Corretja Excited To Thrill Home Fans In Mallorca
by ATP Staff|
Former World No. 2 Alex Corretja talks to ATPChampionsTour.com ahead of competing at the Legends Cup in Mallorca, Spain from 5-8 October. The two-time Roland Garros finalist discusses Rafael Nadal's resurgence, the one-handed backhand and more.
How much do you enjoy playing in Mallorca, especially with it being your third time competing in the event?
For me it’s one of the highlights of the year because they take care of us unbelievably well. We stay in an amazing hotel. The Palma Tennis Club is such a great club. It’s a beautiful atmosphere. People are going there to enjoy it and for me it’s a very enjoyable weekend where I can meet some ex-players, some friends, and also to have a little bit of the adrenaline of playing in front of the crowd again, which usually I don’t have much during the year. So it’s a great opportunity to share my tennis with a crowd that has been following me for so many years. And of course I know that I don’t play at the same level that I was at when I was a professional tennis player and I don’t think I have to because I’ve been retired for many years. The people come to see me and hopefully I can offer some nice moments and I’m very accessible to people. I can talk to them. I can take pictures with them. I can sign autographs. We can share experiences, you know? At the same time, it’s good, we play good tennis still, which is good for the crowd. They have fun, but it’s more relaxed. Not as much stress. You want to win but it’s less stress for us.
Is it always exciting to play in front of a home crowd?
For me it’s very special because everybody that goes to the tournament, or most of them, they know who I am very well. They know my past, my career and it’s very nice and they come see you and say that they were following you for many years, that they watched you play in a final of a tournament. It’s good because I usually don’t talk about my tennis life past, you know what I mean? So those four days like take you through your career. People can come and tell you, it’s great. They come to you and they always come with a smile and a lot of appreciation. The matches are good. That tournament it can be ‘wow’ these people love me. And that I think is very, very important.
How often do you get to play today?
I can’t say how many times a week or month I play because I don’t have regular times going to the courts. I have some players and sometimes I hit with them but let’s say I’m getting ready this event, I practise more. Because day-by-day now, you don’t feel like going to a tennis court for practise because you feel like let’s say in a good way you’re always going to compare yourself to the past and you’re always going to lose with that comparison because you’re older, you’re slower, you have less power. You have feeling that you can improve more on the practise court. You can have fun and you can always feel that you’re going to get better. But in tennis, it’s not so easy to go out and feel like you’re playing unbelievable because really you played much better years ago. I don’t have the feeling that I need to prove anything to myself at all so I’m very satisfied and right now I play when I want to, when I have time. But if I don’t need to, I don’t do it. I don’t need playing. I like to play these kind of events. I would love to play three or four events a year, that would be lovely for me. But that’s it, I don’t need to play more than that.
How impressive has Rafa’s resurgence been for you?
I love tennis. It’s my passion. I work for Spanish TV as a commentator and I work for Eurosport national and international all over Europe during Grand Slams so for me it’s very important to know what’s going on in tournaments and well, Rafa, for me it’s the best example of professionalism from someone the way he’s acting, the way he’s behaving, the way he’s managing off-court and on-court. He’s a terrific fighter and I think he’s the best guy that Spanish tennis can have as a representative, as No. 1, because he does things very important not just for him, but for the fans, for the crowd, the sponsors, it’s very important and a truly great example for us.
How about him winning his 10th French Open? Would you have ever thought someone could win a Grand Slam 10 times like he did his 10th at Roland Garros this year?
No, no, no. Not even close. I think that’s really amazing. I always thought when Sampras won his seventh Wimbledon, which was an unbelievable achievement, but grass is a different surface I would say. In a way if you are very talented and you have a very specific game for grass, maybe you can do it. But doing that on clay with the amount of effort you need to become a French Open champion, with best-of-five on clay, with the heat, with the conditions on the court, with the wind, with all the balls in the court you need to spend two, three hours on the court, winning 10 is absolutely out of this world. I don’t think we will see that ever again, honestly.
Do you think he can extend that record?
Absolutely. Why not? If he stays healthy he’s going to be able to still win Slams not only on clay. At the US Open he won quite comfortably. His game now, he improved so much. He’s much more aggressive than before in matches, winning in one or two hours rather than three or four hours. So that energy that you spend, like at the French Open this year, I don’t think he dropped a set. Losing very short games. The thing is, Rafa, he works like what we used to do in the past, very hard workers. These days, there are not that many guys willing to spend so many hours practising and coming to the courts before. I’m not saying all of them, but before I felt like there were many others like that. Now there are less, so I think Rafa is from the past.
You spoke of Pete Sampras before, who has a one-handed backhand. Pete had one of the nicest one handed backhands on tour, as did you. But it looked like the double-hander was taking over. How do you feel about seeing all these great one-handers at the top of the sport and which do you like the best?
Probably Roger [Federer] because his variation with the slice is very important. He hits a lot his backhand up high by his shoulder, which he used to miss so many of them. But now he can hit the ball earlier and he’s moving very well for that and he can hit the backhand down the line as well. But I really like the way he can manage to hit slice backhands, which makes opponents give some height to the ball on his backhand and then he can turn around with the forehand and do a lot of damage and hurt his opponents a lot. And then of course [Stan] Wawrinka when he’s in very good shape his backhand is also very aggressive.Corretja will compete alongside Mark Philippoussis, Carlos Moya, Tim Henman, Fernando Gonzalez, Thomas Enqvist, Mats Wilander, Henri Leconte and Mikael Pernfors.