Federer backs Nadal to be a grass act

Jun 11, 2007 - 3:42 PM By Steve Douglas Special to PA SportsTicker

PARIS (Ticker) - Rafael Nadal continues to be the king of clay, but after collecting his third successive French Open crown he could be about to prove his Grand Slam credentials on another surface.

Nadal beat world No. 1 Roger Federer in four sets in the final at Roland Garros on Sunday.

The 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory saw the Spaniard become the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win three consecutive French Open titles.

His only defeat on clay since April 2005 came last month, to Federer in the final of the Masters Series in Hamburg, but Nadal was tired after playing too many tournaments.

A bigger challenge awaits him now - ending Federer's dominance on grass and hard courts.

That will define whether Nadal can be categorized as more than just a clay-court genius.

Federer believes Nadal is good enough to win other Grand Slams.

"When you win one Grand Slam, you can win the others," said the reigning four-time Wimbledon champion, who beat Nadal in four sets in the final at the All-England Club last year.

"It's just like me, when I won my first Wimbledon. I thought, 'Well I know how to win a Grand Slam tournament, so I can win the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Roland Garros'. It gives you motivation and confidence."

The favorite to win Wimbledon again, Federer believes it is just a matter of time when Nadal breaks through at another major.

"Given his final at Wimbledon last year, he knows he can win on all surfaces," the Swiss star said. "He won Indian Wells easily and that's a surface which is very similar to the U.S. Open or the Australian Open. So why not the other Grand Slam tournaments?"

Apart from Wimbledon last year, Nadal has not progressed beyond the quarterfinals of a major away from Roland Garros.

But he is not preoccupied with proving his ability on another surface.

The 21-year-old is simply happy to be improving as an all-round player.

"Winning in any Grand Slam is important for me," said the Spaniard, who has won five tournaments already this year, four on clay.

"But the most important thing is not winning a Grand Slam, it is feeling I am improving my game and playing well. I know if I am feeling those things, I'm going to have my chances to win Grand Slams. I have played good tournaments on hardcourts this year, but I have to play better to win a Grand Slam on another surface, off clay."

Nadal may have been the conqueror of Federer once again in Paris, but he does not doubt that the Swiss star does not need a French Open title to prove his greatness.

"What Federer has done is something almost nobody has done in history," Nadal said. "What he does is exceptional already. He played 18, 19 tournaments last year and made the final in all except one. And I know how difficult it is to play in places like Toronto and Cincinnati with the heat.

"It is the fourth year he will try to stay No. 1. The other day, I looked at the number of ranking points (Pete) Sampras had when he was No. 1. I think he had 5,500. Federer has scored 8,000. There is no need to say anything else."

Federer, meanwhile, has already put his latest French Open disappointment to the back of his mind.

His focus is directed on claiming a fifth straight title at Wimbledon, although his preparation has been disrupted by the decision to withdraw from the Halle grasscourt event in Germany.

"Last year, I think I was disappointed for five minutes. Same here (Paris)," said the 25-year-old. "I came back in the locker room and there was not much to say right then.

"The worst is when the whole team comes up and goes, 'I'm proud of you, you did a good job, bad luck'. But that's okay. I played another final of a Grand Slam. I'm on an incredible run yet again. The disappointment goes away after a short time. Hopefully I can win Wimbledon a fifth time in a row - that would be absolutely incredible."

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