Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighting Spirit the Key to Nadal Win

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighting Spirit the Key to Nadal Win

Article excerpt

Byline: By Isabelle Rondeau

Spanish prodigy Rafael Nadal claimed he was "a natural fighter" after winning the French Open final against unseeded Argentinian Mariano Puerta yesterday.

Nadal, 19, became the first player since Mats Wilander in 1982 to lift the trophy on his Roland Garros debut after overcoming Puerta 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 6-1 7-5.

"This is certainly one of the best moments of my career, I am very happy," said Nadal. "I can't express my feelings because it is incredible to have won here.

"I am a natural fighter, my coach and my family always tell me that the most important thing is to fight and never to give up."

Coming into the tournament, Nadal was one of the favourites despite his lack of big-match experience.

Recent tournament victories in Costa do Sauipe, Acapulco, Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Rome gave him the self-belief to triumph in Paris.

Despite losing the first set on the tie-break, the youngster fought his way back into the match by winning the next two.

He then saved three set points in the fourth before winning the match when a Puerta forehand went out.

"I felt I had to fight on each point, I fought and fought again for each game," Nadal added.

"Winning here is a surprise because I would have never thought about achieving it on my first visit.

"I played very well throughout the tournament, but I had been playing well also since January.

"When I won the other events, it was very good for my confidence because I realised that I was capable of winning great tournaments."

Nadal does not want to be considered the best player on clay only and insists he wants to improve on all surfaces, starting with grass.

"I must improve every day," he said. "I am only 19 and if I want to remain at that level, I must progress as a player on all surfaces.

"I must improve my serve and my volley if I want to get better results on grass and hard courts.

"Halle will be my first tournament on grass, I am very impatient. …

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