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Nadal: I am going to get even better

by Ian Baker

They used to say Rafael Nadal could not win tournaments on grass. Even the Spaniard used to admit it himself. Having been brought up on the dusty clay courts of his home island of Majorca, Nadal never enjoyed similar success on the pristine grass of the All England Club during his formative years.

A natural baseliner, Nadal found the going tough on the quicker surfaces of SW19 and in particular against Roger Federer's more natural grass court game. But having put the disappointments of final defeats to his great rival in 2006 and 2007 behind him, top seed Nadal is the one to beat - on all surfaces.

The 25-year-old has not lost at Wimbledon since 2007. Winner in 2008 and last time out (he withdrew in 2009), Nadal says hard graft was the key to conquering his demons. "I said one thousand times that my dream always was to play well here in Wimbledon," he insisted. "That's true. At the beginning of my career everybody said that my style of game would make it very difficult to play very well here. But I worked a lot and I put all my best into every practice. The only problem with grass is if you play against a big, big server, because the game is too fast and is not nice to play and for a lot of games you don't touch the ball. But if you play against a normal player, a good serve that you can return the ball, in my opinion, the game from the baseline is fantastic to watch and is fantastic to play because you can slice, you can go to the net, you can play aggressive. If you play too defensive is impossible to play here. But you have different options to do. I love to do that."

Nadal has only seldom come to the net in previous years but believes that is one aspect of his game that can improve this time around. "On grass, the surface helps you to go a little bit more to the net," he said. That's something that is not a problem for me. I don't have the volley of Roger, for sure. But I think I'm fast and my movements are enough good to go to the net. I think I have enough experience and enough good volleys to do it."

Nadal plays his first match of the tournament against American Michael Russell on Monday. And in a stark warning to Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, he insists he is still getting better. "I think I try my best every day to keep improving my tennis," he added. "I wake up every day in order to practice with the illusion to be better player than day before. I think I'm a more complete player than few years ago, I am sure on that. But being better doesn't mean that you going to win more. Because winning or losing depends on different facts and small things. I love to play big matches. I love to play in big stadiums like here, historic stadiums like Wimbledon. So for me, when I start playing my first match of the tournament in the Centre Court that is a dream."

Quotes from ATP
"Last year is, in my opinion, very impossible to repeat: three Grand Slams in a row," said Nadal. "So this year I am very happy about what's going on the season. But to repeat what I did last year is something that I for sure don't think.

"I think we are playing well. I think Novak [Djokovic] had a fantastic season. The first six months was really unbelievable. Roger [Federer] had a very good season, and especially at this last tournament in Roland Garros played fantastic. Andy [Murray] had a fantastic clay-court season, and he arrived at Queen's and he won the tournament. It’s going to be always a big challenge. But I love to play on grass. I love to play in this fabulous place. So I am excited to be back here."

"The pressure is tough, but at the same time, the support is high," said Nadal. "So I prefer have this pressure than don't have this pressure. For sure it is very special [to] play at home. But when you go on court and see all the crowd supporting you it is something very, very emotional and very special. I would love to have this feeling."
"When you see some emotional moments on the TV in different events around the world, tough situations, that's inspiration. And just to have the chance to live one of these moments in my sport, that's something really, really exciting for me.

"So my inspiration is every day. For me I love to play big matches. I love to play in big stadiums like here, historic stadiums like Wimbledon. So for me, tomorrow I start playing the first match of the tournament in the Centre Court; for me is a dream. Seriously, that's my inspiration, trying to live these moments."

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