It should be fun to face Federer again: Nadal

After winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal has set his sights on Wimbledon. In an exclusive interview, the new Number 1 talks about his romance with the Roland Garros, Roger Federer and more….

French Open in the pocket. Next stop Wimbledon. Will you win there as well?

I’ll try my best, no doubt. But, you cannot predict anything, can you? It will definitely be great to win, though.

What is the secret behind your success at the French Open… you made it look so easy this time?

Nothing really! It’s the atmosphere at the Roland Garros that always brings the best out in me. I was at my best, tried to play better, legs worked perfectly, so did my shots.

There is a possibility that the French Open may be shifted from the Roland Garros. Do you support that?

Roland Garros has a rich history. When you are out there, you know what it means. The tradition, the red clay, the temperature, the atmosphere. You can breathe history here and that is important for us players. So, I’ll definitely want it to stay here.

What are your realistic chances of winning Wimbledon now?

I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot and try to do it again. But again, you cannot predict anything. The atmosphere will be different, but the target will be the same – to try and win every time you are out there.

Roger Federer had said that all you need to win on clay is great strength in arms and legs – do you agree?

Everybody has the right to his opinion. What I feel, though, is, you need to have a proper gameplan and play according to that on clay. On other surfaces, the points are over so quickly that it’s impossible to think over strategies.

It’s serve and volley – bang!, especially on grass. On the contrary, when we are playing on clay, the rallies give you ample opportunity to formulate your strategies, how to corner an opponent, how to create different angles. It’s a more complete game on clay. You cannot go for a winner immediately after a big serve. But that is my opinion.

So you agree that athleticism is more suited to clay courts than grass courts or hard courts?

Athleticism is a must on every surface, in every point. All the top 100 players in the circuit are good athletes. You just cannot deny the importance of being athletic in any outdoor sport. If you can run well, can cover all parts of the court, it’s better for you, is it not? And big forehands and backhands are important to win points as well. You cannot do that easily, can you?

You have a strange way of celebrating a victory… by biting the Cup! Tell us something about it

I really don’t know how it came about. I think I did it when I won my first trophy. I did not want to kiss it like others do. Then it became a trademark for me. There’s no special reason behind it. But people have liked it and it’s something different!

You already have an incredible career in tennis. Tell us something about how it all started.

When I was a kid, I was more inclined to play football than tennis. I loved football as a kid and even today, I am really passionate about football. For any Spanish kid, growing up in the outskirts of Madrid, that is quite natural. I continued to play both football and tennis. But when I was eight, I won an under-12 tournament in tennis and people felt I should concentrate more on tennis.

But for a kid whose uncle happens to be Miguel Angel Nadal, it was quite natural to go for football, isn’t it?

Actually, my studies were hampered when I was tried to play both. My dad noticed that and asked me to choose one of them. It had to be tennis then, because I had just won a tournament and all that. But my love for football is something I cherish. The World Cup is on and I am hooked to the television again.

Needless to say, you must be the biggest fan of Spanish football…

Quite obvious. I am a big supporter of Real Madrid. It was a great night for all Spanish football fans when they won the European championships, two years ago. And I know they will be one of the favourites to win the World Cup in South Africa (Spain lost their opening match to Switzerland). Although Wimbledon will be starting soon, I will find time to watch the matches, when I am not on the court, that is.

Were you a natural left-hander ?

Not really. I am a natural right-hander, used to take forehands using both the hands. And my other uncle, Toni, asked me to try and use one hand only. As a footballer, I used my left foot more. Here, too, the uncle insisted that I start playing with the left hand and it worked!

There are quite a few players who want to play the next point with the same ball they had just won the point with. Are you also like that?

No, never. I don’t play two points with the same ball. I always look for new balls. Used balls are slower.

You have formed a great rivalry with Roger Federer in modern tennis. As an opponent how do you see him?

He has the most number of Grand Slam singles titles in the history of professional tennis and that says it all. He was the undisputed number one when I began. So, it was a dream for me to beat him some day. So, when I did manage it, I was overjoyed. I have always enjoyed playing against him. A wonderful player and a fierce competitor, too. Wimbledon should be fun.

Nadal and Federer how they stack up

They are the only men in the open era who have played each other in seven Grand Slam finals, with Nadal winning five. Three of these five wins were on Nadal’s favourite surface (clay); he has also beaten Federer in non-clay major finals: Wimbledon 2008 and the Australian Open 2009.

Rafael Nadal

Has won seven Grand Slam titles. Ten of his 14 wins over Federer have come on clay courts. He leads their overall head-to-head series 14–7 (10–2 on clay, 1-2 on grass and 3–3 on hard courts). Holds the longest single-surface winning streak (clay): 81 matches (11 April 2005 – 20 May 2007) Won the French Open on his first attempt. Mats Wilander (1982) also achieved the same feat Has won the most consecutive French Open titles: Four, tied with Bjorn Borg. Has won most ATP Masters 1000 titles (18)

Roger Federer

Has won 16 Grand Slam titles, breaking the previous alltime male record of 14 by Pete Sampras. Federer won 16 majors in a span of 27 majors (2003 Wimbledon – 2010 Australian Open), while Sampras won 14 in 49 majors (1990 US Open – 2002 US Open). Has won five consecutive titles at Wimbledon from 2003–07 , matching a feat achieved only by Bjorn Borg in the Open era. Won six Wimbledon titles (2003-07 , 09), second only to Sampras. Third man to win all four Slams in the Open era after Rod Laver and Andre Agassi and the second after Agassi to win all four on three different surfaces.

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