Roberto Bautistanumber 57 in the ATP ranking at 35 years old, reviews with MARCA a difficult 2023, marked by a fall on a horse that made him miss the second part of the course.
Ask. Has it been one of the most complicated seasons of your career?
Answer. It has been, without a doubt, the most complicated, the worst. The injury I have had is not anything. Breaking a bone, the blow I had, is not a minor injury, it is a serious injury. Luckily, I’m at 100 percent, but there are people with a mishap similar to the one I’ve had and who take a long time to recover.
Q. How was the accident?
R. I broke my fibula bone, the one next to the tibia. I was riding a horse, tripped, and fell on my left foot. I was able to get my leg out in time, but not my foot and I crushed it, which is the weight of a horse. Furthermore, we were galloping so the blow was even stronger.
Q. Do you think you have been lucky?
R. Yes, because if the break in the fibula had not been clean, it would mean having to undergo surgery and be off the slopes for more than half a year.
Q. It sounds like a soccer player injury.
R. Yes, exactly. It is similar to when a soccer player bends his ankle or is hit sideways.
I had to re-educate coordination, speed, reaction…
Q. Have you stopped riding horses?
R. I’m not around Castelln much, but I’ve been riding again without problems. I have always had respect for horses, but I have not been afraid of them. Riding is something I have done since I was 10 years old and nothing had ever happened to me until now.
Q. Did it especially hurt you to miss the group stage of the Davis Cup in Valencia in September?
R. What bothered me is missing many tournaments. I missed some clay tours, the American tour, the Asian tour, the Davis Cup… It hasn’t been easy. And then the consequence of coming back after an injury of this type. I thought that when the pain goes away the next day you are fine and that was not the case. It has been quite a process, I have had to re-educate my coordination, speed, reaction, vision… It has been complicated.
Q. You have fallen out of the ‘top50’ and are no longer seeded in the draws. Is it a very sensitive change when facing the competition?
R. It changes a lot because there will be tournaments in which you will play well and you will face a tough opponent and you may win or lose, and you will leave with the feeling that you have not had a great tournament. It’s something you have to go through. I hope he gets back into the numbers to be seeded. It is my big goal for next year.
I already had the tickets to Hong Kong and I changed them to play in Murcia
Q. At 35 years old and having won everything you have won, what motivates you to continue and go to train every day?
A. I love playing tennis. I get up to train every day with enthusiasm, with the desire to improve things. With all the experience and knowledge I have, from so many years in this sport, I start to work on things and see that I improve them. That’s something that hooks me, that creates an addiction.
Q. Can you say that you have the excitement of the first day?
R. That’s right. I enjoy it. I have not set a retirement date because I am content and happy because I love what I do. What is most difficult for me is leaving my family and missing out on things with the child. My son is already going to school and can’t travel as much as before.
Q. The seasons always start well. Are you optimistic for the start of 2024?
R. The truth is that it is a tour that I really like and I usually leave with good feelings and looking forward to the preseason. Although I know that not being seeded in the draws is going to be more complicated than in previous years. You have to have a cool mind, trust the process and know that now there will be difficult weeks. You have to be patient and trust the level. At the end of the year the ranking is usually fair.
Q. Is your goal to finish the year in the ‘top30’?
R. Yes, yes, that’s the goal.
Q. Your last game in 2023 will be this Thursday the Alcaraz Cup in Murcia against the local idol and world number two.
R. Albert Molina, Carlos’s agent, called us and asked us if we wanted to play a game for his foundation. I had already bought tickets to Hong Kong and I had to arrange it. The truth is that I really want to play with Alcaraz and I didn’t think about it. I’m going to enjoy it, although not as much as he who plays at home.
Q. Did you know that the 7,500 tickets were sold out in one hour?
R. I have read it and it is normal because Carlos is a special player and he must have the drive he has. I am happy to share such a special moment for him, which will surely be meeting so many people who love him and admire him at his house in Murcia.
Alcaraz is one of the chosen ones, but there is no need to make comparisons with the ‘Big Three’
Q. Is Alcaraz the best possible replacement for Nadal?
R. I think that talking about replacing Rafa is not fair either. Rafa is going to have an unmatched, brutal career, he is a special player… We should not make comparisons with the ‘Big Three’. It is clear that Carlos is also one of the chosen ones, that he has many qualities and I hope he has a career as long-lasting and successful as theirs. He has powers, but then it has to be done. Races have to be managed well, work well and be well surrounded to do what Rafa, Federer and Djokovic have done.
Q. Talking about Nadal and his return to the circuit. Do you see him winning another Roland Garros?
R. I don’t know, but he has a knife between his teeth and is going to do everything he can to have a good year, that’s for sure. I know him and I know how competitive he is. Then there are many factors, like what Carlos Moy said the other day about adapting to competition, how his body responds after so many years of hard work…
Q. Do you think you will have extra motivation because of how well Djokovic has done?
R. I think that Rafa, when he considers competing, when he considers playing, I don’t think he has Novak in his mind. He thinks about himself and being well. He has to go little by little. The beginning of the season is going to be an important challenge for him and it will put him in a situation where he is.
Q. Is Djokovic the best in history with numbers in hand?
A. By numbers Novak surpasses Nadal. He was talking about it with a friend at the gym. Someone who is not a fan or who has never played tennis can admire Rafa, but a tennis player or a friend of his admires him even more because he knows how complex and difficult it is to achieve everything these people have achieved. A fan may have an idea, but he doesn’t know what atrocities the ‘Big Three’ have done. It is something incredible and out of the ordinary.
Q. You have beaten Djokovic three times.
R. What I value most about my career is that I have known how to find ways to improve. The first time I played with him there was no game. The second, neither. And as we played, I realized what I was missing. In the end I got closer and closer until I beat him once, twice and three times.
Q. Is it good that tennis is expanding in Saudi Arabia?
R. I totally agree. Saudi Arabia, Doha and Dubai have wanted to have Masters 1000 category tournaments for a long time and they have not let them. Even a fifth ‘Grand Slam’ and they were not allowed. They want to improve the sport and invest in tennis and these are barriers that should be removed.
A tennis player or a friend of Nadal admires him even more
Q. In 2024 the Paris Games appear on the calendar. Are you excited to be there?
R. I would like to go and fight for it, but it won’t be easy because I haven’t scored points for three and a half months.
Q. You won the Davis Cup in Madrid in 2019. Would it motivate you to win it again on a team with Nadal and Alcaraz?
R. It will be incredible to share a team with Carlos and Rafa. I don’t know if Nadal is going to want to play in a Davis Cup tie.
Q. How is your stud farm going?
R. I have 10 horses and they are my passion, my escape, I love them, and I can’t leave them. It is a world that I will be linked to all my life. Little by little I am having foals. I go slowly and with good handwriting. The animals that are born at home have my stamp.
Q. Does anyone compete?
R. I wanted them to compete in dressage or conformation championships, but in the end they didn’t. It’s just that I pay so much attention to him that when playing tennis I don’t want to be distracted for even a second. You will have time ahead of you to take the animals to the competitions.
Q. Do you think your son Roberto will follow in your footsteps in the world of tennis?
R. He is gaining strength and we play. In the last tournament, in Valladolid, he spent an hour and a half playing non-stop. I haven’t signed him up for any school because he’s only three years old, but I have to make sure he likes it. Tennis is a very complicated, difficult world, and it has to be something that comes out of it.