Rafael Nadal admits he wanted Dominic Thiem to win the Australian Open but conceded Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world. Nadal arrived in Melbourne as the best in men’s tennis but Djokovic had sent him a warning shot by beating him at the ATP Cup in Sydney.
And the Serbian kept up his phenomenal form Down Under when he beat Thiem in the Australian Open final to win his 17th Grand Slam title.
Djokovic has now moved above Nadal to become the world No 1 and is just two majors behind his great rival in the race to surpass Roger Federer’s record of 20.
Speaking in an interview with Spanish agency EFE, Nadal was asked if he would have preferred Thiem to beat Djokovic and the 19-time Grand Slam winner was honest in his response.
“Obviously, yes (I would have preferred Thiem’s victory),” he said.
“You don’t have to be a hypocrite, right? It would have been better for me personally if Thiem won. But, to be honest, I slept exactly as well the last two days.
“In that regard it doesn’t matter if Dominic had won or if Novak won. It is part of our sport.
“This tournament is particularly good at Novak. And right now he is, today, the best player in the world.
“This is what the numbers say. And the only thing that can be done is to congratulate him on another great success.”
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Nadal was speaking in Kuwait where he opened up the Rafa Nadal Academy.
He played his compatriot and former world No 3 David Ferrer in an exhibition match in front of over 1,500 people.
“Although we opened two Rafa Nadal Tennis Centres in Mexico and Greece last year, this is the first academy we have opened outside of Manacor,” he said.
“It is a project that I am excited about and truly motivated by, as this is a region of the world that has potential for us to help grow the culture of tennis.
“We believe that from the academy we can help not only young talent here in Kuwait, but in the whole of the Middle East.
“We have a great coaching team, the facilities are spectacular and we are working with Tamdeen, who have exceptional staff.
“Like in Mallorca, we’ll try to promote respect, determination and perseverance in the students.
“Although I would love great champions to come from here, the principal and most important thing is that they grow with strong values that help them in sport, but also in the future and in the development of their personal and professional life.”
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