Tennis: Nadal's humble words after win

Time and time again, over and over, the ever humble Nadal has previously insisted Federer is most certainly the greatest player in history. Photo / Claude Paris
Time and time again, over and over, the ever humble Nadal has previously insisted Federer is most certainly the greatest player in history. Photo / Claude Paris

It may have been a slip of the tongue or perhaps it was a sentence lost in translation, but Rafael Nadal made quite a telling statement after collecting his record-breaking seventh French Open crown this month.

Nadal was asked if his compelling rivalry with world No.1 Novak Djokovic, with whom he has challenged for the past four grand slam trophies, might possibly transcend even his rivalry with Roger Federer?

"Maybe. We will see over the next few years,'' the Spaniard said.

"We have played four grand slam finals and an Olympic semi-final, too, but with Roger there have been even more important matches.

"He is probably the greatest player in history, and Novak is a fantastic player too. Last year he had one of the most amazing seasons in the history of tennis.

"I am happy to be a rival of both of them.''

Did anyone else hear that - probably the greatest player in history.

Probably.

Time and time again, over and over, the ever humble Nadal has previously insisted Federer is most certainly the greatest player in history.

But with one printed word in London's Sunday Mail magazine, Nadal has suddenly publicly cast doubt on the Swiss master's status as the greatest player ever.

Inadvertent or deliberate, the subtle downgrade is sure to filter its way through to Federer over the coming fortnight and add further spice to what promises to be a memorable Wimbledon.

With 11 majors to his credit, including two secured on London's SW19 lawns, 26-year-old Nadal is now ``only'' five behind the unmatched 16 of Federer, who turns 31 in August.

Justifiably content with his lot in tennis, Federer will be eager to add another to widen the gap to perhaps unbridgeable proportions.

But he is certainly not obsessed about ending his 28-month major drought and is surely motivated more by the chance to regain the world's top ranking to equal Pete Sampras's record 286 weeks as No.1 with a seventh Wimbledon title.

"I don't go through days thinking: `My God, I haven't won a grand slam in so long','' he said.

"I don't get pulled down by it. Actually, I think I get motivated by it. It doesn't come in phases. I've always been hungry for success and that's a good thing.''

Seventh heaven at Wimbledon would also equal Sampras's magnificent seven at the All England Club, so it's safe to say he feels right at home.

"I always just feel very good here, around the grounds, on the court,'' Federer said.

"Obviously, the more you win the more confidence you get. With the history I have at Wimbledon, it's going to be a super-exciting time''.

But having been stung in the quarter-finals the past two years by Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the grasscourt genius knows he can no longer presume.

"I used to think I couldn't lose on grass. Then the next thing you know, that's what happens,'' Federer said.

"With the success I have had at Wimbledon, I always arrive here under some pressure. But also this is where I'm able to shift up a couple of gears because grass works to my strengths.''

History, though, is also against the third seed.

To win, he will almost certainly have to conquer Djokovic and Nadal back-to-back.

And that's one thing even Roger Federer has never managed during his glorious grand slam career.


-AAP

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