Nadal relishes Fed clash

Rafael Nadal during practice yesterday. Should he be fit, Nadal will relish the opportunity to play against Roger Federer to erase the memories of losing to him five times in a row.
Rafael Nadal during practice yesterday. Should he be fit, Nadal will relish the opportunity to play against Roger Federer to erase the memories of losing to him five times in a row. PHOTO: REUTERS

World No. 1 keen to end losing run against great rival but remains coy on his fitness

LONDON • Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer can set up a dream climax to the 2017 season at the ATP World Tour Finals, but organisers are sweating on the Spaniard's fitness.

World No. 1 Nadal is scheduled to open his campaign against Belgium's David Goffin at the O2 Arena tomorrow night.

Asked about the knee injury that stopped his progress in Paris a week ago and threatened to bring his 2017 campaign to a premature close, the 31-year-old shrugged and raised his famous eyebrow.

"I don't have to make a decision yet," Nadal told a press conference on Friday. "I'm going to play - that's what my feeling is today.

"I can't predict what might happen in the next couple of days, but my feeling is that I'm here to play and to try my best."

Nadal has pulled out of five of 13 World Tour finals - in 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014 and again last year.

The Spaniard has never won the tournament and his body is usually worn out during this time of the year, no thanks to his relentless style of play.

Should he be fit, Nadal will relish the opportunity to play against Federer to erase the memories of losing to him five times in a row.

"It would be great to finish the year playing against him again and to give me another chance," said Nadal, who lost to Federer in the finals of the Australian Open, the Miami Open and the Shanghai Masters, as well as in the fourth round at Indian Wells.

World No. 2 Federer, who is up against Jack Sock today, said it would be a shame if Nadal could not play.

The 36-year-old Swiss said: "He's the No. 1 player in the world, had the best season of us all and is a superstar of our game. So naturally it would be a blow. If he's here, to me that's a good sign."

The duo also said they welcome innovation in tennis, but warned the game's administrators not to tamper too much with the current format.

A series of rule changes and innovations are being trialled at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, featuring the world's top 21-and-under singles players.

Rule changes include a shorter format with first-to-four-games sets (tie-break at 3-3), a shorter warm-up, a 25-second shot clock used between points, no line judges, player coaching and no doubles lines on the court.

"We need to think seriously about all these rule changes if ever you're going to do it because once you do it, you don't want to bounce back and forth with changing something and then you don't like it later on," said Federer.

"I don't see that much wrong with our Tour right now that it needs that much fixing, especially the shorter sets."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Nadal relishes Fed clash'. Print Edition | Subscribe