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Rafael Nadal on his future, ‘crazy’ records and rivalry with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic

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He’s here, formally, to promote the latest in a long string of brand partnerships – this time with Amstel ULTRA®. It’s his first agreement with a beer company and it’s somewhat coincidental that we meet – virtually between London and Monte Carlo – on the day pubs are reopening in the UK.

 

 

 

‘That’s good news,’ he laughs, before warmly advising not to get ‘too drunk’ amid the excitement. ‘I mean, for the world and in general for the people it’s important to come back to the normal, old life and live in a little bit happier world with less negative news than what we are hearing every day since more than one year ago.’

 

Nadal is regularly voted as the celebrity Spaniards would most like to share a beer with – in the most recent edition of the annual Brewers of Spain survey, he and Penelope Cruz shared the gong – but it’s a tough ask to find any images of him supping a cerveza.

 

He laughs when I enquire whether he’s much of a beer drinker: ‘I like to enjoy life, too.

 

 

‘I always say the same: one of the things I am most proud of is I have been a very good professional tennis player when I’ve been working inside the court but at the same time I’ve had the chance to enjoy life. I am not 18 anymore, I am 34 so I find my moments…’

 

Nadal – who played his first professional match as a 15-year-old – admits he’s surprised he’s maintained a career at the top for the best part of two decades.

 

 

He has not dropped out of the world’s top-10 since first breaking it in April, 2005 and is currently No. 3 in the rankings, behind Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev.

 

 

His 35th birthday is on the horizon – he will celebrate it in the first week of the postponed French Open in early June – and, like all athletes in their mid-30s, it’s hard to look too far ahead. It doesn’t escape my attention that this latest partnership runs until 2024. An omen, perhaps?

 

 

He chuckles: ‘I mean, I don’t think that’s… you can’t predict what’s going on in the future.

 

I have all my partnerships with my brands, some of them much longer than that.

 

 

‘Of course, I will not be playing until the age of 45, no? I am always trying to do things as best as possible to play as long as possible.

 

 

‘As everybody knows, of course it’s going to arrive one day that you cannot keep going. For the moment, I’m happy what I’m doing. I’m enjoying it and I hope to have the chance to keep around the tournaments for the next couple of years.’

 

 

Twenty years into a career that’s delivered 86 ATP titles – 20 of which are Grand Slams, 209 weeks at world No. 1, Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles and £90million in prize money alone – not to mention the extra dough he’s made through lucrative sponsorship deals – what is it that keeps him motivated?

 

 

The obvious answer, one might think, would be the tussle for history with great rivals Roger Federer and Djokovic.

 

While Federer, the oldest of the trio, has conceded he will end his career with fewer major titles than his toughest opponents, Djokovic – at 33, the youngest of the ‘Big Three’ – has openly spoken of his desire to topple all significant records in his path.

 

 

Nadal is keen to stress his approach is very different.

 

 

 

‘I enjoy what I am doing,’ he says. ‘I am happy playing tennis. I am happy about being here in Monte Carlo [where he was beaten in the quarter-finals by Andrey Rublev] to play a great event again and, of course, I want to win more Slams, yes. No doubt about that.

 

 

‘But I never get – I mean, Novak is more obsessed about this, more focused…’ he pauses for a moment before quickly shaking his hand and head, adding: ’Not in a negative way.

 

 

 

‘No, he’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him all of this stuff. Like he’s always saying and talking about these records and well done for him… but it’s not my approach to my tennis career.

 

‘I have a healthy ambition. Of course, I am ambitious, if not I would never be in the position I am today but I have probably a different kind of ambition than him, for example. I just keep going, keep doing what I’m doing and just try to put myself in a position to keep enjoying the tour and, of course, try to achieve as much as possible.

 

 

 

‘I am super satisfied about the career I’m having. Not today, I was super satisfied years ago already but I am not making a step back in motivation because of that. I don’t get frustrated if I am losing one tournament, I am trying to approach the thing in a different way.’

 

 

Come the end of the clay-court season, should Nadal, as expected, win a 14th French Open, he will hold the men’s record for the most Grand Slam titles – which he currently shares with Federer – outright.

 

 

 

Perhaps even more incredibly, he will boast as many title wins at Roland Garros as Pete Sampras – the man with the most majors outside of the ‘Big Three’ – managed in his entire Slam career.

 

 

‘I know some of the numbers are completely crazy and I could never dream at all about these numbers,’ says Nadal. ‘At the same time, I never had a lot of time to think about numbers

 

 

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Queen ‘disappointed’ with Meghan Markle, Harry over christening move

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Queen Elizabeth is reportedly ‘disappointed’ over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s move to christen Lilibet within the US and a former butler believes she’ll be heartbroken to miss such a special event.

Some former staffers even fear she’ll be utterly heartbroken if she is not able to participate in the grand event.

The Firm’s former royal butler Grant Harrold made this claim during his interview with Express.

There he speculated upon the possible plan of action Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may take regarding the christening, for the Queen, and claimed, “I am sure if this does not take place in the UK, the Queen will be disappointed to not attend the christening of her great-granddaughter.”

He also went on to add, “However, as with many families who have family overseas, sometimes it is not possible.”

