We’ve shared a great passion and a lot of excitement and that makes for great memories.
I can’t fail to mention the wonderful memories I have with all of the great people I have met in our profession. Many of them are still my friends.
And of course I would do some things differently. I can’t conceive of not trying to do things better if given the opportunity. If I said otherwise, it would mean that I haven’t learned anything in all this time. I generally think that things were done well, but as I’ve said on many occasions, I was quite a demanding coach. If I started over I would try to be a bit less demanding. I would certainly insist on certain technical aspects that, despite a great deal of insistence on my part, was not enough.
Will we see someone like Rafa again?
I don’t know, but it clearly won’t be easy to find another winner of 17 Grand Slams. Although it is also true that, in hindsight, I never thought that my nephew would beat Pete Sampras. I never lacked excitement and trust in him, of course. Rafael was able to do it because it is possible and if it is possible, someone else can do it again. Saying that it will be easy or probable is another matter. I don’t think it will be. But, the most important thing is to always try to outdo yourself, and then see where you can get with that personal improvement. You never know.