They did not quite kiss and make up, but Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did their best here yesterday to dismiss any suggestion that the friendly relationship between the world's two most famous players is not what it used to be. Nadal regretted making public his criticisms of his long-time rival 24 hours earlier, while Federer said he was "completely cool and relaxed" about the situation.
Federer is the president and Nadal the vice-president of the Association of Tennis Professionals player council. Nadal has been one of the most vociferous campaigners in the players' recent attempts to improve their lot. There has been talk of a strike, particularly over the complaints about prize-money at Grand Slam tournaments, but Federer recently described the suggestion of such action as "nonsense".
After a players' meeting here at which there was overwhelming support for maintaining the option to strike, Nadal told Spanish journalists on Sunday: "For him [Federer] it's good to say nothing. Everything positive. 'It's all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman.' And the rest can burn themselves."
Nadal said yesterday that he had not had a chance to see Federer to explain his comments but told a press conference: "I was probably wrong telling that to you, especially because these things must stay in the locker room. I've always had a fantastic relationship with Roger. I still have a fantastic relationship with Roger. That's what should be, in my opinion. Don't create crazy histories about what I said yesterday, please. We can have different views about how the tour needs to work. That's all."
Federer said he had read Nadal's comments but stressed: "Things are fine between us. I have no hard feelings towards him. It's been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP, trying to find a new CEO and chairman. That can get frustrating sometimes. He's mentioned many times how he gets a bit tired and frustrated through the whole process, and I shared that with him. It's normal. But for me, obviously, nothing changes in terms of our relationship."
Although Federer said he would support a strike if that was what the players wanted, he thought it should be a last resort. He also said that while there was always room for improvement, the sport was generally in good shape. "We're in a golden era right now. Everybody is happy, talking positive. We've been able to sign sponsors. We've been playing well."
Nevertheless, it is clear that Nadal's views are closer to those of the membership than Federer's. Nikolay Davydenko, a senior player, said: "I don't know why Roger is not supporting the players. Because he doesn't want any problems. He's a nice guy. He's winning Grand Slams. He's from Switzerland. He's perfect. He doesn't want to do anything."
Federer and Nadal, who are seeded to meet in the semi-finals, had straight-sets wins yesterday over Alexander Kudryavtsev and Alex Kuznetsov respectively. Nadal revealed afterwards that he had feared he might not be able to play after his right knee locked on Sunday. Although an MRI scan did not reveal any damage, the Spaniard said he had started the match in pain.
The first day's home hero was the 19-year-old Bernard Tomic, who came back from two sets down to beat Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.