MELBOURNE, Australia — Another main name, only one, and Rafael Nadal will percentage probably the most prestigious file in fashionable males’s tennis with Roger Federer.
However Nadal is panther-quick to guarantee you that he’s now not ripping forehands in apply or drifting off to sleep with “No. 20, No. 20” ringing in his head.
The chase obsesses tennis enthusiasts — this three-way tussle to complete with probably the most Grand Slam singles titles within the historical past of the boys’s sport.
With the Australian Open neatly underway, Federer has 20, Nadal has 19 and Novak Djokovic has 16.
All are very easily 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 seen it as a chase.
For him, the quantity via his identify is just a byproduct of his relentless pursuit of the most efficient effort inside of himself.
“I’m pleased with who I’m,” he stated, tapping his barrel chest with an index finger. “I used to be more than happy with 16, more than happy with 17, more than happy with 18, more than happy with 19, and if at some point I am getting to 20, I will be able to be more than happy, too. However my stage of happiness isn’t going to modify as a result of this. Do I make myself transparent?”
It’s as though Nadal is making an attempt to construct fences across the success sooner than any person else has an opportunity to start out hanging up the rest such as barbed cord.
“Attending to 20 does now not make me improbable,” he stated. “And if I am getting to 22, It’s not that i am extra improbable. I see my lifestyles as one thing extra customary.”
Wouldn’t it be other if Nadal have been chasing a file from every other generation as an alternative of his personal? When Federer equaled Pete Sampras’s file of 14 in 2009, Sampras used to be retired. When Sampras equaled Roy Emerson’s file of 12 in 1999, Emerson used to be lengthy retired.
Nadal is at the verge of equaling Federer, his longtime tennis yang who has turn out to be 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 great factor is to understand being a part of a tale that hasn’t ever took place sooner than,” he stated. “You by no means had such a lot of suits between 3 avid gamers like this: Novak towards me, me towards Federer, Novak towards Federer. Such a lot of finals and semifinals and essential suits between all folks, and that may be a tale that may stay within the historical past of our game.”
Federer is 38; Nadal, 33; Djokovic, 32. All would as soon as had been thought to be 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 every other, and because the 2020s start, Nadal is ranked No. 1, Djokovic, No. 2; and Federer, No. Three.
Their collective endurance explains why no lively participant in his 20s has received a big singles name, which is remarkable within the Open generation or any generation.
“I don’t listen a lot communicate concerning the Grand Slam file 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 definitely as a result of none folks have even one. It’s now not relatable. In fact it’s now not relatable to any person who has 3, like Stan Wawrinka. He’s a celebrity. They’re superstars.”
Djokovic and Federer are within the backside part of the attract Melbourne, however risk nonetheless lurks within the best 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, if truth be told mimicked Nadal’s provider movement all the way through his second-round victory over Gilles Simon on Thursday.
“In truth I don’t care in any respect,” Nadal stated of Kyrgios’s stunt after defeating Federico Delbonis 6-Three, 7-6 (four), 6-1 on Thursday night time. “If it used to be humorous, just right.”
However Kyrgios, for a transformation, has appeared 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, although he practices and performs much less continuously now to keep his power and fragile knees. Closing 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 middle 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 battle, and the will to succeed in private objectives for himself and the ones with reference to him. He’s newly married to longtime female friend Maria Francisca Perello and, regardless of his fiercely protecting angle towards his non-public lifestyles, is talking brazenly about their want to start out a circle of relatives.
The Australian Open stays the main match he has received the least. His simplest name got here in 2009, when he decreased Federer to tears after a five-set victory within the ultimate.
He has received 12 French Opens at the crimson clay in Paris, two Wimbledons on grass and 4 United States Opens on an acrylic hardcourt floor slightly very similar to the only at Melbourne Park. However he has continuously stumbled on the ultimate hurdle right here, shedding 4 finals, the newest one to Djokovic ultimate yr in a 6-Three, 6-2, 6-Three rout.
Djokovic, who has overwhelmed Nadal 9 immediately occasions on hardcourts and received the Australian Open a file seven occasions, stays the rightful favourite once more. If Nadal can’t get to 20 in Melbourne, he’ll, if he stays wholesome, have a nice shot of having there in Paris in June.
Federer, 5 years older, has had considerable time to look this coming, however additionally it is value remembering that the Grand Slam profession file is a moderately fresh obsession. Till Open tennis started in 1968, most of the biggest avid gamers, together with Jack Kramer and Pancho Gonzalez, briefly 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 yr, has stated he paid scant consideration to his general. Within the 1970s and 1980s, the sport’s greats incessantly skipped the lengthy commute to Australia.
Even a more moderen participant, Andre Agassi, skipped the match for 8 immediately years originally of his profession. However via 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 file have turn out to be an expanding focal point.
Nadal understands the fashion however resists it.
“I can’t evaluation my entire profession on 4 tournaments a yr,” he stated. “Tennis is a lot more than that. I attempt to price 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. Identical in Barcelona.”
For individuals who stay monitor, and now not 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.”