Roger Federer has cast doubt on his friendship with Rafael Nadal and called for the top players to “go after each other”.
The Swiss is not known as the most outspoken on the men's circuit but, as he battles to prove his doubters wrong, the 32-year-old has hinted that his relationship with Nadal is not what it seems. Federer said: “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.”
Despite being on good terms with 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."
The Federer-Nadal rivalry became one of the game's greatest after the Spaniard burst onto the scene in 2004.
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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. 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, 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.”