Wimbledon 2018

I'm not stupid, says Nadal on prospect of Federer epic

LONDON • On the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Wimbledon men's final that is widely considered the "greatest-ever tennis match", it seems like the stars may be aligning for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to meet in another mesmerising epic on Centre Court.

The pair are again the two best players in the world and have split the last six Grand Slam titles between them - taking their combined haul to 37 major titles.

But, most importantly, they are fit and showing signs that a blockbuster rematch might be on the cards on Sunday.

Eight-time Wimbledon winner Federer's toughest possible opponent on his side of the draw, second seed Marin Cilic - whom he beat in the final last year - crashed out in the second round to Argentinian Guido Pella.

For Nadal, world No. 3 Alexander Zverev was upset by qualifier Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, opening up the path for the Spaniard to meet Federer.

But three-time champion Novak Djokovic also moved into the next round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Kyle Edmund and will pose a threat to Nadal should they meet in the semi-finals.

So while tennis fans around the world are hoping that Federer and Nadal will renew their rivalry in London, there is one person who is definitely not keen on the idea.

"If I am in the final, I prefer to face an easier opponent. I am not stupid," world No. 1 Nadal said to hoots of laughter from reporters.

Since reaching his fifth final at the All England Club seven years ago, it has not been a happy hunting ground for the 2008 and 2010 champion as he has failed to get past the fourth round.

The Spaniard has lost to players ranked 100 or lower in four of his five previous Wimbledon appearances, as his patched-up knees have struggled to cope with the constant bending required to handle the low bounce on the lush grass lawns.

But after hoisting the French Open trophy for a record 11th time less than four weeks ago, Nadal seems energised at the prospect of completing the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double for the third time in his career.

"For me it's great to have all this great experience again, playing so well later in my career, having a great year last year, having a good year this year," said the 32-year-old, who has been plagued by a series of knee, wrist and hip injuries.

"If I am in the final, it will be great news," he added with a grin ahead of his fourth-round match with Czech Jiri Vesely today.

Anyone will do for Nadal, as long as it is not Federer, who meets France's Adrian Mannarino next.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'I'm not stupid, says Nadal on prospect of Federer epic'. Print Edition | Subscribe