Although Rafael Nadal insists that neither the records nor the statistics keep him up at night, he, a voracious competitor and a man with a very good memory, has never lost sight of the numbers. Rare is the time that he doesn’t remember a given figure, that he doesn’t check the match fact sheet before chatting with reporters or, if necessary, politely correct them if there is a slip in the question. The 36-year-old Balearic says that he does not think about the great historical pulse with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, that his career will be what it will be regardless of whether he wins more or less big than the Swiss or the Serbian, but the graphs insist in reminding him where he came from, how much he earns and where he occupies. One victory after another and title after title.
“This is not the day to talk about the 22nd, but about Roland Garros, because we are here”, he said after beating Casper Ruud in the final (6-3, 6-3 and 6-0, in 2 hours and 18 minutes) and to reconquer the tournament that Djokovic won last year. “It was an emotional and unexpected victory, in a way. Two fantastic weeks. I’ve been improving every day and I’ve played a good final. I thank everyone for their support”, extended the Mallorcan, who has become the oldest champion in the history of the great Frenchman and who has already collected 92 trophies on the professional circuit, strong among the strongest; now, if possible, a little more; exactly two steps above Federer and Nole, owners of 20 majors.
“But this is not about being the best in history or records,” he clarifies. “I play because I like to play tennis. For me, Novak, Roger and I have already fulfilled our dreams. What motivates me to continue is not the competition to see who is the best, but the passion for the game, having moments that will be with me forever, playing in the best stadiums in the world…”, lists the Balearic, who this Monday morning he will take the obligatory photo with the Musketeers Cup, he will attend to the special envoys and then he will return home; “If I don’t feel competitive, I don’t enjoy myself, that’s how it is. But no, this is not about winning more titles. It’s about having the opportunity to continue doing what I do.”
As much as he repeats the feats, Nadal continues to generate a universal impact. There is no more dominant tennis player than him in Paris, not even Djokovic in Australia (nine titles) or Federer in his garden at Wimbledon (eight). “He has won it 14 times. There is no word to describe this feat. Don’t think that good old Phillippe would mind if his court changed its name to Rafael Nadal: the statue is not enough”, says the Swiss coach, Ivan Ljubicic, who today watches from the sidelines with his player, who has been injured for a long time. almost a year and whose future is another unknown: while Nadal fights against his foot, Federer (40 years old) does it with his knee and the Balkan, the only healthy one, does it with himself and with his decisions.
Four titles and a final in 2022
Both have lost camber in the fight to be the most successful of all time. Meanwhile, Nadal was cutting the ground to the Swiss and is now marking distances with respect to Nole (35 years old), who in July of last year equaled the 20 greats that his two rivals had then and then deflated. Between the three they have distributed 58 of the last 68 majors and between the still number one and the Spanish, 14 of the last 16 disputed; however, it is Nadal who has culminated a fulminating ascent, a full-fledged sorpasso. He uncorked the champagne for the first time on a big stage at the age of 19, in 2005, when Federer already had four Grand Slams, and from then on he launched himself with everything for the historic command.
However, the one from Basel soared and in 2009 he had an income of nine titles over Nadal (15-6), very far behind Djokovic (1). Since then, the man from Manacor has won 16 majors, eight in the last six seasons; at least one since 2017, with the exception of last year, when he had to put the brakes on from Roland Garros. In parallel, Federer has been fading (blank since that date) and the Serb has been the most productive with eight; yes, the figure could have been higher, a victim of his short circuits (that hit in New York) and his principles (not getting vaccinated against covid).
In this way, the one who governs and shines more than anyone is Nadal, who has not been able to stop even the endemic disease of his left foot. Cojo, number four performs above all.
“I don’t know what will happen, but I’m going to try”, reassures the Majorcan. “But I can’t be more selective than I have been, because he would stop being a tennis player. If you look at the tournaments that I have played in the last four or five years, there are very few…”, specifies the best tennis player of this 2022. This is indicated by the Race (annual race). Despite having been able to play only seven tournaments and 34 matches, Nadal has won the two majors and two other prizes, in Melbourne and Acapulco; Furthermore, he reached the Indian Wells final. He commands the list ahead of Carlos Alcaraz (19 years old), Stefanos Tsitsipas (23) and the Norwegian Casper Ruud (23). Between him and the youngest, 17 years apart.