Nadal rounds off Olympic dream with "incredible" gold By Diana Renee

Society Materials 17 August 2008 21:49 (UTC +04:00)

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal, set to lead the world ranking as from Monday, crowned his Olympic dream with a gold medal Sunday.

"Winning here is more special. For a professional tennis player, Grand Slams may be a little bit more important. But for a sportsman, there is nothing like the Olympic Games, which on top of that are only held every four years," Nadal said of his latest trophy, the dpa reported.

The Spaniard beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez by 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, and he was thrilled with the bonus of playing for his country.

"Here I win for many people, not just me," he noted.

Nadal recalled that he was very tired when he got to Beijing, and that he got through the many Olympic matches in a short period partly on the thrill he drew from sharing the experience with other sportsmen.

"I want to thank all the athletes who, even without knowing, helped me over these two weeks. I had a great time in the Village, it is very different from hotels," he stressed.

He supported other Spanish sportsmen in their efforts, and he had his picture taken with now-legendary US swimmer Michael Phelps.

"I would like to meet him again, among other things because I did not come out too well in that photo. I would like to have another one taken," Nadal joked.

In such a great atmosphere, Nadal beat rivals like former world number one Lleyton Hewitt or Novak Djokovic to advance to the final. There, he produced what he called "an almost perfect match" to crush Gonzalez in just three sets.

Nadal insisted on enjoying the moment. With the gold medal hanging on his red Spain shirt, he refused to talk about his chances of carrying the upcoming US Open in a year in which he has already won the French Open and Wimbledon.

"This is not the time to think about New York, this is a time to enjoy. Not even in my dreams did I imagine doing what I have done this year, and winning these incredible Olympic Games," he said.

Still, Nadal will not have a lot of time to relax. He was planning to fly to New York on Monday, to prepare for the last Grand Slam tournament of the year.

He will board the plane officially as the new world number one, but he stressed that this entails no major change.

"The feeling does not change because I am number one. I was very happy and I won many tournaments when I was number two," he said. "As number one in the ranking I shall have to be the same tennis player I was when I was number two, to work hard and to train."

Besides, Nadal was once again full of praise for his predecessor at the top of men's tennis, Roger Federer.

"For me he is the best, the most complete player in history. I would like to have that variety he has," the Spaniard said of his historic rival.

Nadal drew inspiration from Federer as he tackled the challenge of getting better.

"If Federer can improve, I surely can and should improve."