Friendly foes set for new battle

Abu Dhabi - World No.1 Rafael Nadal and World No.2 Roger Federer could start a mutual admiration society but their rivalry and friendship needs to be savoured.

By James Jose

Published: Fri 31 Dec 2010, 12:15 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Oct 2021, 9:04 AM

“I don’t think you need a good relationship to have a good rivalry. We are all different players but in terms of personality, sometimes, there are similarities and we come from simple backgrounds, we like to have our peace and calm and we know when we are away from the game and all the hassle around us,” Federer said on the sidelines of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex on Thursday.

“We are also quite happy to get away from all these and I think it is always better to work towards the game and watch other players and I have done the same, obviously. I’m five years older than him and its maybe he has learnt from what I did and I have seen it from the previous generation as examples as what others did. So, it is obviously going to be inspiring. He has always been friendly and his English has improved a lot over the last few seasons.

“It is easier to talk and things we have to deal with on the tour. We do get along really well and we also could put ourselves forward to help others. It is wonderful that we will be able to do that and obviously we have helped other great causes around the world as well. It is nice to see such a good rivalry at the top of the sport so well perceived by the public and I’m looking forward to many more good matches with him in the future,” added Federer. Talking about the season gone by, he said: “In general, I thought it was another good year. Maybe, in other years, I could have been world No.1 if Rafa (Nadal) wouldn’t have won three Grand Slams. Winning one Grand Slam and the World Tour final usually puts you in a really good position to get to world No.1, but Rafa has done similar years and he also finished No.2 in the world. So at the moment, you really need something extra special to be at the top, which I think is great for the game and he’s had an exceptional season. I’m pretty happy the way I played. I know I could have done even better because after Australia until the French Open, or even Wimbledon I didn’t really play a whole lot of matches. So for this reason I couldn’t pick up so many points and maybe couldn’t play my best because I was lacking matches.

“I had some tough losses this season but at the same time I was able to turn around some big matches that were really key and important to get back on track. I thought I had a great end to the season. Since Wimbledon I had only been able to reach the semifinals or finals. It shows I am playing really well on the hardcourts and I hope I can take it over to the next season.

Despite having won and broken records along the way, Federer said that the weight of expectations hasn’t bogged him down. “I look at the long-term. I am not driven by short-term success even though it is obviously important for my confidence like trying to win matches and tournaments. But I don’t get down on myself because I know I am very professional, I am doing the right things. It’s important to always try to keep on improving, second-guess yourself even in the best of times and that’s something I did really early in my career as well.

“Sure I have incredible high goals myself and there are huge expectations from media, fans, tournaments and so forth, and that can weight on you. But I think I have handled it well over the years and today I can enjoy that pressure more than maybe when I was coming up and trying to make a breakthrough, which I thought was really difficult to manage.

“Everybody is telling you, ‘you’re going to be the next Pete Sampras’, and you have zero Grand Slams and he has 14. So it’s not quite fair. I have passed that stage now where it doesn’t really affect me much what’s written and said,” he said.

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