“Maybe their christening will be recorded so the family in the UK can watch as well? Family is very important to the Queen and I am sure before too long she will meet her great-granddaughter.”

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Oleksandr Usyk sends warning to Tyson Fury ahead of Anthony Joshua rematch

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Oleksandr Usyk will put his newly won WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight belts on the line in his rematch with Anthony Joshua next year, but he’s already thinking about taking on Tyson Fury. The Ukrainian, 34, left British boxing fans stunned when he outclassed Joshua in London last month, scuppering hopes of a long awaited clash between Fury and ‘AJ’ in early 2022.

Joshua, 31, did promptly trigger his rematch clause however, before Fury came through his stunning trilogy bout with Deontay Wilder to retain his WBO and Ring Magazine titles.

Now Usyk, who after Evander Holyfied and David Haye is only the third fighter to win world titles at cruiserweight and heavyweight level, is plotting to again get past Joshua before targeting a lucrative unification fight with ‘The Gypsy King’.

Speaking to The Sun, he was asked if he could see a clash with Fury happening: “Yes, of course, I do regard this fight a huge one. I see him as a very good fighter, good athlete, he talks a lot, he has a tongue.

“He claims he’s the king of the kings, but it’s only he who thinks that. That’s what I can say about him.”

Usyk, who won Olympic Gold at heavyweight level in the London 2012 Olympics, now has a professional record of 19-0-0, but was second favourite to beat Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

He cites that factor as further reason as to why he can potentially overcome Fury.

“Before my Joshua fight everyone was saying that I haven’t got a single chance to win and beat Joshua,” he continued.

“I used to hear those types of things throughout my life, but I am capable of beating Fury because I’m not boasting that I can just punish and beat every boxer in the world, but I just go to the gym and do my job.”

Hughie Fury could fight Derek Chisora in huge domestic fight
Since beating Wilder in Las Vegas, Fury, 33, has declared himself the beat heavyweight of this generation, and Usyk appeared to take a dig at that claim by adding “I’m not trying to present myself as the king of the Universe.

“I do what I have to do. I concentrate and I’m focused and I get the result according to my effort.”
The Ukrainian did however, acknowledge that Fury’s unique boxing style made him successful and brought him victories, which he said was the “main thing.”
As for Fury’s next opponent, that remains unclear after Dillian Whyte was forced to postpone his bout with Otto Wallin because of a shoulder injury.
Fury’s next opponent is unclear

Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn takes dig at Tyson Fury

Whyte, 33, is the mandatory challenger to Fury’s WBO crown, and it was widely thought a win over Wallin on October 30 would pave the way for a world title shot for ‘The Body Snatcher’.

Whyte, who has long been embroiled in an online war of words with Fury, said this week: “I am devastated as I had a great camp, was in great shape, and had great sparring.

“I was looking forward to knocking Wallin out and would have done so in the first half of the fight.”

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Tennis great’s message to Emma Raducanu amid coaching drama

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British teenage tennis phenomenon Emma Raducanu has been urged to find some coaching stability after a tumultuous period in the wake of her historic US Open title.

Raducanu raised eyebrows after parting ways with coach Andrew Richardson after her US Open victory – in a move that surprised many tennis commentators.

Richardson coached the teenage star for two years at youth level and linked up with her again in July on a short-term deal for the duration of her time in the United States.

However, Raducanu said she was looking for a coach with more experience at the elite level of world tennis.

The 18-year-old parted ways with coach Nigel Sears after her breakthrough Wimbledon run to the last 16, where she eventually succumbed to breathing difficulties.

She then linked up with Richardson to claim an almost unthinkable maiden grand slam title at Flushing Meadows, before again deciding to move on to new pastures.

Raducanu’s partnership with Katie Boulter’s coach Jeremy Bates was always going to be a stop-gap situation for the Indian Wells tournament in which the Brit crashed out in her first match.

Pictured here, Emma Raducanu speaks to the media at the Indian Wells tournament.
Emma Raducanu’s search for a new coach has taken many in the tennis world by surprise. Pic: AAP
The World No.24 is now set to link up with Spaniard Esteban Carril – who previously worked with fellow Brit Johanna Konta, before being axed just weeks after she was named most improved player of 2016 and broke into the world’s top ten.

Raducanu in set to play in the Transylvania Open in her father’s native Romania, but Carril is not set to start his tenure with the Brit until after the tournament.

Carril will be Raducanu’s fourth different coach in four months and British tennis great Greg Rusedksi says the teenager needs to find some stability for her game to flourish.

“Esteban (Carril) did a great job with Jo Konta when she had her big breakthrough and got into the top 10 in the world,” he said.

“Hopefully this works out for Emma. But she needs consistency from a team point of view to push on with all the success she has had at the US Open.”

Former British tennis player Barry Cowan said despite enjoying success at Wimbledon and then the US Open, Raducanu simply cannot keep churning through the coaches.

Teen warned about chopping and changing
“She made the Last 16 of Wimbledon and the coach got fired. She won the US Open and the coach got fired,” Cowan said.

“You cannot keep running your career like that. It will eventually catch up with you.

“Certainly she needs to build up and strike a relationship with Esteban. I hope it is successful and lasts.

“I don’t care who you are, whether you are Emma Raducanu, Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic, if you are having coaches short-term, it’s going to come back to bite you.”

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