Federer welcomes Nadal back to Wimbledon

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Roger Federer is pleased to see Rafael Nadal back at Wimbledon even though the Spaniard will be determined to deny his great rival a seventh All England Club title.

Nadal was unable to defend the trophy he won in such spectacular fashion in 2008 because of injury and Federer took full advantage, beating Andy Roddick to win a record 15th grand slam title.

Doubts have persisted about Nadal's fitness but he answered his critics emphatically during the clay-court season, remaining unbeaten through three Masters 1000 events and then reclaiming his French Open crown without dropping a set.

"Last year was a big blow because he was the defending champion," said Federer of Nadal's absence. "In some ways it makes it maybe easier to win but at the same time you have more pressure, too, and pressure plays a huge part in our game.

"I'm happy he's back. I want him to play every tournament. I want the other guys to play as well because it's better for the game if we all face off, that there's more story for the sport. So I'm looking forward to an exciting championship."

Nadal's first-round clash against Japanese youngster Kei Nishikori tomorrow will be only his fourth grass-court match in two years following his quarter-final exit at Queen's last week.

And the Spaniard admits he must find his feet quickly if he is to keep alive his chances of a second Wimbledon title.

"Movement is very important," said Nadal. "On clay you have more time to think. Here, if you are not hitting the ball perfect most of the time, it is very difficult to have the control of the point.

"So the important thing is to adjust your game, adapt your game to play well on this surface. You can't defend on this surface because when you run to one place it is very difficult to come back, especially in the first week."

While Nadal was dominating on clay, Federer was enduring his own struggles, and he goes into Wimbledon having not won a title since the Australian Open in January.

Final appearances in Madrid and Halle hinted at better to come, although his defeat by Lleyton Hewitt on grass in Germany last week was a surprise, and the top seed is buoyant ahead of his first match against Alejandro Falla on Centre Court this afternoon.

He said: "(The year) started great with playing so well in Australia. I really played some of the best tennis of my life. I've been disappointed I wasn't able to carry on.

"But I think I found my game again in Madrid. I played well there and in Paris. In Halle I think the performances were good. That's why I'm confident for Wimbledon."

Also in action tomorrow are last year's runner-up Andy Roddick, who takes on fellow American Rajeev Ram, and third seed Novak Djokovic, who faces experienced Belgian Olivier Rochus.