Facing Nadal: Verdasco, Stepanek and Kozolv Share Their Thoughts
Question: Memories of your big win vs. Nadal in Madrid?
Fernando Verdasco: “The memories are great. My first victory as a professional against Rafa. It took my best play as possible to beat him. Against a player like him, losing so many times and winning in Madrid, my hometown, with all my family and friends in front of me…it was like impossible to be better than that.” Question: You came close many times… Fernando Verdasco: “Yeah many times [smiles].”
Question: Did you do anything different in Madrid? What was it that finally got you over the hump?
Fernando Verdasco: “I don’t even know [smiles]. I think I was even laughing because it was one of the times that I wasn’t even close to winning. I was 5-2 down in the third. He was serving, then all of a sudden, everything changed so quick. It went from 5-2 on his serve and I won 7-5. So it was like unbelievable change in that match. And many times I had like a break up in the third or like match point and I finally lost. So I don’t even know why [smiles]…”
Radek Stepanek: “It’s always a standout moment to play Nadal. We played seven, eight or nine times, maybe more. Always challenging, very much so. He’s the biggest fighter on the Tour I have ever seen. Playing him, for me, is always good because he plays from the back of the court. I will try to create the play, not giving him much. I few matches I got really close, but never beat him. Yet. So I hope I will have the chance to play him still a few times.”
Question: Your first memory of Rafael Nadal?
Radek Stepanek: “My first memory was we played in Davis Cup, deciding match in Czech Republic at two-all. For me, that moment was very disappointing loss because of, you know, playing as a team competition, which means a lot to me. So this was for me a tough
Question: Do you enjoy to play Rafa, or is it too difficult to be enjoyable?
Radek Stepanek: “Since I never beat him, it’s difficult to play him. For everybody I think. I’m not the exception, we are all trying to beat him.”
Question: Lasting memory of Rafa on or off court, that maybe captures his essence?
Radek Stepanek: “For me, a great fighter on the court. Biggest fighter ever. Great person also, off the court. He’s very respectful to other guys, to all the players. He’s a really true champion.”
Stefan Kozlov hit with Nadal at the 2014 Sony Open in Key Biscayne:
“It was one of the craziest feelings I ever had, to be honest. The first couple of minutes I was trying to move my feet as fast as I could and swing as hard as I could. And the balls were just slicing off my string because of the spin. I don’t know if everyone felt that before or it’s just me. The first five minutes there with Rafa were one of a kind. Then after that, the second day I hit with him, I actually had one of the best practices of my life. So I got used to his ball after one day.”
Question: Rafa asked you back for the second day?
Stefan Kozlov: “Yeah, we hit for like four days.”
Question: Lasting memory of this experience?
Stefan Kozlov: “It took me like two hours to get into the stadium. I was waiting at the stadium entrance for two hours because they (security) didn’t know I was hitting with Rafa. I told them I was hitting with Rafa and they didn’t let me in. It was pretty crazy. Toni (Nadal) came down and helped me. Two hours we waited.”