Lesson no. 1: Do not write off Rafa & Fed

Nadal launches academy and warning that tennis duo are working to get back to the top

MADRID • Rafael Nadal insists he can still compete with the best in the world for "many years to come" after opening his tennis academy alongside Roger Federer in Mallorca on Wednesday.

Nadal (No. 6) and Federer (No. 8) have slipped down the world rankings this season due to a lack of form and fitness respectively. It is also the first time the duo are not in the top four since 2003.

However, the Spaniard insists two of the most successful players in the history of the sport can make it back to the top.

"Roger and I haven't forgotten how to play tennis and we are working to get back to competing at the highest level," said Nadal.

However, he refused to confirm if he intends to play again before the end of the year.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion suffered a shock second-round defeat to Victor Troicki at the Shanghai Masters last week, but is still well-placed to qualify for the season-ending ATP Tour Finals.

"Sometimes continuing to play is not the solution. Sometimes the solution is to stop and restart a training programme," added Nadal, who hinted that he could return at the Swiss Indoor tournament in Basel next week.

RIVALS AND FRIENDS

I've seen a lot of hard workers and inspiring players, but Rafa's been... the most inspiring and most influential.

'' ROGER FEDERER , the 17-time Major champion, on Rafael Nadal.

The stunning academy complex in his home city of Manacor in the Balearic Island boasts 26 clay courts, as well as a fitness centre, two swimming pools and 10 paddle tennis courts.

"I still have many years to come in tennis, but there is a future and this academy is part of that future," said Nadal.

"We were very excited to create something so special and even more so in Manacor, it is a dream come true.

"We hope the kids enjoy it as much as possible. We want this facility to be a success at the professional level for them, but also on a human level."

Federer, who was Nadal's guest of honour, had only good words for his friend and long-time rival.

"I'm really here to honour the great man, Rafa. I think it's wonderful that he's taken this journey on to give the kids something back," the Swiss said.

"I've been around the game 17 years. I've seen a lot of hard workers and inspiring players, but Rafa's been the one who has been the most inspiring and most influential and made me the player I am today.

"Because he is left-handed, because of his spin, because of the intensity he brings to the court, I had to reinvent and rework my game entirely. And that's because of the person he is and how much he's trained."

Federer suffered his first major injury this season and announced in July that he would not play again this year to continue his rehabilitation from a knee surgery.

The 35-year-old took a light-hearted view of his troubles and joked that Nadal always had it easier coming back from injuries.

The Spaniard had suffered a left-wrist injury that kept him on the sidelines for 10 weeks earlier this season.

"I'm going through my first big injury now. I don't know how it's going to be when I come back," said Federer, a 17-time Major champion. "But Rafa's done it a million times, so there again I can be inspired by him. He always made it look easy."

The Swiss also praised Nadal's cause for setting up the academy.

"I hope it's going to be a wonderful academy and the kids are going to learn from this great man. His attitude speaks for itself," Federer said.

"One thing's for sure, I know where I'm going to send my kids if they want to learn tennis. I'm going to send them right here."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Lesson no. 1: Do not write off Rafa & Fed'. Print Edition | Subscribe