Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met during back-to-back practice sessions at the Australian Open on Monday. Will these guys be shaking hands over the net in a few days?
I’m assuming you all check out the New York Times before landing here, but just in case, you must check out this great article (click here) from last week on Roger Federer’s off-season practice sessions.
If you’ve spent any time watching Roger, you know his on-site practice sessions are more like required appearances than down and dirty slug fests. He puts in his hard yards out of the public eye – in Dubai. Rafa, on the other hand, doesn’t give an inch. One of my favorite tennis fan experiences was watching Rafa play a practice set vs. his good buddy and doubles partner Marc Lopez at the wonderful Indian Wells practice courts a couple years ago (yes, I was breathing down his sweaty neck, about four feet away!) The crowd was getting into it – this is Rafa, it was competitive! – and we all cheered when underdog Lopez won a tough point. Rafa looked up at all of us like “Hey! Who’re you cheering for, here?” We all laughed. He won the set.
Roger decimated countryman Stanislas Wawrinka: 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals today. He’s into his 8th consecutive Australian Open semifinal (“sickening” said Jim Courier in his post-match interview.) A relatively non sweaty Rafa had a great win over Marin Cilic the evening before: 6-2, 6-4, 6-3. Rafa gets his Davis Cup teammate, David Ferrer, in his quarterfinal.
Roger was asked about Rafael Nadal after his match:
Q. Just a question about you and Rafa. Can you remember your first impressions of him? How do you think your relationship has developed over the years? You have this friendship and strong respect, which is quite unusual for great rivals.
ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, first time I remember him I guess was when I saw him play I don’t know. I don’t quite remember what tournament it was, but obviously the first time I played against him in Miami. You know, I knew he was very good already, and then I lost also the first time we played against each other. I think I must have been world No. 1, too.
So a teenager who can beat any world No. 1 obviously I knew is going to become a future champion really. Even though it’s just one match, there’s still so much work he has to do, which clearly he did.
So I think he’s always been quite respectful. Obviously he’s younger than me, maybe looked up to me at the very beginning. So I think he was always very respectful. I’ve always been the same to any opponent really.
So I think, uhm, from the start it was just mutual respect. Didn’t speak much at the very beginning, was shy. As time went by, we had to spend more time together, and we played more against each other. We started to I don’t want to say hang out more together but we saw each other more and started to speak more together.
It was always friendly and it was always very nice. So from this standpoint, we never really had any issues together.
Q. Do you talk about tennis with him?
ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, depending on the subject. We talk about many things. But tennis probably being one of them at times, yeah (smiling).
Q. How special would it be for the game if you and Rafa got through to Sunday?
ROGER FEDERER: I’m not sure really. I don’t know who really expects it. There is attention on any player right at this stage really. I think many players are playing extremely well, like I mentioned the other day.
Uhm, obviously, you know, it’s normal to follow Rafa in a big way because he’s going for something particularly very special. My focus is not playing him in the finals quite yet.
I mean, he still has to win a few matches against really tough players ahead of him. I got my hands full with either Djokovic or Berdych. I’m not quite there yet.