Back in Paris for the first time since his fourth round exit at the French Open, Rafael Nadal doesn’t hold a grudge against the French crowd.
The four-time Roland Garros champion lost to Robin Soderling last May in the French capital, ending his record 31-match winning streak with a large portion of the crowd supporting his opponent.
Nadal was hampered by tendinitis in both knees at the time but didn’t mention the injury as an excuse.
The second-seeded Nadal, who will play Nicolas Almagro at the Paris Masters on Wednesday, said he was happy to return in a city where “I have special feelings.”
“For sure I always had good fans here,” Nadal said. “I had some troubles last year when I went out of the court with my injury here. It was a bit disappointing and believe me, it was more difficult for me than for the crowd.”
“It’s one of the most important cities in my career, if not the most,” Nadal said. “I won Roland Garros four times here and every time I come here I have special feelings, especially in Roland Garros.”
The six-time Grand Slam champion, who slipped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the rankings after being forced to relinquish his Wimbledon crown without playing due to injuries, pointed out that he is always warmly welcomed by fans in the Parisian streets.
“Sure, the crowd can have its own opinion,” Nadal said. “But when I am in the streets walking around, the people always are really nice with me.”
Nadal returned to competition in October after a month out due to a pulled stomach muscle at the U.S. Open. He reached the semifinals in Beijing before losing to Nikolay Davydenko in final in Shanghai. His last victory on tour dates back to April at the Rome Masters.
“I played only two tournaments in normal conditions during that six-month spell,” Nadal said. “I played one semifinal and one final in normal conditions. And with not very good conditions, I played the quarterfinals in Montreal, the semifinals in Cincinnati and the semifinals at the U.S. Open. So the results are doing well.”
Nadal, who has never won the Paris Masters, has few illusions he will be able to win the title this year among a very strong field of opponents, including Roger Federer, and said he will be focusing his energies on the Davis Cup final. Defending champion Spain will host Czech Republic on clay in Barcelona from December 4-6.
“I know for this year it’s going to be difficult to win another title,” Nadal said. “But I have a chance in the Davis Cup final and I’m going to try to help my team to win it.”
Nadal also reiterated that the World Anti-Doping Agency’s out-of-competition drug testing rules, which stipulate that athletes must say where they will be for one hour each day, were too strong.
“I am the first one who wants a very clean sport, more than anybody else,” Nadal said. “But sure I would love to see a few changes. I think that’s too much to have to say every day of your life where you are.”