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7 things Rafael Nadal has said about Roger Federer over the years

Rafael Nadal congratulates Roger Federer after their match at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships
Rafael Nadal congratulates Roger Federer after their match at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships
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Ewan West

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are undoubtedly two of the greatest players in the history of tennis. The former has won a men's record 21 Grand Slam titles, while the latter sits joint-second on the all-time list with Novak Djokovic.

The legendary duo also form one of tennis' most iconic and best ever rivalries, with Nadal having won 24 of the pair's 40 matches. Despite their rivalry, the two greats have immense respect for each other and share a close friendship away from the court.

The pair, now 35 and 40 respectively, last met in the semifinals of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships, where Federer triumphed in four sets.

Here is a look at some of the Spaniard's best quotes about his Swiss contemporary:

#7 "If he had played his best tennis, I would have had no chance" (2004)

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Nadal and Federer faced off for the first time ever in the third round of the 2004 Miami Open. The Spaniard, aged 17 and seeded 32nd at the Masters 1000 event, stunned the World No. 1 to win 6-3, 6-3.

In his post-match press conference, the Mallorcan gave an honest assessment of his victory.

"Yes, I'm very happy because I played one of the best matches in my life," the Spaniard said. "Obviously, he didn't play his best tennis and that's the reason why I could win. I mean, if he had played his best tennis, I would have had no chance. But that's what happens in tennis. If a player like me plays at a very, very good level and a top player like Roger doesn't play his best tennis, I can win. But, sure, I'm really, really happy."

#6 "You're one of the best in history and for sure you're going to match Sampras" (2009)

Rafael Nadal consoles Roger Federer after the 2009 Australian Open final
Rafael Nadal consoles Roger Federer after the 2009 Australian Open final

Nadal defeated Federer in a thrilling five-set title match at the Australian Open in 2009 to claim his maiden crown at the Melbourne Major. Federer was aiming to match Pete Sampras's record of 14 men's Grand Slam titles, a feat he achieved at the 2009 French Open.

The Spaniard consoled his great rival after the Swiss was brought to tears during the trophy presentation.

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"Roger, I know exactly how you feel," Nadal said. "Just remember you're a great champion and you're one of the best in history and for sure you're going to match Sampras. To receive this trophy from Rod Laver is a dream for me."

#5 "I don’t think it’s a rivalry - all these important moments in tennis make you appreciate it more" (2010)

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer laugh during the trophy ceremony at the 2007 Monte-Carlo Masters
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer laugh during the trophy ceremony at the 2007 Monte-Carlo Masters

During an interview at the 2010 ATP Finals, Nadal spoke about his relationship with Federer and why he did not consider it a rivalry at the time. The Swiss defeated the Spaniard 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the final of the 2010 year-ending championship.

"We have a great relationship all the time," the Mallorcan said. "Our relationship didn't change a lot since the beginning because it was always very respectful. The only way the relationship has improved is getting closer we spend more time together, always being in the [ATP Player] Council, being on court, playing exhibitions together. I don’t think it’s a rivalry. All these important moments in tennis make you appreciate it more."

#4 "When Federer has these patches of utter brilliance, the only thing you can do is try and stay calm, wait for the storm to pass" (2011)

Roger Federer hits a forehand at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships
Roger Federer hits a forehand at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships

In his 2011 autobiography Rafa: My Story, Nadal discussed his epic five-set victory over Federer in the 2008 Wimbledon final. The Spaniard described the challenge of facing Federer when the Swiss produces his best level for sustained periods in matches.

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"When Federer has these patches of utter brilliance, the only thing you can do is try and stay calm, wait for the storm to pass," the Spaniard said. "There is not much you can do when the best player in history is seeing the ball as big as a football and hitting it with power, confidence, and laser accuracy."

#3 "What happened in the past probably will not help me - I take every match like a different history and every day is different" (2014)

Roger Federer during his match with Rafael Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open
Roger Federer during his match with Rafael Nadal at the 2014 Australian Open

Nadal and Federer met for the third time at the Australian Open in the semifinals of the 2014 edition of the event. Prior to winning in straight sets, the then World No. 1 revealed he did not think his past victories against Federer helped him in matches.

"When you go on court against Roger, I go on court knowing that I am playing against a player that is unbelievable," Nadal said. "What happened in the past probably will not help me. I take every match like a different history and every day is different."

#2 "It’s the combination of two different styles that makes the matches really special" (2017)

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal shake hands after the 2017 Australian Open final
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal shake hands after the 2017 Australian Open final

Nadal and Federer then faced off for a fourth time at the Melbourne Grand Slam in 2017, with the Swiss prevailing in a classic five-set title match. In an interview during the tournament, the Spaniard discussed what makes the rivalry between the duo so special.

"It’s the combination of two different styles that makes the matches really special," the Spaniard said. "Both of us have a different way to play tennis [and have] a lot of good success with these two different styles. I feel that this rivalry goes not only in the tennis world. People from outside of our world talk about it and that's good for our sport."
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#1 "To share this record between us is something beautiful I really believe" (2020)

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the 2020 French Open
Rafael Nadal celebrates winning the 2020 French Open

Nadal won his 13th Roland Garros title in 2020 to equal Federer's record of 20 men's Grand Slam singles crowns. The great Spaniard - who surpassed the Swiss's tally by winning the 2022 Australian Open - spoke about sharing the record with his great rival following his Paris triumph.

"You can't be always unhappy because your neighbor has a bigger house than you or a bigger boat or has a better phone," he said. "Of course I care. I am a big fan of the history of sport in general. For me, it means a lot to share this number with Roger. But let's see what's going on when we finish our careers," he added. "I don't know what can happen in the future. I am just excited. At the same time to share this record between us, that we had an amazing rivalry for such a long time, is something in some way beautiful I really believe."

Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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