While Nadal sounds like a gentle Renaissance man, he plays tennis like a bull. Some observers say that's why the U.S. Open is the only major tournament that, until now, had eluded him, since it comes at the end of the season and he is often worn out.
He practiced hard for this year's U.S. Open, which began Aug. 30 at U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.
"Oh, I have so much to work on, so much to improve," Nadal told Nightline.
Still, he steps onto the court as the reigning world champion. Doesn't he walk into the game thinking he is going to win?
"I never think I'm going to win," Nadal said. "I always think I can win and I can lose. Only thing I can think is I (am) going to do everything right to try to win."
So the relentless hard work continues for Nadal. Can he keep the momentum?
"I try my best in every moment," said Nadal. "If I can be here 20 years, I'm going to be here 20 years. If I can be here 15, 15. If I can be here eight, eight. I don't know, I'm going to try my best all my career, and when the body and the mental part says 'Finished,' I'm going to go home and enjoy a different part of life."