After the retirement of Felipe Reyes in 2021, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernández are the captains, the two players who have spent the most seasons at Real Madrid. The guard-guard will face his ninth Final Four in Kaunas, the same number as Sloukas, Olympiacos star, and the forward will face his eighth. Both have two titles, in 2015 and 2018, and are chasing the third. are together with Sergio Rodriguez the old guard of Madrid.
What is the merit of playing the Final Four year after year?
Sergio Llull: “When you wear this shirt, the goal is to reach the Final Four and try to win it. I think we have had a good Euroleague and we have met a mini-objective, that of being in the Final Four, and now we have to try to win it”.
Rudy Fernández: “At this point, we are going to try to fight to win. We will have a great team ahead, like Barcelona, who have been playing very well, and we are going to try to stand up to them, as in recent years”.
Do precedents help?
Rudy: “Each game is different and more have come to this moment. The two teams have had a great Euroleague. We have casualties and they make us lose references in our team dynamics, but I think we are at 50% in this semifinal. We must play our game.”
Llull: “In a Euroleague semifinal, precedents are of little use, it almost doesn’t even matter how the teams arrive. To give an example, if a team arrived after ten straight losses and with half the team injured, it could go on to the final”.
Madrid does not start as a favourite, a situation that he experienced in the Eurobasket. Do you have any advice for your colleagues?
Rudy: “What has gotten us here is the group dynamic, being united in the most difficult moments of the series. One step forward as a team and now there is enough experience to face this tie. Favoritism is left aside, the four of us have the ambition to be able to win. We have experienced many semifinals and finals, and we are going for it, to fight it as we know how”.
Has the way to reach this Final Four served to dispel any doubts?
Llull: “We have no doubts in the locker room, we defend the Real Madrid shirt and try to win and be on top in all competitions. We have had no doubts. The tie (against Partizán) was very uphill for us and from there we changed the chip. We once again showed that this team grows without a net, when we play finals, and that is what we are going to do on Friday in Kaunas, play a final”.
Rudy: “This series has helped us come together more and be more solid, stronger in the face of adversity, and we must take advantage of that in the Final Four.”
As veterans, do you advise the youngsters before these games?
Rudy: “As veterans we don’t make decisions because we have a great team with a lot of experience. Perhaps we can transfer some of that experience to players like Musa, for example, who makes his debut in a Final Four. Both veterans and rookies must be one, support each other as a team at all times. The most important thing is the block”.
Llull: “Those of us who have more experience can give some advice or explain the sensations that a Final Four produces in you, but above all we try to lead by example. If you see this man in the fifth game (points to Rudy) drop to the ground for three balls in the final minutes and you are 23 years old, you have no choice but to follow his example”.
How do you live the passing of the years and how do you keep on being important?
Llull: “I am always prepared. Obviously, the years go by and you have to adapt to a different role and to another way of understanding basketball, but I’m always ready, even if I don’t play, to lend a hand or to cheer from the bench”.
How is he physically?
Rudy: “Me physically…? (series). We’ve almost played three games a week, for veterans it’s hard to bear, but thanks to a great squad we’ve also been able to rest a bit. Those of us on the track have to give 100%, whether it’s five minutes or twenty, that must be our identity to give one more point that brings us closer to the goal”.
Barça beat Zalgiris 3-0, could the rest difference be a factor?
Rudy: “It could be that Barça is more rested, we’ve just played in Valencia and Gran Canaria, and if that’s a factor, I don’t know. The calendar is very demanding, not only the games, but also the trips, which wear a lot out. The Leagues should try to help the players more, take care of them so that in the most important moments we arrive in our best version, perhaps now the great moments are faced with more wear and tear ”.
How would you describe Madrid’s DNA?
Llull: “The character of never giving up, of fighting for every ball in every match, no matter how ugly it gets, and fighting until the board lights up red.”
Rudy: “It’s about never giving up, giving your all, and then it can come up heads or tails. That is the DNA of Madrid”.