In defeat, Nadal showed the true mark of a champion

In a somber press conference following his quarterfinal loss at the Australian Open, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal proved that the true greatness of a great champion is in how he handles defeat.

Nadal refused to make excuses for his loss to David Ferrer in his post-match talk with the press, despite the fact that a thigh injury suffered early in the first set hobbled him for the duration. He didn't want to take away from his fellow Spaniard's victory or to suggest that he can only be defeated when he's hurt. Time after time, Nadal passed up opportunities to blame the long ATP schedule or the virus he had in Doha or the Australia Day fireworks celebration which appeared to sap any momentum he may have developed early in the second set.

It was an intimate, revealing look at Nadal's character. You couldn't help but feel sorry for him as he sat there with a despondent look on his face, his dreams of a Rafa Slam dashed. Yet, even at his most vulnerable, he showed strength.

Here's a few of the best excerpts from the interview:


Q. What can you tell us about the injury?

RAFAEL NADAL: I can say nothing about the injury. Seriously, I would prefer don't talk a lot about the injury.

Tonight, first of all, I don't know nothing. Second thing, for respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match. I think he played at a very high level. I just congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semifinal. I think he's doing a fantastic tournament. If he keep playing like this, he going to have a good chances.


Q. It's going to be difficult for us to write a piece without appreciating how well you could move. It seemed to us you couldn't move as well as you would like to have been moving tonight. Is that a fair statement?

RAFAEL NADAL: You see the match?

Q. Yes.

RAFAEL NADAL: So you are ready to write everything. I don't have to tell you about what I felt on the court because I tried my best all the time. But is obvious that I didn't feel at my best. I had a problem during the match, in the very beginning. After that, the match was almost over. So that's what I can say.

But you know what, for me is difficult come here and speak about. In Doha I wasn't healthy. Today I have another problem. Seems like I always have problems when I lose, and I don't want to have this image, no? I prefer don't talk about that today. If you can respect that, will be a very nice thing for me. Thank you.


RAFAEL NADAL: I started the second week with a very good match against Cilic and improving my level every day. Seriously, I was practicing much better than in the beginning of the tournament, and I felt ready to play this quarterfinals. But wasn't the day.


Q. We appreciate your fair play, and we understand what you're saying. I just would like to know if you didn't have in front of you a friend of yours, would you have kept till the last ball and point to stay on court or would you have left a little before?

RAFAEL NADAL: I hate the retirements, so this wasn't the day. I did last year. I hate that moment. I didn't want to repeat that.


RAFAEL NADAL: I love playing tennis. I love the competition. And I love, in general, the hard moments because you are ready to change the situation working hard, working every day with a goal and with illusion.


Q. How did the fireworks display [for Australia Day, which interrupted the match for 15 minutes] disrupt your rhythm?

RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing, nothing, no.


RAFAEL NADAL: The tennis career, you have higher moments and lower moments. I had almost all the time very, very happy moments and very nice moments in my career. That's part of the sport. Last year I was very lucky. I was healthy most of the year. I was playing unbelievable during all the year. [...]

So this is one of bad ones, one of negative moments. That's part of the sport. I think I am very, very lucky sportsman about what happened in my career. And I have to accept the fantastic moments that I had during a lot of years with the same calm that when I have problems. And if I am ready to accept both things with I think let's say everything the same, I going to be able to come back and play my best tennis another time.

Rafa, tennis wise, this may be a low moment. As an athlete and a man, it was a triumphant one. Keep your head held high. To lose with dignity is far more difficult than to win with it.

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