MELBOURNE, Australia — Another primary identify, only one, and Rafael Nadal will percentage probably the most prestigious report in trendy males’s tennis with Roger Federer.
However Nadal is panther-quick to guarantee you that he’s no longer ripping forehands in apply or drifting off to sleep with “No. 20, No. 20” ringing in his head.
The chase obsesses tennis fanatics — this three-way tussle to complete with probably the most Grand Slam singles titles within the historical past of the lads’s sport.
With the Australian Open neatly underway, Federer has 20, Nadal has 19 and Novak Djokovic has 16.
All are conveniently into the 3rd around, but if Nadal sat down for an interview at his Melbourne lodge this week, he insisted that he had by no means considered it as a chase.
For him, the quantity through his title is solely a byproduct of his relentless pursuit of the most productive effort inside himself.
“I’m pleased with who I’m,” he stated, tapping his barrel chest with an index finger. “I used to be more than pleased with 16, more than pleased with 17, more than pleased with 18, more than pleased with 19, and if at some point I am getting to 20, I can be more than pleased, too. However my degree of happiness isn’t going to switch on account of this. Do I make myself transparent?”
It’s as though Nadal is attempting to construct fences across the fulfillment earlier than somebody else has a possibility to begin placing up anything else equivalent to barbed cord.
“Attending to 20 does no longer make me fantastic,” he stated. “And if I am getting to 22, It’s not that i am extra fantastic. I see my existence as one thing extra standard.”
Wouldn’t it be other if Nadal have been chasing a report from some other technology as an alternative of his personal? When Federer equaled Pete Sampras’s report of 14 in 2009, Sampras was once retired. When Sampras equaled Roy Emerson’s report of 12 in 1999, Emerson was once lengthy retired.
Nadal is at the verge of equaling Federer, his longtime tennis yang who has change into an overly pleasant rival. They’re headed for Cape The city, South Africa, to play a charity exhibition in combination the week after the Australian Open.
“I believe the nice factor is to comprehend being a part of a tale that hasn’t ever took place earlier than,” he stated. “You by no means had such a lot of fits between 3 gamers like this: Novak in opposition to me, me in opposition to Federer, Novak in opposition to Federer. Such a lot of finals and semifinals and vital fits between all folks, and that may be a tale that can stay within the historical past of our game.”
Federer is 38; Nadal, 33; Djokovic, 32. All would as soon as were regarded as previous their tennis primes at the ones ages. “I wouldn’t have idea I’d nonetheless be right here,” Nadal stated.
However they have got impressed one some other, and because the 2020s start, Nadal is ranked No. 1, Djokovic, No. 2; and Federer, No. 3.
Their collective endurance explains why no lively participant in his 20s has received a significant singles identify, which is extraordinary within the Open technology or any technology.
“I don’t pay attention a lot communicate concerning the Grand Slam report within the locker room,” stated the American veteran Sam Querrey. “No less than the fellows I communicate with so much, the American citizens, we by no means speak about it, most likely as a result of none folks have even one. It’s no longer relatable. In truth it’s no longer relatable to any person who has 3, like Stan Wawrinka. He’s a celeb. They’re superstars.”
Djokovic and Federer are within the backside part of the attract Melbourne, however threat nonetheless lurks within the most sensible part for Nadal.
If he beats his Spanish compatriot Pablo Carreño Busta within the 3rd around, he’ll face both Karen Khachanov or Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios, who relishes getting below Nadal’s pores and skin and as soon as dissatisfied him at Wimbledon, in truth mimicked Nadal’s carrier movement all over his second-round victory over Gilles Simon on Thursday.
“Truthfully I don’t care in any respect,” Nadal stated of Kyrgios’s stunt after defeating Federico Delbonis 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Thursday night time. “If it was once humorous, excellent.”
However Kyrgios, for a metamorphosis, has seemed extra impressed than conflicted in his house country.
Impressed is, in fact, Nadal’s default mode. He practices like he performs: at complete in-the-moment throttle, despite the fact that he practices and performs much less continuously now to keep his power and fragile knees. Final April, he skilled an extraordinary motivational disaster, caused by his newest around of accidents, that had him muttering “I need to get out of right here” in the course of a victory over Leonardo Mayer in Barcelona.
However he has rebounded convincingly and stated he nonetheless performs for a similar causes — love of the sport and the combat, and the need to reach non-public objectives for himself and the ones just about him. He’s newly married to his longtime female friend Maria Francisca Perello and, regardless of his fiercely protecting angle towards his personal existence, is talking overtly about their need to begin a circle of relatives.
The Australian Open stays the foremost match he has received the least. His simplest identify got here in 2009, when he lowered Federer to tears after a five-set victory within the ultimate.
He has received 12 French Opens at the purple clay in Paris, two Wimbledons on grass and 4 United States Opens on an acrylic hardcourt floor rather very similar to the only at Melbourne Park. However he has continuously stumbled on the ultimate hurdle right here, dropping 4 finals, the newest one to Djokovic remaining 12 months in a 6-3, 6-2, 6-Three rout.
Djokovic, who has crushed Nadal 9 instantly instances on hardcourts and received the Australian Open a report seven instances, stays the rightful favourite once more. If Nadal can not get to 20 in Melbourne, he’ll, if he stays wholesome, have a effective shot of having there in Paris in June.
Federer, 5 years older, has had considerable time to peer this coming, however it is usually value remembering that the Grand Slam occupation report is a moderately fresh obsession. Till Open tennis started in 1968, lots of the largest gamers, together with Jack Kramer and Pancho Gonzalez, temporarily grew to become skilled, which made them ineligible for Grand Slam occasions. Rod Laver, who two times received all 4 Grand Slam occasions in one 12 months, has stated he paid scant consideration to his general. Within the 1970s and 1980s, the sport’s greats frequently skipped the lengthy go back and forth to Australia.
Even a more moderen participant, Andre Agassi, skipped the match for 8 instantly years at first of his occupation. However through the mid-1990s, with prize cash and crowds expanding on the Australian Open’s new venue at Melbourne Park, the celebrities had begun making the trek most of the time.
So it has remained, and the Grand Slam occasions and the Grand Slam report have change into an expanding focal point.
Nadal understands the craze however resists it.
“I will not overview my entire occupation on 4 tournaments a 12 months,” he stated. “Tennis is a lot more than that. I attempt to worth the whole thing. If I’m going to Acapulco, I’m glad taking part in Acapulco, and if I win there, I’m extremely glad. Similar in Barcelona.”
For many who stay observe, and no longer many do, Federer has received 103 excursion titles, Nadal has received 84 and Djokovic has received 77.
Nonetheless, the numbers that resonate are 20, 19 and 16.
“I’m glad to be a part of this from the interior, but when I finally end up completing 3rd, I don’t suppose I’m going to be much less glad at some point,” Nadal stated. “And if I finally end up completing first, I don’t suppose I’m going to be any further glad at some point, both.”