Rafael Nadal has a chance encounter with Serena Williams
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Coco Gauff has claimed that Rafael Nadal is the “greatest” player of the sport right now after the 22-time Grand Slam champion said the young American would also become a multiple Major title winner. The Spaniard was also full of praise for Gauff’s “maturity” while the world No 12 admitted she was still intimidated by sharing the locker room with players like Nadal.
Nadal and Gauff played back-to-back on Centre Court at Wimbledon yesterday, both booking their places in the third round. After his four-set victory over Ricardas Berankis, the second seed was asked for his thoughts on two of the sport’s teenage sensations – Gauff and Emma Raducanu.
After touching on the Brit’s “tough year”, he turned his attention to the 18-year-old and claimed that she wasn’t far off becoming a multi-Grand Slam champion. “Is a similar case [to Raducanu],” he said. “The only thing that she doesn’t win a slam yet. She started very early. I like her the way that she talks to the crowd, to the press at the end of the matches. She’s fresh. She’s natural. Looks very mature in her thoughts.”
The Spaniard, who is known for playing every point like it could be his last, also lauded Gauff for possessing a similar trait to run for every ball. Nadal continued: “Yeah, I think she is a fighter. I like the way that she plays. She fight for every ball. Even sometimes when she’s not playing that well, she keep fighting till the end, running for every ball.”
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And he made a bold claim about the teenager’s future as he added: “I think, yeah, if she’s able just to improve a little bit with this physical performance that she has, probably we’ll talk about the player that she will be: multi-Grand Slam winner.”
After her own win over Mihaela Buzarnescu, Gauff revealed that she was told about Nadal’s first comments but not about the part where he claimed she would win several Majors. “They told me the first part. I didn’t hear about the second part. But that’s cool,” she smiled.
The two-time title winner responded with her own bold GOAT claim as she said: “It means a lot to me. I mean, Rafa’s one of the greats, if not the greatest, of our sport right now.” And Gauff still admitted it was surreal to see Nadal, as well as his rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the locker room
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“Yeah, I see him all the time in the players area. He’s really nice. I always get intimidated by him just ’cause he’s Rafa,” she explained. “I remember at French Open, he, like, patted me on the back and said, Good job. I remember responding so late, he was already down the hallway, and I said, Thank you, because I was so shocked he actually said that to me.
“He’s one of these players. We see these players all the time, we see each other every week, but he’s one of the those players on tour that you get star-strucked every time. Same with Nole, Roger. Even Serena and Venus to this day, I still get starstruck. Hearing that from him is pretty cool and I hope I can live up to that.”
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