London – Rafael Nadal, with his legacy as one of the world’s greatest players already secured, insists he’d rather be remembered as a good guy rather than just a Grand Slam title-winning machine.
The 28-year-old Spaniard, with 14 majors amongst his 64 career titles as well as having banked $70 million in prize money, says he treasures the generally warm relationship he enjoys with the other members of the big four – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
“I think the positive thing about this era is we have been playing a lot of times under a lot of pressure, playing for very important things for our careers,” said Nadal, safely into the second week of Wimbledon for the first time since 2011.
“But when we are in the locker room we still talk to each other. We have a very good relationship between us.
“That’s important because at the end the tennis is only a game. The relationships, in my opinion, are more important than a game and tennis is just a game.”
The big four of the men’s game have taken tennis to new heights – both sporting and commercial – in the last decade.
Since Federer won the first of his 17 majors at Wimbledon in 2003, the four players have carved up the Grand Slams winning 39 of the last 44.
Nadal has 14 – including a staggering nine French Opens in a Paris one-man show which has seen him lose just once – Djokovic has six and Murray two.
Of the five men to have broken the stranglehold, Andy Roddick (2003 US Open), Gaston Gaudio (2004 French Open) and Marat Safin (2005 Australian Open) are retired.
The 2009 US Open winner, Juan Martin del Potro is injured again while shock 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka is already 29.
That has left the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori to be talked of in terms of the next generation of major winners.
But Nadal has warned them they need to work and keep working if they are to dominate the tennis landscape in the next decade.
“We were able to be there competing for quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals almost in every important tournament of the year,” said Nadal of a history which has seen him build a 23-19 winning record over Djokovic, 23-10 against Federer and 15-5 when facing Murray.
“That’s very difficult. We can only meet each other in semi-finals or finals. That shows that we have been in that position a lot of times. That’s very difficult mentally and physically.
“I think for the young players, the example is we were fighters. We were fighters for every single tournament, even a Grand Slam, Masters 1 000, 250 events, we were there fighting for the whole year, another year, another year, and another year.
“I think it is a good example for the kids, the motivation and passion for the game.”
Nadal made the fourth round on Saturday by beating Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 under the Centre Court roof while torrential rain caused havoc with the schedule on outside courts.
“In one way it is very positive to have my work already done,” said Nadal.
“In another point, I don’t know how Wimbledon is going to react after a day like today, if they are not able to play more matches because tomorrow is Sunday and the tradition is here nobody plays on Sunday.
“If my opponents are not playing tomorrow, they are playing on Monday, I will be playing on Tuesday, and the winner will be playing again on Wednesday. That’s not good. That’s not a positive thing.” – Sapa-AFP