Rafa Nadal returns to Wimbledon for the first time in three years, but it will feel a bit strange for the Spaniard who, for the first time at the All England Club, will not have Roger Federer as his training partner.
Their epic rivalry includes three consecutive Wimbledon finals since 2006: the first two won by Federer and the last by Nadal in unforgettable fashion in 2008.
Federer played in the juniors at Wimbledon in 1998 and has returned every year since, winning a record eight titles and establishing himself as the king of the turfs.
But the 40-year-old will be absent this year as the 36-year-old Nadal looks to continue his quest for the calendar year Grand Slam, having won the Australian Open and French Open to take his major haul to a record 22. .
Federer’s absence with a knee injury that has sidelined him for a year will leave Wimbledon a bit empty.
Nadal acknowledges that without the Swiss raising the bar, his own achievements might not have been possible.
“I mean, we share a lot of important things together,” second seed Nadal told reporters on Saturday. “In some ways it’s hard to think about the tennis of the last 15 or 20 years without thinking about the rivalry that we have.
“I think we somehow pushed each other. I always wanted to think that my motivation never comes from others, that it is a personal motivation.
“But of course having someone like him, as a rival, who is incredibly good, helps you know the things you have to do better.”
Federer has hinted that he will return after Wimbledon with his sights set on the US Open, which could allow Nadal to complete his collection against the Swiss great.
“We have been playing in all the big stadiums, but not in New York, that’s the only thing that bothers me a little bit, that we never play in New York,” Nadal said.
Nadal’s appearance at Wimbledon was put in doubt by a foot injury that required him to have an anesthetic injection at the French Open just to get through his matches.
A minor surgical procedure has since allowed him to play without terrible pain, but the Spaniard said he doesn’t know if the injury will come back.
“I can’t tell you if I’m going to be in this positive moment for a week, two days or three months,” he said.
Of course, the treatment I did didn’t fix my injury, it didn’t improve my injury at all, but it can relieve some of the pain. That is the main objective.
“For the last two weeks, I haven’t had a terrible day where I couldn’t move at all. Of course, some days are better; some days are a little worse.”
Nadal opens his quest for a third Wimbledon title against Argentine debutant Francisco Cerundolo.