Rafael Nadal comes back to Wimbledon for the first time in three years, but it will be strange for the Spaniard, who will be without sparring partner Roger Federer for the first time at the All England Club.
Their historic rivalry dates back to 2006, when Federer won the first two Wimbledon championships and Nadal won the third in spectacular fashion in 2008.
Federer first competed at Wimbledon as a junior in 1998 and has returned every year since, collecting a record eight trophies and established himself as the king of the lawns.
However, the 40-year-old will be absent this year as Nadal, 36, aims to complete the calendar year Grand Slam, managed to win the Australian Open and French Open to bring his total of majors to a record 22.
Federer’s omission from Wimbledon due to a knee injury that has kept him out for a year will leave the tournament feeling a little lacking.
Nadal admits that his own achievements would not have been possible without the Swiss setting the bar.
“I mean, we shared lot of important things together,” Nadal, the second seed, told journalists on Saturday. “It’s difficult in some ways to think of tennis in the last 15, 20 years without thinking about the rivalry that we have.
“I think in some way we push each other. I always wanted to think that my motivation never comes to me because of others, that it’s a personal motivation. But, of course, to have somebody like him, like a rival, that he’s amazingly good, helps you to let you know the things that you have to do better.”
Federer has hinted at a comeback after Wimbledon with an eye on the US Open, which might provide Nadal the ability to finish his collection against the Swiss great.
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“We’ve been playing in every big stadium, but not in New York, that’s the only thing that bothers me a little bit, that we never played in New York,” Nadal revealed.
Since then, a minor medical treatment has enabled him to play without excruciating discomfort, but the Spaniard has stated that he is unsure whether the issue will flare up again.
“I can’t tell you if I’m going to be in this positive moment for one week, for two days, or for three months,” he stated, adding, “Of course, the treatment didn’t fix my injury, did not improve my injury at all, but it can take out a little bit of the pain. That’s the main goal.”
“For the last two weeks, I didn’t have one terrible day where I can’t move at all. Of course, some days are better; some days are a little bit worse,” he concluded.
Nadal’s pursuit for a third Wimbledon title begins against Argentine rookie Francisco Cerundolo.