Rafael Nadal’s nightmare Wimbledon draw features huge potential grudge match
Rafael Nadal has been handed a nightmare Wimbledon draw, as he aims to win his third title at the All England Club to edge a step closer to Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles.
Nadal secured his 18th Grand Slam title when he won the French Open for a 12th time earlier this month, yet he faces a huge challenge to overcome a sparkling array of talent if he is to secure his place in another Wimbledon final.
While he should negotiate his first-round match against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, Nadal will then face a headline clash against Nick Kyrgios, just a few weeks after the fiery Australian described the Spanish great as “salty” in an explosive interview.
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“He’s my polar opposite, like literally my polar opposite. And he’s super salty,” said Kyrgios of Nadal during the No Challenges Remaining podcast.
“Every time I’ve beaten him … when he wins, it’s fine. He won’t say anything bad, he’ll credit the opponent, ‘He was a great player. But as soon as I beat him, it’s just like, ‘He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game’.
“And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? I literally played this way when I beat you the other previous times and nothing changed … When you beat me in Rome here a couple of years ago, nothing changed; I was the same person’. It’s not a good look for you, I feel.
“And then Uncle Toni (Nadal) came out saying, ‘He lacks education’. I’m like, ‘Bro I did 12 years at school, you idiot. I’m very educated. I understand that you’re upset I beat your family again’.”
Nadal could then face rising star Denis Shapovalov, who recorded a victory against world No 1 and defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic at The Boodles exhibition event on Tuesday, with 2017 Wimbledon finalists Marin Cilic a possible fourth-round opponents for Nadal if the draw follows the seeding plan.
A re-match with French Open final opponent Dominic Thiem could lie in wait in the quarter-finals, before a last-four clash with Federer and a possible showdown with Djokovic in the final.
It is a perilous draw for the Spaniard who has struggled to produce his best form on grass courts in recent years, inspiring the Wimbledon seeding committee to demote Nadal down to No 3 seed at The Championships despite being ranked second in the current ATP rankings.
“They do it differently to everyone else and you have to respect that, although it is a little bit surprising,” stated Djokovic, as he gave his view on Nadal’s seeding relegation.
“Roger Federer is the greatest of all-time on grass courts and he has won more Wimbledon titles than anyone else in history, but the guy he is being moved ahead of in the seedings is Rafael Nadal. For that reason, it is surprising a little bit, but it is what it is.”
If Nadal’s Wimbledon path looks perilous, his enduring rival Federer has been handed an enticing draw that could feature a quarter-final clash against Kei Nishikori, with Djokovic’s first big challenge possibly coming in the quarter-finals, where he is due to meet rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas.
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