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Nadal takes on pressure from being world No. 1
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08:45, August 18, 2008

It took just one week for Spaniard Rafael Nadal to win an Olympic gold medal, but for the world number one ranking, the 22-year-old has waited for three years.

Nadal was in a class of his own in the men's singles final of the Beijing Olympic tennis event on Sunday as he looked unstoppable in the straight sets victory over Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.

The title came as the icing on the cake for Nadal, who has been ranked No. 2 in the world for an exact 141 weeks but will take over the No. 1 spot from Swiss Roger Federer on Monday.

From going after something to holding onto something, the incoming world number one said he does not feel anything different about the power shift.

"Different pressure? No, I don't think so. It doesn't change too much between two weeks ago and right now. The pressure is the same because I will be No. 1 tomorrow, but at the same time I want to continue to win the same titles when I was No. 2," said Nadal after winning the gold.

"I want to continue to be in the top form when I was No. 2. Probably I'm going to be No. 2 another time in a few months," added Nadal, having played men's doubles with Carlos Moya in Athens four years ago.

A new-born Nadal pulled off a stunning season thus far, claiming eight titles and only lost once in his past 39 matches. His evolution seemed towards the greatness, from being the king of clay to enclosing new territories.

After thrashing Federer in the French Open final, Nadal beat the Swiss maestro again in a five-set epic at Wimbledon which is labelled as Federer's Centre Court fortress.

The Spanish youngster continued his hot pace in the U.S. hard court series this summer by winning Toronto Masters and reaching Cincinnati Masters semifinals before the Olympics triumph.

"I did very well the last few years. I always try to improve my tennis, try to be better player than before, every month and every year.

"So finally, probably this year I improved a lot. I am having good confidence for playing in Wimbledon. I'm having confidence for play and on the Olympic surface, the hard court. On clay, I had the same results as the last few years.

"I am playing an unbelievable season, no doubt. And I know how difficult it is to win these things. I have to be very happy for everything."

Two Grand Slams, one Olympic gold medal and the world number one, all these things might lead to a wild celebration, but Nadal seems not in the mood for a party and he has already set his eyes on future.

"The feeling for sure is very happy for being No. 1, but the feeling doesn't change too much because the last years I did very well too. It is a satisfaction, but I have no time to celebrate.

"I will play in New York (U.S. Open) in one week. So I want to enjoy these two days probably, but later I have to be focused on New York."

Although the Beijing Games have attracted most of the top players in the world, they all agree to make Grand Slam tournaments a bigger priority.

Since regaining medal-sport status in 1988 after a long hiatus, Olympic tennis has produced women's champions familiar even to casual fans. Gold medalists have included Jennifer Capriati as a 16-year-old in 1992, second-generation Olympian Lindsay Davenport in 1996 and Justine Henin in 2004. At Sydney in 2000, Venus Williams won two golds, one in doubles with sister Serena. All are winners of multiple Grand Slam titles.

But on the men's side, Pete Sampras -- winner of a record 14 major titles -- never earned a medal. Also shut out have been multiple Grand Slam winners Marat Safin, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter, Gustavo Kuerten and Lleyton Hewitt.

Nicolas Massu and American Mardy Fish, the finalists in 2004, have never reached a major semifinal. Marc Rosset of Switzerland and Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia were other surprise gold medalists.

Before the Beijing Games, the highest-ranked player to win the men's singles is Andre Agassi, who was No. 6 when he won in Atlanta.

Nadal became the first player being ranked among top five to win in the Olympics.

"Well, everything is different feeling, but winning the Olympics is a little bit more special, because I know in tennis, the Grand Slams are more important than here, but here you only have one chance every four years.

"Probably for the tennis player the slams are more important, but for sportsmen, the Olympic Games are more important than everything.

"I have been here for two weeks. Probably the reason for winning this title is that I have a fantastic time here enjoying a lot in the village and those Spanish athletes who came every day to support me."

The Olympic gold means the Spaniard has a better chance to claim the Golden Slam -- four Grand Slams plus an Olympic gold medal. He now has to work on the U.S. Open and Australian Open after winning his fourth consecutive French Open title and his first Wimbledon trophy this year.

"You can always improve. If Federer can improve, me for sure. For sure I can improve the slice; I can improve my serve until reaching one hundred percent on first serve. I can and I must improve my serve, and I have to improve a little bit more on volley too.

"Something probably is coming because the things are coming, but the rest of the things is important, like training hard and having good people around you."


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