Rafael Nadal ended the 2007 season as World No 2, the first Spaniard to do so for three consecutive years. And he is happy to remain there in the foreseeable future. “I would love to be ranked second for the next five years,” he says.
Well, the words don’t point to any shortage of ambition on the part of the 21-year-old from Mallorca. They just sum up the domination of Roger Federer. Not that Nadal has been found wanting when it comes to playing against the Swiss Master.
He has maintained his stranglehold on the world No. 1 on clay courts, by denying him the French Open title for the third successive time; made the Wimbledon final a closer contest than Federer had made of the summit clash at Roland Garros.
(Federer's fans might argue that the so called hallowed lawns of the All England Championships is no more faster these days than the Barcelona clay courts, but that is a different matter!)
In fact, Nadal, the top seed at the Chennai Open starting on Monday, won more matches, overall as well as on grass than his arch-rival in 2007.
Yet, the Spanish matador feels it is going to be a while before he could tame the Swiss Bull. So much so, that he doesn't want to discuss the topic beyond a point.
"I am not worried about Roger," he said at the press conference on the eve of the main draw matches at the Nungambakkam Stadium on Sunday. Instead, he just wants to focus on improving his game.
"It is a new year, and it brings new feelings. I want to play good tennis, be a better player than I was in 2007," he said.
"This year (2008) will be more significant because of the Olympics which, unlike the Grand Slams or the Davis Cup, doesn't happen every year. It is a special tournament and a strong motivation."
Someone mentioned the chances of his winning the Golden Slam. But, with surprising honesty, he rejected it. "I don't think I can win all the Grand Slams in a year," he said. "Now I am in Chennai, I want to focus on winning the title here," said Nadal, who was ousted in the semifinals here last year.
Nadal is drawn against Frenchman Mathieu Montcourt in the first round and could come up against Carlos Moya, champion in 2004 and 2005 and the third seed this time, in the semifinals. Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis is the second seed.
“It is a tough draw this year, the field is high class,” Nadal said.