Nadal wary of over-praising Fed: I don't want it to look like I want to date him

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports / Action Images

Rafael Nadal has always had a healthy respect for Roger Federer, but he doesn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about the nature of his relationship with his oldest rival.

"I don't want to look like I'm gonna be his boyfriend," Nadal told reporters to big laughs on Wednesday, when asked what he admires most about Federer on and off the court. "We don't want to talk these kind of things before important match."

After that crack, though, Nadal did answer the question sincerely:

Well, we have a lot of respect for each other. We played a lot of times. I think we did important things for tennis. We appreciate that. We always had a good relationship. We played for our foundations.

I think he always has been a great ambassador for tennis and for our sport, with good image, of course, and representing, I think, good values.

One important thing that is a great example for kids, after a lot of years and winning more than anybody, he still has the passion to keep doing what he did during all his career. And doing unbelievably well and doing (it) with the right attitude and with the right passion and love for the sport.

So that's something important for me and something that I admire (in) him. And inside the court, I admire of him the same, because everybody knows how complete (he is), and he's able to produce all the shots.

When Nadal said before the start of the US Open that he didn't want to play his oldest rival in the semifinals - in what would be their first-ever meeting in New York - his reasoning was that he'd prefer to play an easier opponent.

Now, after Nadal's dismantling of Andrey Rublev in the quarters on Wednesday, we are one Federer win away from a long-awaited US Open clash between the two.

Still, it's best not to look ahead just yet. This is the sixth time the two have been one match away - twice they've been one point away - from meeting in Flushing Meadows, and somehow it's still never come to pass. Federer will need to vanquish Juan Martin del Potro on Wednesday night in order to make it happen.