• Tennis

Federer: Top players are almost too nice to each other

ESPN staff
March 3, 2014
Roger Federer ended his run of eight months without a title by winning in Dubai © Getty Images

Roger Federer has called for top tennis players to "go after each other" and says he wonders how close his relationships with them will be when he stops playing.

Despite being on good terms with Rafael Nadal, and admitting he is closer with him than other leading players such as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, Federer says that it is difficult for today's professionals to be friends.

In an interview with Australia's GQ, Federer said of tennis relationships: "I'm not sure how close we are as friends. I'll be interested how much we'll stay in touch once everything is said and done and we're off the circuit. We're not going to dinner, if you know what I mean.

"I don't want to say today's players are too soft, but we're almost too nice to each other sometimes. It's good when players go after each other a bit. As long as it stays within the rules and it's fair, that's OK. You have to be a bit tough."

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The Federer-Nadal rivalry became one of the game's greatest after the Spaniard burst onto the scene in 2004.

They have faced each other in a record eight Grand Slam finals, including the epic five-setter at Wimbledon which Nadal won in 2008.

Nadal leads the head-to-head count 23-10, winning the most recent meeting in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January.

Federer added: "I've done and lived the most with him [Nadal]. From five-set matches on court, to promoting a tournament in Qatar, to doing foundation work together in the 'Match for Africa'. And I've gone to dinners with him.

"I know his family the best, as well. I know his mum, dad and sister. Yeah, our bond goes further back than the one I have with Novak or Andy. And for that reason I feel closest and most connected to Rafa."

Federer has emerged from an injury-induced slump in 2013 to win his first title for nine months by beating Tomas Berdych at the Dubai Championships last weekend.

Federer, who only won one title in 2013 and struggled with a back injury, admitted he was battling pain throughout the campaign.

"I went through that weeks and months, like every day I hoped there was going to be a little improvement," he said.

"I only started to feel that improvement halfway through sort of the US Open maybe, so it was a long time. I was fighting it all the way from Indian Wells really."

Editor's note: This article and its headline have been updated to reflect the correct source and context of the quotes

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