Rafael Nadal continues his Wimbledon campaign today as he faces Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis in round two. The Spaniard has already clinched the Australian and French Open crowns this season, but has not triumphed at the All England Club since 2010. While some of tennis’ heavyweights competitiveness spills off the court, Nadal is rarely someone who indulges in verbal sparring. But in 2012, many were surprised when he clashed with Roger Federer.
Nadal accused his Swiss counterpart of not speaking out more amid concerns that the congested tennis calendar was harming players.
Federer has said that he would not become a frontman for player’s grievances, but Nadal ridiculed this approach.
The Spanish star said: “For him it’s good to say nothing. Everything positive. ‘It’s all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman,’ and the rest can burn themselves.
“Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions.”
Nadal later went on to rant about his busy playing schedule, and explained why Federer may have had a natural advantage over himself, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
He added: “I love the game and there are a lot of things I’m grateful for.
“The game has allowed me to lead a fantastic lifestyle.
“But to finish your career with pain all over your body, is that a positive?
“No. Maybe [Federer] has got a super body and he’ll finish his career like a rose. Neither myself, nor Murray, nor Djokovic are going to finish our careers like a rose.
“Tennis is an important part of my life, but it’s a tough sport.
“We’re not like him [Federer] where it’s effortless to play. For all of us, it’s a battle.”
The spat was rare, as Nadal and Federer are known to have a close relationship off the court.
Speaking about Nadal in 2019, Federer said: “It’s nice to call one of your biggest rivals one of your friends. He’s not my closest friend.
“I’m not his closest friend as well. He’s got his whole Spanish way of life with all his best friends and I have mine as well.
“I think we understand each other very well. We like seeing each other and chatting together and making sure that tennis moves forward the right way.
“We’ve done so many promotions together. And charitable things like the Bushfire Relief in Australia.
“I played in Majorca in the Clay-Grass court. I played in Madrid for his foundation.
“He came to Zurich to play in my match for Africa as well [in 2010]. It’s just nice.
“I remember Rafa when he was young and he was so shy and he was looking up to me and he said whatever Roger wants I’m happy with that.”
After Nadal won the Australian Open earlier this year, Federer congratulated him on social media and branded him an “inspiration”.
Responding to this, Nadal said: “It means a lot to me. We have an amazing relationship – we did amazing things together. For me it’s a great honour to be part of his era.
“Together we have enjoyed and lived amazing moments of the history of our sport. To receive a message like this from him means a lot to me.
“I wish him well, he knows, and I really hope that we will be able to play again in important stages.”
French tennis player Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon winner, also commented on this, noting how their relationship is clearly strong.
She said: Federer and Nadal are true friends. Roger’s message for Rafa’s Aus Open win was heartfelt.
“It was not staged. They have fun together, they spend time together in the player’s lounge.”