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Rafael Nadal ready to raise Spanish sporting spirits

Rafael Nadal smiles after practice at Wimbledon
by Dan Imhoff
Saturday 21 June 2014

Hot on the heels of Spain's departure from the World Cup in Brazil, Rafael Nadal is ready and motivated for another shot at the Wimbledon title. 

The toast of the sporting world in July four years ago, Spain finds itself at a crossroads. La Roja, the Spanish national football team, had lived up to the hype to win its first World Cup in football in 2010, while Rafael Nadal hoisted the Gentlemen’s Singles trophy for a second time at Wimbledon.

Following Spain’s ignominious collapse from its World Cup defence in Brazil, the world No.1 is ready to steady the ship for a country desperate for a lift amid its sporting debacle across the Atlantic.

Driven not by his beloved national team’s demise, but to rectify a dismal record of his own from his past two campaigns on the grass, Nadal arrives with Roland Garros title No.9 under his belt.

Nothing unusual there. A third Wimbledon crown, though, would push him clear of Pete Sampras on the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard.

“For me [it] doesn't make one difference on my motivation. I am sad, everybody in Spain is sad for what happened in the World Cup. But my mentality, my motivation [is] going to be always at the top to play here in Wimbledon. So I am not more motivated because Spain lost in the World Cup,” the Spaniard insisted. “That's the sport. You know, that's the life. Is not the first time that happens in the world of sport, and will not be the last that these kind of things happen... There is a beginning, there is an end. Now after that [loss], you feel free to make the changes.”

Shock defeats by Lukas Rosol in the second round two years ago and to Steve Darcis in his first match last year are the type of memories to make the two-time Wimbledon champion shrug and raise an eyebrow, not that he needs reminding. A disappointing straight-sets defeat to Dustin Brown in Halle last week was not the ideal preparation for a surface the Spaniard has spent scant time on in recent years. He retreated to Mallorca for a dose of beach time and a quick party with friends. No need to pick up a racket for a few days. It was time to replenish his reserves before a heavier-than-usual practice schedule on the turf.

“[Wimbledon] is really the most dangerous tournament of the year,” he said. “[It] is a tournament you arrive to the first round, sometimes the match cannot be in your hands, because in the end is a surface that you don't have the time to control the match.

“In the end, everybody remembers the winner. Everybody remembers the victories, and nobody remembers the losses. Obviously winning Roland Garros is a lot of confidence for me and give me the possibility to play here with less pressure. [It] is true that I didn't play as much as I would like to play on grass for the last couple of years. I am not going to start from zero because I already played a lot in this surface in my career, but [it] is like a restart.”

Where many are calling the Spanish collapse the end of an era in football circles, Nadal’s hiccups in his past two Wimbledon campaigns are hardly time to start raising alarm bells about his own demise on the grass.

Spain has four years to rebuild a football team before another shot at glory on the grandest stage.

Nadal has only had to wait a year to get another crack. 

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