Rafael Nadal is not the sort to let personal friendships get in the way of professional ambitions but the world No 1 said here yesterday there is no other player he would like to win Wimbledon more than Andy Murray, his opponent in this afternoon's semi-finals.
Nadal, who has ended Murray's Wimbledon campaign twice in the last three years, said in an interview with The Independent: "If I have to say one player who I want to win a Grand Slam if it's not me, I would say it's Andy. He deserves it. He's playing really well this year. He made the final in Australia, the semi-finals at Roland Garros and now he's in the semi-finals here another time. He's got very close to winning a Grand Slam.
"He deserves the victory. [Novak] Djokovic has already won a lot of things this year. [Juan Martin] del Potro, who's a fantastic player, got to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for a second time and went on to win the title. Andy has been there seven times in Grand Slam semi-finals. When you look at his career he deserves to win one.
"I know him as a person. I like him. He's a good guy. That's why I think it would be fair if he won a Grand Slam. The first thing is that I always want to wish the best to the good guys, the good people, and he's a good person.
"I always go with the good people, not with the bad or arrogant people. I know Andy is not like this. He's a normal guy. He hasn't changed with all the victories. That's always very positive for our sport, a positive example for all the kids."
Had Nadal ever felt sorry in the past for beating Murray? "I cannot think that before the match. But I think he deserves to win a Grand Slam. I am sure he's going to win a Grand Slam – but hopefully not this time."
The defending champion has won 19 matches in a row here, having won the title on his last two visits to the All England Club. He has also won 11 of his 15 meetings with Murray, most recently in the semi-finals of last month's French Open, but the Spaniard has often brought the best out of the Scot, who has beaten him at both the Australian Open and the US Open.
Nadal, moreover, has not been at his best in the early rounds and is nursing a foot injury, for which he is having a local anaesthetic before matches. Murray has also had a problem, having tweaked a hip flexor muscle in his quarter-final victory over Feliciano Lopez, but has had a less troublesome passage to the semi-finals.
Despite the injury, Murray did not call for a trainer during the match and was taken aback by a question in his post-match interview with the BBC. "According to Gary Richardson I'm a hypochondriac," Murray said. "I was surprised. If you watch a lot of tennis you see how much guys get trainers out on court for treatment. They did a study on it in Miami a few years ago and me and [Roger] Federer were the least for getting trainers out and pulling out of matches by quite a long way. If I feel something it's because it's there, not because I'm a hypochondriac."
Did Murray think other players called for the trainer as a tactical ploy? "I don't really know whether they do or not, but it's not something that makes a whole lot of sense to me to feign an injury. You've got to try and hide them as much as possible. Sometimes it isn't possible and you have to get the trainer on. You might hold something and feel it, but you've got to try and hide it as much as possible."
He added: "If players do, it is totally the wrong thing to do. It's cheating – I haven't done it before and I don't plan on doing it."
Murray and Nadal both practised yesterday on outside courts next to Centre Court, where they will play this afternoon's second semi-final, after Novak Djokovic takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray, under the watchful eye of Sven Groeneveld, one of the Adidas coaches, practised with a fellow Scot, Colin Fleming, while Nadal hit again with Evan Hoyt, a 16-year-old from Llanelli.
As the championships reach their climax, Murray enjoys the fact that life is a bit quieter now that many competitors have left. "It's quite hectic in the tournament," Murray said. "There are 128 guys in the draw and with the doubles guys there are a lot of people around the locker room. On top of that there are physios and trainers and also coaches. It's nice to have a bit of quiet."
Murray admitted that he had dreamed of holding up a Grand Slam trophy and had thought about the prospect but added: "I just don't know what it will be like or what the feeling will be or the reaction will be. I'm so far away from it right now. It's like I am six sets away. I might have to play Rafa followed by Novak, who has lost one match this year and is playing unbelievably. It's just so far away that it's not worth talking about."
Advantage Murray? Reasons to be cheerful
1 Murray is looking more relaxed and more confident than before his two previous Wimbledon semi-finals.
2 Nadal has been on court for 13 hours in his first five matches, compared with Murray's 11. Nadal has dropped sets in his last two matches while Murray has won both in straight sets.
3 Despite his two Wimbledon wins over Murray, Nadal often brings the best out of him. Murray has beaten Nadal twice in Grand Slam tournaments
4 Murray is on a 10-match winning streak on grass, having won the Queen's Club tournament in the build-up to Wimbledon.
5 Both players are carrying injuries but Nadal's foot problem appears more serious than the tweak to Murray's hip flexor muscle.Reuse content