Rafael Nadal plays Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the fourth round of the Australian Open today. The Spanisard saw off Russian Karen Khachanov at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Friday, cementing himself as a contender to win the tournament. Nadal has only ever won the tournament once, in 2009. Three years later, he clashed with another icon of the sport, Roger Federer.
Nadal criticised his Swiss counterpart for not speaking out more amid concerns that the congested tennis calendar was harming players.
After telling a pre-tournament news conference he had no intention of being the frontman for the players’ grievances because it has reflected badly on him in the past, Nadal ridiculed Federer for maintaining his image by not speaking out against the sport’s authorities.
The Spanish star said: “For him it’s good to say nothing. Everything positive. ‘It’s all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman,’ and the rest can burn themselves.
“Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions.”
Nadal later went on to rant about his busy playing schedule, and explained why Federer may have had a natural advantage over himself, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
He added: “I love the game and there are a lot of things I’m grateful for.
“The game has allowed me to lead a fantastic lifestyle.
“But to finish your career with pain all over your body, is that a positive?
“No. Maybe [Federer] has got a super body and he’ll finish his career like a rose. Neither myself, nor Murray, nor Djokovic are going to finish our careers like a rose.
“Tennis is an important part of my life, but it’s a tough sport.
“We’re not like him [Federer] where it’s effortless to play. For all of us, it’s a battle.”
Aside from this brief spat, Nadal and Federer have generally had a good relationship.
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“I remember Rafa when he was young and he was so shy and he was looking up to me and he said whatever Roger wants I’m happy with that.”
Federer is unfortunately absent from this year’s Australian Open as he continues to recover from knee surgery.
The six time winner, and 20-time Grand Slam champion, missed the 2021 event for the same reason but recovered in time to participate at Wimbledon.
There are now doubts over whether he will be able to play at Wimbledon in June.
In an interview with Le Martin, Federer all but ruled himself out of the event as he continues his rehabilitation.
He said: “I would be extremely surprised if I could play Wimbledon.
“I will be able to resume running quietly in January and resume sessions on the court with complex support in March or April.
“I therefore estimate my return to competition in the summer of 2022.”