Rafael Nadal insists he remains as motivated as ever to add another French Open crown to the ten he already owns. The world No.1 goes in search of Roland Garros title No.11 against Dominic Thiem of Austria this afternoon.
His semi-final win over Juan Martin del Potro meant Nadal equalled great rival Roger Federer in reaching 11 finals at a single grand slam, the Swiss having won eight Wimbledon titles and been runner-up three times.
Nadal has won an incredible 85 of his 87 matches in Paris and even now, aged 32 but with his injury problems seemingly behind him, the Spaniard is showing no signs of letting up.
“For me, the motivation to play here is always high, as high as possible,” he said. “But for me, at every tournament I believe that there are chances, limited chances in your career. So when I had the chances, I just tried to convert.
“If you lose, you lose, but I’m going to play with my highest passion and love for the game and for the sport, to try to have success.
“I lost a lot of opportunities with injuries and I know the years are going quick. So there are not ten more chances to keep playing here. So I just enjoy the fact that I am here again. I love what I am doing. I love the competition. I love the sport.
“It’s been a lot of years of playing and doing the same things every year. But the only way to keep doing that and keep going on court every morning with the motivation to improve something, because you feel the game, no? You feel the sport and you appreciate it.”
Seventh seed Thiem, who will be playing in his first grand slam final, is regarded as second only to Nadal on clay – albeit probably quite a distant second.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old can look back on two victories over Nadal on his favourite surface in the last 13 months, including one in Madrid just last month. “For sure I can take some things from that,” he said. “If I want to beat him, I have to play that way like I did in Rome and in Madrid.
“But I’m also aware that here it’s tougher. He likes the conditions more here than in Madrid, for sure. And best of five sets is also a different story. He’s a big favourite against everybody. But I know how to play against him. I have a plan.”
It may be his first slam final but Thiem insists he goes into the contest relaxed. “I’m not the one who has the pressure,” he explained. “I went a very long way now and I don’t want to lose the final.”