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Wimbledon champ and golf fan Rafael Nadal tells why Rory McIlroy is inspiring

June 19, 2011 |  9:54 am

Rory McIlroy Rafael Nadal is the defending Wimbledon champion and is 26-2 at the All England Club in his last 28 matches here. The Spaniard is 25 years old and already has 10 major championships, six behind all-time leader Roger Federer.

Nadal, who opens defense of his title Monday against American veteran Michael Russell, is also a golf fan. When he plays at the ATP tournament in Indian Wells, Fred Couples is often in the stands. So Nadal was asked Sunday about whether he's feeling inspired by the performance of 22-year-old Rory McIllroy at the U.S. Open golf championship. McIlroy will take an eight-shot lead into Sunday's final round.

"What he's doing is really something unbelievable," Nadal said. "I love golf. I follow almost every week, the [PGA] Tour. Seriously, I love watching Rory. He has probably one of the nicest swings in the world, if not the nicest."

Nadal said he felt bad for McIlroy after McIlroy's game collapsed during the final round of the Masters.

"He had a very tough fourth round at Augusta," Nadal said. "He deserves to win a major because, in my opinion, right now he's playing at a different level than the rest. So for sure he is an inspiration. I admire him a lot."

Nadal gets his inspirations from more than one place, though.

"My inspiration is every day," he said. "I love to play in big stadiums like here, historic stadiums like Wimbledon. So for me, tomorrow, I start playing the first match of the tournament in the Center Court. For me that is a dream. Seriously, that's my inspiration, trying to live these moments."


Photos: 2011 Wimbledon

Who will win the U.S. Open golf tournament?

-- Diane Pucin, reporting from Wimbledon

Photo: Rory McIlroy competes in the 10th round of the U.S. Open, June 18, 2011. Credit: Allan Henry / US Presswire