NEW YORK – The prospect of Rafael Nadal facing Roger Federer at the US Open, for the first time ever, obviously led to a host of questions from the media Wednesday.
Nadal had few issues in dispatching 19-year-old Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 as he kept his part of their long-anticipated semifinal date.
But even though Federer and Juan Martin del Potro had yet to play their own semifinal, the subject of Fedal in Ashe was front and centre.
They were one match away from meeting back in 2009. But del Potro spoiled the Fedal party with a win over Nadal – 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 – followed by a win over Federer in the final.
Nadal isn’t exactly the guy who pulls out bon mots in press conferences and gets everyone laughing. He’s a serious, earnest guy in press.
Plus, with English not being his first language, he’s not likely to tell a joke.
But at a certain point Wednesday, he got everyone laughing.
But then, a mite sheepish, he answered the question well, as he always does.
“I don’t want to look like I gonna be his boyfriend, no? (That’s where he got the laughs). We don’t want to talk these kind of things before important match.
“Well, we have a lot of respect for each other, no? We played a lot of times. I think we did important things for tennis. We appreciate that. And we always had a good relationship. We played for our foundations. I think he always have been a great ambassador for tennis and for our sport, with good image, of course, and representing, I think, good values.
“One important thing that is a great example for kids, no, after a lot of years and winning more than (anybody), he still have the passion to keep doing what he did during all his career, no? And doing unbelievable well and doing with the right attitude and with the right passion and love for the sport, no?
“So that’s something important for me and something that I admire him, and inside the court, I admire of him the same, as you can admire, because everybody knows how complete (he is), and he’s able to produce all the shots.”