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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — The King of Clay passed up a chance to meet the Queen of England.
Rafael Nadal had another priority — winning at Wimbledon.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the All England Club for the first time since 1977 and met a small group of current and former players, including Roger Federer and the Williams sisters. Nadal was invited, but his practice schedule conflicted, and he wanted to be in top form for his second-round match later Thursday.
Hours after the queen departed, Nadal took Centre Court and beat Robin Haase 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. British tabloids may take the five-time French Open champion to task, but he defended his decision to put practice ahead of royalty.
"I am playing in Wimbledon. It's not a joke. I love this tournament," Nadal said. "I have a lot of respect for the queen. I have a lot of respect for this tournament. Today is a match day for me, no? So I have my things to do."
Nadal said he thought the queen might attend his match and he could meet her afterward, but he played late in the day, and she stayed only long enough to watch Briton Andy Murray win.
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