Rafael Nadal issues ’stupid’ response to Roger Federer question at Wimbledon


ASKED if he fancies playing Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, Rafael Nadal was blunt. “I am not stupid,” he said.

The collision between the two greats seems to draw ever nearer this Wimbledon, as the potential threats tumble by the wayside, with players like Marin Cilic, Sam Querry, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev all now departed from SW19.

But there is a major threat to this year’s dream men’s final as we go into the second week of Wimbledon 2018, lurking in the bottom half of the draw – Novak Djokovic.

The saintly Federer has cruised once more through the tournament with 29 unbeaten Wimbledon sets under his belt and Nadal, the powerhouse darling, can do no wrong on Centre Court.

Now suddenly, after the chiding of a crowd revved up by England’s World Cup quarter-final win on Saturday, Djokovic is the pantomime villain. But he is also the greatest threat.

Wimbledon 2018: Rafael Nadal is bidding for his third Wimbledon title

Nadal, bidding for his third Wimbledon title, said: “If I am in the final, I prefer to face an easier opponent than Federer. I am not stupid.

“But if I am in the final, it will be great news. Any opponent will be difficult.”

The Spaniard could meet Djokovic in a potentially mouth-watering semi-final on Friday and is not surprised though that so many stars have fallen.

Nadal, who faces Czech World No 93 Jiri Vesely today, said: “It is not that everyone has raised their level. It’s about the surface. It is tricky because we don’t play very often on this surface.

“All the matches are dangerous. The match here can be decided in just a few balls – a big difference with clay.

“On clay, you have time. Here, you don’t have time. Here, if you don’t have a big, big serve, you can’t feel yourself safe.”

Djokovic sniped about the crowd on Saturday night after his 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over home favourite Kyle Edmund, accusing them of being unfair to him.

Wimbledon yesterday insisted there was no need to warn spectators about their behaviour, after Djokovic’s complaints.

The All England Club said: “The role of the Chair Umpire is to encourage the crowd to demonstrate respect for the players and their fellow spectators, and, while spectators will naturally show enthusiasm for the players they support, they have always demonstrated that respect at Wimbledon.”

Today he is on No1 Court facing Russian Karen Kachanov and said: “I do feel like I am very close to the level of tennis that I would like to play. Saturday was a great test.”

The former World No1, who struggled with elbow problems which eventually needed surgery during this last year, said: “It was hard but I don’t know an athlete, especially at the highest level, that never went through an injury.

“Before, I was fortunate to only have minor injuries that didn’t take too much time away from the tour for me. I always took care of my body.

The elbow injury was something I carried for a couple of years – I didn’t address it.

Wimbledon 2018: Roger Federer has cruised once more through the tournament with 29 unbeaten sets

“I didn’t know it was going to take several months to really get back into shape. I just feel this last month and a half, in terms of quality of tennis, have been what I have been working for. And so far free of pain.”

Federer, who has barely broken sweat yet, will face 22nd seed Adrian Mannarino this afternoon.

The Frenchman joked: “Federer is an artist. If he is Picasso, maybe I am an artist too – but one that is a lot less well known! I can’t compare myself to his style, that would just be arrogant.

“Every player out there is a kind of artist, with their own style. Of course we know what a great player Federer is, but you can only go on court and play your best.

“I work very hard every day to be a better player, and I now think I can beat these kind of players. I am definitely not already thinking I will lose. I believe I can win.

“It doesn’t matter where you play him, I won’t be the one the crowd is cheering for so I am not too worried about that.”

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