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Wayne Gretzky and his daughter meet the Bryan brothers on the practice courts at the Coupe Rogers.

Gretzky Calls Federer & Nadal's Longevity On Top 'Incredible'

'The Great One' attends Coupe Rogers to show support for local favourites

Wayne Gretzky knows a thing or two about being the best in his discipline, and it comes as no surprise to the hockey legend that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are currently battling for No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, more than a decade after the pair first dominated the ATP World Tour.

“Oh yeah, when you’re that good and that dedicated, anything is possible,” Gretzky exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com in Montreal on the opening day of main draw action at the Coupe Rogers.

Gretzky hung up his skates at the age of 38, finishing his career with four Stanley Cups, an all-time best 894 goals and countless records in 20 NHL seasons. Federer, a five-time year-end World No. 1, celebrates his 36th birthday on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Nadal finished World No. 1 in 2008, ’10 and ’13 and this week has a chance to return to the top spot for the first time since July 2014.

Together this season, the rivals and friends have swept three Grand Slam titles and four of the five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments. They have faced off three times, including a memorable five-set win for Federer at the Australian Open.

“As a sports fan, I admire when a player can be at an elite level,” said Gretzky. “To get to an elite level is really hard, but to stay there for a long period of time – obviously Roger has been there a little bit longer, is a little bit older than Nadal – but it really is incredible for sports and it’s really fascinating to see two players of that caliber compete as hard as they do against each other, yet have so much respect for each other.

“If you have a passion for what you’re doing, you go to another level,” he added. “I think the thing that separates stars from superstars is that superstars want to be under pressure. They want to be under the microscope. They want to play in the finals. They want to be 2-2 going into the fifth set. That’s where they’re comfortable. You see players like Nadal and players like Djokovic and obviously Federer, and going back to guys like Bjorn and McEnroe, they want to be under the gun. It makes them play that much better, the bigger the game the more relaxed they seem to be and the more inspired they are and the better they play.”

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On Monday, ‘The Great One’ strolled around the Stade Uniprix grounds, making his rounds of the practice courts to show his support for the home favourites. After greeting top Canadian Milos Raonic, Gretzky headed over to Court 8 to watch up-and-coming Canadian Denis Shapovalov during a practice session with another #NextGenATP star, Korean Hyeon Chung. Gretzky’s 14-year-old daughter Emma, who has been playing tennis for a year, also had an opportunity to hit with the Bryans as they wrapped up practice on the adjacent court.

“That’s the great thing with sports, there’s always the next person that comes along… Guys like Milos and Daniel Nestor have opened doors for the young guys to come along, and years from now hopefully they’ll open doors for the new generation of kids that come along 10-15 years from now,” said Gretzky.

The Brantford, Ontario native, who also frequents the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, said he enjoyed the level of competition at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments and planned to be back on site throughout the week to watch some matches.

“It’s always fun to have a big event like this in Canada,” he said. “Everyone enjoys seeing the best players compete against each other. In our country, we rally around supporting our local favourites, whether it’s Milos, Denis this year now, Genie Bouchard in Toronto. We’re very proud of our kids who compete against the best in the world and that’s what makes it fun for Canadians to watch.”

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