Star Nadal loving a commoner's life

No driver at the door, no luxury hotel suite. Just buses and shared apartments. But Rafael Nadal is loving every minute of the Olympics.

updated: August 16, 2008 18:18 IST
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No driver at the door, no luxury hotel suite. The Beijing Olympics offer athletes buses and rooms in shared apartments instead.

But Spaniard Rafael Nadal, set to become the world number one of men's tennis next week, is happy anyway.

"Everything is very well-organised, but you have to get your act together. At the Olympic Village you have no driver at the door and no amazing room. But you do not need that to be happy," Nadal said after advancing to the second round of the Olympic tennis tournament.

"This really helps you see what real life is like," he noted. "I wish many other weeks were like this, because I love being with people. And fortunately the Spanish team at these games is very large."

By contrast, Andy Murray's Olympic dream was crushed in an opening shock Monday as the Scot fell, while Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal advanced in first-round battles.

Murray, ranked a career-high sixth, fell 6-7, 4-6 to Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan. The ninth seed was joined on the sidelines by number five David Ferrer, beaten 7-6 (10/8), 6-2 by Serb Janko Tipsarevic.

Officials raced on Monday to get a rain-hit programme caught up after a near washout on the opening day in the capital.

Federer tamed dangerous Dmitry Tursunov of Russia 6-4, 6-2, but still did not produce a decisive win after recent losses which will see him hand over the number one ranking on the ATP in a week to Nadal.

The Spaniard heir-apparent was tested over three sets before lifting a level to defeat Italian Potito Starace 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Nadal, winner of the French Open and Wimbledon chose to stay at the Olympic Village rather than in a hotel, and that has its drawbacks. Nadal has had to have his picture taken with hundreds of athletes with a much lower media profile, who do not want to miss the chance of being snapped with the tennis star.

"At dinner he could barely eat. It was incredible how many athletes went up to him. He must have signed like 100 autographs and he must have had about as many photographs taken," Argentine rower Maria Gabriela Best told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), a day after Nadal arrived at the Olympic Village.

Federer opted to stay at a hotel, and the fuss over his first visit to the Olympic Village shows that his decision was not unjustified. The winner of 12 Grand Slam tournaments had to hide behind a side door to get a little peace.

This is Federer's third Olympic Games. Nadal, in turn, played doubles in Athens 2004 but is now making his singles debut at the Games.

"I am enjoying a unique experience," the Spaniard said about the Olympics. "I live with other sportsmen from other disciplines in one place. It is an honour. I am having a great time. And I have my picture taken without a problem, because those who ask me are just like me, sportsmen."

Indeed, Nadal himself confessed Monday that a day earlier he had a photograph taken with another of the great stars of the Games, US swimmer Michael Phelps.