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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal pose for photographers ahead of their "Match in Africa" exhibition tennis match in Cape Town, South Africa. Image Credit: REUTERS

Kuwait City: Rafael Nadal is not too perturbed with overtaking ace rival Roger Federer’s grand slam record of 20 titles.

Nadal, who was in Kuwait for a day to open his Rafa Nadal Academy on Wednesday, is just one title short of equalling Federer’s mark of 20 Grand Slams.

Both fell short of a possible addition to their tally in the semi-finals at last month’s season-opening Australian Open with Federer going down in straight sets against eventual champion Novak Djokovic, while Nadal caved in to Austrian, Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic, who assumed the world No. 1 position from Nadal last Monday, is close on the heels of the big two with 17 Grand Slams against his name following a record eighth crown in Melbourne.

“Honestly, I don’t ever think about this grand slam record. If it has to happen, then it will happen,” Nadal clarified.

“I enjoy the sport of tennis and every time I enter the court it is with this mentality that I have to win. But then, there are so many other factors that are also involved. People do not see all these other things that go into making of a player and his performances,” he added.

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal arrive for a photo session ahead of their "Match in Africa" exhibition tennis match in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings Image Credit: REUTERS

Referred as the ‘Big Three’ in tennis, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic account for a total of 55 Grand Slam titles between themselves.

Their dominance has been so huge that no one has won a Grand Slam since Stan Wawrinka took the 2016 US Open crown. “To me, success is in creating passion and interest around our sport,” Nadal explained.

Life lessons

“I realise that each of us has a responsibility to what we do inside and outside the court. I am an ambassador of tennis and I need to do all the right things to ensure my sport maintains its repute. Most of the sports are closely associated with life’s lessons such as respect, dedication, hard work, etc. And if we as top players cannot drive home these lessons for our youngsters, then we would be doing a great disservice to ourselves and to our sport,” he added.

After enjoying a phenomenal 2019 during which he won four titles, Nadal went on to reclaim the world No. 1 spot from Djokovic by November. He also won a record 12th crown at Roland Garros after which he went on to clinch his fourth title at the US Open while taking his career tally to 19. His next target could possibly be at the French Open in Paris from May 24-June 7.

“To me it really doesn’t matter if I am going to be the hot favourite or whether I am going to win another title. To me it is important to stay healthy and try and give back to the sport that has given me so much in my life. I will be 34 shortly [June 3] and I don’t think anyone can play forever. Till then, the thinking would be to give off my best and enjoy what I am doing,” Nadal stressed.

“I am not too obsessed whether I will get Federer’s grand slam record. That is the last thing on my mind,” he added.