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Beyond the Baseline

Five takeaways from Rafael Nadal's interview with Justin Gimelstob

That's Rafa's "humble" face. (Screegrab from YouTube) That's Rafa's "Uncle Toni picked on me a lot when I was a kid" face. (Screegrab from YouTube)

Rafael Nadal sat down for a lengthy interview with Justin Gimelstob a few weeks ago in Vina del Mar, Chile. Nadal discussed the importance of his family to his success, his time away from the game while rehabilitating his knee injury and his motivations as he mounts a comeback, among other things. You can watch excerpts here and here. Here are a few highlights:

On his continuing knee pain: "The tendon is totally healthy, but I still have pain a lot of days. That is probably the lowest moment because you really don't know what to do to take out that pain."

On recognizing the limited duration of a tennis career: "When you see the months going and you see the tournaments going and you are not there in the draw, that's tough."

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• On the special feeling when he was ranked No. 1"Nothing is special, seriously. I really don't feel that way. I really don't feel better than the others when I was No. 1 than when I was No. 2. The only thing that makes me happy is wake up every morning and feel that I am healthy and I am happy and enough fit to compete with everybody. That's what makes me happy and that's the most important thing."

On his famous routines, from lining up his water bottles to his detailed pre-serve tics: "I think sometimes are stupid things that you do because the routines from playing every day, every week. But sometimes it helps you to be focused, to know that you are competing, you are focused on what you are doing. But at the end I really know that doesn't help me a lot."

Nadal's appeal, motivation and drive, all in one single question and answer:

Q: "When did you realize you were special?"

A: "Never."

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