World number 2 Roger Federer has hit back at claims that he is purposely avoiding the prospect of playing Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
Federer (36) has avoided playing on clay in recent years – the surface Nadal thrives on – and has recently dropped out of the Rogers Cup, coincidentally after Nadal confirmed his participation.
This has led to accusations that he does not have it in him anymore to go up against his fierce rival, but the 20-time Grand Slam champion has said that it is ‘about winning, not rivalry’.
Federer has dismissed the theory and claims he is staying in the game purely to win titles.
“For me, it’s about something more than clashes with Nadal: it means health and tennis enjoyment,” he said, per Tennis 365.
And at 36-years-old, the Swiss man may have a point.
He added: “The main goal (for me) is to win titles, that’s why numbers and records are secondary.
“It depends a lot also on what numbers. It’s very special to be there personally in the history of my favourite sport.”
Federer’s recent record against Nadal would suggest he doesn’t have much to fear either.
Although they haven’t faced off on the ATP tour since Shanghai last year, the Spaniard hasn’t emerged a winner from their last five meetings.
His most recent triumph over Federer was in the semi-finals of the 2014 Australian Open.
“As a kid, I would never think that I would be in the book’s records,” Federer continued.
“The goal was to be the best as possible, hoping to be on the biggest stages of the world, maybe meeting my idol.
“That’s why my joy in tennis is still so big. Because inside, I have always stayed on the ground. I know it: It’s not normal, it’s not reality.
Before he finished, he made one last attempt in dissuading the critics by saying that he ‘accepts it’ and takes it as a ‘challenge to defend my titles or win some trophies’.