Bogota, Nov 29 (EFE).- Spain’s Rafael Nadal said here Tuesday he is still near the top of the tennis world and able to compete for the biggest titles at age 36 due in part to his longtime rivalries with fellow all-time greats Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
“Novak, Roger and I have been pushing one another. We’ve been challenging each other, and somehow, nothing was ever enough. We always had to make some extra effort,” the world No. 2, who earlier this year won his second Australian Open title and extended his record haul of French Open titles to 14, said at a press conference in Bogota.
He made those remarks prior to an exhibition match Tuesday afternoon against Norwegian world No. 3 Casper Ruud.
That intense competition between players who have won 63 of the last 77 Grand Slam men’s singles titles put tremendous mental, physical and technical demands on each of the three and is probably one of the main reasons he is still on the ATP Tour, Nadal said.
The Spaniard, who currently holds the all-time men’s Grand Slam record with 22 singles titles, one more than Djokovic, 35, and two more than the 41-year-old Federer, who recently retired, said other factors also have contributed to their longevity, including improvements in the areas of “medicine, prevention, knowledge (and) the professionalization of sport.”
Players have “bigger teams” behind them and “there’s more knowledge of the things that help you prolong your career,” the Spaniard said.
Nadal and Ruud are in Colombia as part of a tour of several Latin American countries that began in Argentina and will conclude in Mexico on Thursday.
The Mallorca native noted that this trip is a unique opportunity because the top players do not regularly travel to this region of the world and Latin American fans “have very little chance to see us play” in person.
“We’re doing a very special, nice tour. We’re playing in front of packed stadiums … I’m delighted to return to Colombia. I was only here for a short time in 2011,” he said, adding that the passion the people have for sports in the Andean nation “is very special.”
The 23-year-old Ruud, who lost to Nadal in this year’s Roland Garros final, said for his part that he is happy to be in Colombia and to play these exhibition matches against one of his idols.
The Norwegian said he recalls being a young boy in Norway and watching the Spaniard win his first titles as a professional.
The Nadal-Ruud exhibition match on Tuesday will be played at the Coliseo Live in western Bogota.
Prior to the main event, Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal, Robert Farah, Maria Camila Osorio and Yuliana Lizarazo will compete in an exhibition mixed-doubles match. EFE