Rafael Nadal returns to scene of his epic final win in 2008

INJURY robbed Rafael Nadal of the chance to defend his Wimbledon title last year but the memory of what many consider the greatest tennis match of all time remains fresh in his mind.

The Spaniard steps out tomorrow to play his first match at SW19 since the epic final of 2008 when he beat Roger Federer over five astonishing sets, and he cannot wait to get back on the court at the scene of one of his most stirring victories.

Nadal said: "Winning the title at Wimbledon probably is one of the more emotional moments in my career because I worked hard all my life to improve my tennis on the rest of the surfaces other than clay.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"When I did it, it was after all the work I did to play well, to be a more complete player and play well on all the surfaces, and I won on the most difficult surface. And at probably the most important tournament of the world. So it was very important for me."

Nadal ended 2009 with doubts about his fitness and confidence weighing heavily but those have been largely put to bed following a perfect clay-court season.

The 24-year-old did not lose a match on clay, winning the Masters Series events in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, before regaining his French Open title without dropping a set.

He continued: "I am very happy about the 2010 season. I am playing probably one of my best seasons up until this tournament because the level was high in all the tournaments for me and I was healthy. So that's very important."

Nadal's return to grass was not quite so successful, with the new world number one losing in the quarter-finals at Queen's to compatriot and friend Feliciano Lopez. A slight leg injury hampered him last week but he insists he is now fully fit ahead of a first-round meeting with Japanese wild card Kei Nishikori, who has had his own injury troubles but who Nadal rates highly.

"He has amazing potential," said the Majorcan. "I think he has enough potential to be in the top ten if he is healthy and he improves a little bit."

This year's tournament has been touted as potentially one of the most open in recent years because of Nadal's lack of grass-court matches and the indifferent form of champion Federer and usual challengers Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Andy Roddick exploited Nadal's absence last year by reaching the final, where he pushed Federer all the way before a heart-breaking 16-14 loss in the fifth set. And the American expects familiar names to be challenging for the title again this year. "I think you're still going to get the same five or six names," said Roddick.