Nadal resigned to keep chasing Federer

Nadal might be weary of talking about Federer, but he's resigned to getting another volley of questions about the world No.1 over the next two weeks

updated: January 15, 2008 17:17 IST
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Rafael Nadal might be weary of talking about Roger Federer, but he's resigned to getting another volley of questions about the world No.1 over the next two weeks at the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old Spaniard has finished ranked second behind Federer for the third straight year and leads the vanguard in the chase after the peerless Swiss champion.

Federer is primed for his 13th Grand Slam success -- one behind the record held by Pete Sampras -- if he can chalk up his hattrick of Australian titles on January 27.

Nadal laments that he is playing in an era dominated by such a modern-day tennis great, who could conceivably become the all-time Grand Slam champion by year's end.

The muscular left-hander, with his distinctive three-quarter length pirate pants, holds down second place (5,780 points) on the ATP rankings by some distance from world No.3 Novak Djokovic (4315 points) and clearly looms as Federer's major threat on the opposite side of the draw in Melbourne.

Nadal is sanguine about his chances of deposing his arch-rival as the top-ranked player in men's tennis.

"I would love to be number two for 50 more years," he said. "(Getting) 5,600 or 5,700 points, that is a lot.

"In a normal moment in the history of tennis, I'd have been number one.

"I don't know if I ever will. I will keep fighting for it and will try to reach there.

"I'm not worried about Roger, he is better than the other guys at the moment. But a lot of young guys are coming from behind at the present time."

Nadal has Federer's measure on the red clay of Roland Garros, winning the last three French Opens and holding a 21-0 unbeaten record in the only Grand Slam played on clay.

He has denied Federer a French trophy in the last two finals and ousted him from the semi-finals of the 2005 event.

Nadal burst into the Australian Open as an 18-year-old in 2004, eventually losing to one-time world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt in an engrossing third round encounter, and lost to him again a round later the following year.

"Last time I made it to the quarter-finals (lost to finalist Fernando Gonzalez)," Nadal said.

"Maybe I did not play great in that match, but it was not a bad result. I just try to play 100 percent to my potential. I have a chance for a very good tournament (Australian Open)."

Nadal blamed upper thigh pain for his abject quarter-final defeat in straight sets to Gonzalez, but it's a new year and a new opportunity.

"I think I've improved my serve. There is a marked improvement. Even the second serve is good. But I will continue to improve," he said.

Nadal suffered an embarrassing 6-0, 6-1 defeat to Russian Mikhail Youzhny in this month's final of the Chennai Open en route to Australia, but is not deterred.

"I look forward to going to Melbourne and training hard for the Australian Open. It is a tournament which interests me a lot," said after the loss.

"The good thing is I leave this tournament without any injury. It has been a good start to the year for me. I have had good practice."

Nadal won six titles in 2007, including the French Open, and forced Federer into a five-set thriller in the Wimbledon final.