Paris: Rafael Nadal’s 11th French Open title raised his Grand Slam trophy count to 17, three away from the men’s record held by Roger Federer.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Nadal is fixated on catching his rival.
“Of course I would love to have 20, like Roger, in the future — or even more,” Nadal said after beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final at Roland Garros, “but being honest, (it’s) something that is not in my mind.”
He added that it’s not an “obsession.”
“Let me enjoy this title,” Nadal said. “I can’t be always thinking of more. Of course, I have ambition. Of course, I have passion for what I am doing. But I never have been crazy about all this kind of stuff. No, you can’t be frustrated always if somebody has more money than you, if somebody has a bigger house than you, if somebody has more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling, no?”
Nadal’s uncle, Toni, who used to also be his coach, attended Sunday’s match and was asked afterward whether Rafael can pull even with Federer.
“I want to think that is possible,” Toni said. “But I know (that) maybe in one month, Federer will win again Wimbledon.”
Federer, of course, sat out the French Open to rest and prepare for the grass-court season. He did the same a year ago, and then went on to claim his record eighth championship at the All England Club, where play begins July 2.
The only man with more titles at a single major is Nadal in Paris. He is now 86-2 at the French Open — and, by the looks of things, as good as ever at the place.
Runner-up Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, might very well be the second-best player on clay in the world, but there’s still a large gap, at least at Roland Garros, where he is 0-3 against Nadal. Thiem and the man he beat in the quarter-finals, 21-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany, are the two most well-rounded rising stars in the game. The question is when each will be ready for the next step.
While the infra structure of the world’s four Grand Slams gets constantly upgraded, the furniture at the top of men’s tennis remains bolted down.
Written off as fading forces two years ago, Nadal, 32, and Roger Federer, approaching 37, have won the last six Grand Slam titles between them. So much for the ageing process and the new generation expected to shove them to one side.
Federer returned from a five-year Grand Slam drought to beat Nadal in last year’s Australian Open final, then won an eighth Wimbledon and retained the Australian title in January, beating Marin Cilic in the final on both occasions.
Spaniard Nadal reclaimed his French Open title 12 months ago without dropping a set and triumphed at the US Open.
For the second year running Federer opted against playing at the French Open to spare his knees, but will be favourite to win Wimbledon next month and re-establish a four Grand Slam gap over Nadal on the list of all-time collectors of major titles.
Not that 17-times Grand Slam champion Nadal, whose latest feat is all the more remarkable considering he was sidelined for several weeks this year due to injury, is pre-occupied with trying to keep up with his Swiss rival.
Federer, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall, who handed over the Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy on Sunday, have managed more, having done it four times.
“You can’t fight against age and you can’t fight against the watch. The watch keeps going always,” Nadal said.
“If you told seven or eight years ago that I will be here at 32 years old having this trophy with me again, I will tell you that is something almost impossible, but here we are.”