Nadal 'sorry' for criticism of Federer but players warn of possible future strike action
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal attempted to defuse a potential rift over the governance of tennis after both eased into the second round of the Australian Open.
Nadal and Federer have always offered each other the utmost respect but the Spaniard opened a lingering wound by accusing the 16-time grand slam winner of not doing enough given his lofty status to push for change on issues such as prize money and the strains of life on tour.
Nadal, who beat qualifier Alex Kuznetsov 6-4 6-1 6-1, had said: 'His position is easy: do not say anything, all positive, I am a “gentleman”, others get burned.'
End of round one: Rafael Nadal (left) and Roger Federer (right) are safely through
The world No 2 admitted tonight he had been wrong speaking publicly rather than seeking out Federer personally.
'Yesterday what I said, I said but I was probably wrong telling you because these things must stay in the locker room,' said Nadal. 'I have always had a fantastic relationship with Roger and I still do.
'We can have different views about how the tour needs to work, that's all.
'I feel sorry for saying it because I should have said it to him personally.'
Federer was diplomacy personified after easing past the challenge of Alexander Kudryavtsev 7-5 6-2 6-2.
'Things are fine between us, I have no hard feelings towards him,' he insisted. 'It's been a difficult last few months in terms of politics within the ATP, trying to find a new chairman and CEO, that can get a bit frustrating sometimes.
Nowhere to hide: Nadal had been public in his criticism of Federer
'He's mentioned many times how he gets a bit frustrated through the whole process and I share that with him.
'But for me, nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I'm completely cool and relaxed about it. He seemed the same way – or at least I hope so.'
Federer also rubbished suggestions he stood apart from the majority of the players, who attended a mandatory ATP meeting in Melbourne on Saturday night.
'I was in the meeting and I completely understand and support the players' opinions,' he added. 'I just have a different way of going at it.
'I think of the players first and usually when I take decisions, I think of the lower-ranked players first. I hope they know that.'
A strike has been mentioned in some quarters but that was not a route Federer felt would benefit the game as a whole.
'It's such a dangerous word to use, that's why I always say “let's try to avoid it as much as we can”. I think that would be best for everyone, fans, tournaments and players.
'If there is no avoiding it, I'll support the rest of the players but I just think we need to think through how we do it.'
Burn-out Federer's first-round opponent, Alexander Kudryavtsev, needed on-court treatment during their match on the Rod Laver Arena Monday
Some players had warned of future strikes over prize money and said a proposal to boycott the year's first grand slam had been strongly endorsed but ultimately knocked down by ATP members at the behind-closed-doors meeting on Saturday.
Former world No 3 Nikolay Davydenko also hinted that players might strike at Indian Wells in California in March, a mandatory ATP event they must attend.
'Some of the players were suggesting we're not going to play here,' said Sergiy Stakhovsky, the world No 65 from Ukraine, referring to the meeting.
'There were enough (votes not to play) but it was just not right because we're here and the Australian Open would have no chance to change anything.'
Davydenko said the players would have another meeting in Indian Wells and told the ATP to act. 'The ATP should try to do something between now and Indian Wells,' the Russian said.
Strewth: A boycott of the Australian Open had been considered by players
Stakhovsky added: 'More than 80 percent of the top players are on the same page as the rest of the players, saying that grand slams are not paying enough and that some mandatory events are not having proper prize money distribution.'
'We all have issues. My issue is Indian Wells and Miami are mandatory events and if I lose in the first round I am minus (earnings). I am not making money off these tournaments.
'It's four weeks spent in the United States, it's airfares and hotels … if you're out in the first round you're unable to pay your coach.
He added, however, that any strike action must be carefully considered.
'You can't just stand up and say we don't play. You have to have a certain strategy.
'We have to say what we want, what we feel is fair for… the ATP and the grand slams. We have to do some serious paperwork first, legal work. You never know but I'm confident we are going to change things.'