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Rafael Nadal: ‘I want people to remember me for my legacy, not titles I won’

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World no. 2 and the 19-time Major champion Rafael Nadal has embraced quite a journey in the last 15 years, from a super fine clay-courter towards one of the greatest players of all time. Working on his game regularly, Nadal was ready to improve and add different elements to his game to challenge the players from the very top, becoming world no.

2 after conquering the first Roland Garros crown at 19 and never leaving the top-10 again despite many setbacks with injuries. The Spaniard was the finalist at Wimbledon already in 2006, mastering the fastest surface and winning the title there two years later, followed by the crown at the Australian Open next January and at the US Open in September 2010, completing a Career Grand Slam at the age of 24 and securing his spot among tennis immortals.

Experiencing many thrilling victories but also defeats, Rafa would love to stay remembered for his legacy and the example he has given to the upcoming players, never breaking racquet on the court and always giving his 100%.

Rafael Nadal holds

Last week, Rafa won the 85th ATP title in Acapulco, extending his unmatched streak to 17 years with at least one ATP crown on his tally and preparing for another assault in Indian Wells and Miami. “Numerous tournaments have indeed contacted me about joining the field but things are different than in the past.

To play, I have to be ready both physically and mentally; no one has unlimited batteries. When you are young, you have plenty of energy but now you have to make decisions that sometimes you don’t like and skip tournaments that you would love to play.

Rafael Nadal teeth

In the future, I do not want to be remembered as a tennis player with numerous titles but the one who has left a good example for boys and girls; it is my only objective. If one thing I wish I could say that I have done well is that I have transmitted positive stuff on and off the court, something that makes me very satisfied.”

Rafael Nadal hailed as ‘very special guy’ for helping Grigor Dimitrov through ‘tough times’
Grigor Dimitrov and Rafael Nadal

RAFAEL NADAL was hailed as a “very special guy” after helping fellow tennis star Grigor Dimitrov through some low periods – including with a fishing trip in Mallorca.

The world No2, 33, may lead the head to head between the pair 13-1 but the Bulgarian admitted he has been a great help off the court.

Speaking about their friendship, Dimitrov said: “He’s a very special guy.

“He has a pretty amazing personality, to be honest. I’ve spent so much time with him on and off the court.

“Being able to practise with him, share moments off the court.

Rafael Nadal dimple

“I’ve really learnt a lot from him in the past four or five years. I was going through a little bit of a tough time and I practised with him for a little bit and my form increased.

“Everything is just positive when it comes around him and it is great to be around him.”

Dimitrov – who has dated Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Nicole Scherzinger in his career – also spoke at length about the difficulties and challenges facing a professional tennis player on the ATP Tour.

When I’m on the court I’m Grigor the tennis player. When I’m outside the courts I’m just Grigor and it is good to have a difference between those two.

Grigor Dimitrov

He added: “It comes with the territory and it is just how it is. There is no shortcut in tennis however you look at it. We have one of the most taxing sports on the body. Our season is long.

Rafael Nadal drive

“I would play basically from January to the beginning of November so you can only imagine what the body goes through with the travelling, jet lag, switching surfaces and so on.

“It really is a choice because we are spoilt at the end of the day if you are one of the best you are definitely spoiled but in order to get there, you need to put in a ridiculous amount of work.

“I don’t want to use the word sacrifice because I’m not a big fan of that word because we all have a choice.

“I decided right now to be that. When I’m on the court I’m Grigor the tennis player. When I’m outside the courts I’m just Grigor and it is good to have a difference between those two.”

Nadal and Dimitrov played an exhibition match in Atlanta on Monday, which Rafa won 7-5 6-3, just days after the Spaniard won their 14th official meeting in the Acapulco semi-final.

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal shake

But the two close friends have spent plenty of time together off the court as well – even spending time on the home island of the 19-time Grand Slam champ.

Nadal said: “We have been in Mallorca together. We go out in the boat and catch some fish.

“Tennis is not forever but the friendship is.”

Nadal also recently opened up on his relationship with arch-frenemy Roger Federer.

Rafael Nadal and coach

The pair have won 39 Grand Slams between them and earned a collective £200million, pushing each other for the last 16 years.

But with their careers intertwined since Nadal burst on to the scene in 2004, the Spaniard revealed they get on really well after sharing the limelight for so many years.

He said: “It’s a rivalry, of course, but it’s also a friendship. We’re having a great story together. We have had long careers.

“Facing each other in the most important tournaments for such a very, very long time.

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