Rafael Nadal has given a rare and honest insight into his Big Three rivalry with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, as he admitted he would like to end his career with the records. The world No 2 has arguably been the least bothered about the statistics of the three, and while he isn’t “obsessed” with making history, Nadal was frank as he admitted it would be nice to finish things on top of the pile.
Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have been the centre of the GOAT debate in men’s tennis for more than a decade, consistently pushing one another to greatness and breaking each other’s records. While the Swiss star once stood alone with 20 Grand Slam titles, he was overtaken by both his rivals this year when the Serb won his 21st and the 36-year-old made history by making it to 22.
Although the likes of Djokovic have been honest in their desire to keep chasing tennis history, Nadal has often remained more low-key and said he was just happy to be living his dreams in the sport. But the world No 2 has now made an honest admission, as he said it would “of course” be nice to end his career with the records. “No, not getting bored but I’m not great either,” the 92-time title winner told Marca when asked if he was tired of the Big Three GOAT debate.
“Let’s see, I understand it and I think it’s good for promoting our sport. Also, the press has to write, but my way of understanding this debate has not changed over the years.” While Nadal knew that one man would eventually reign supreme, he admitted it would be tough to determine exactly who that would be as he continued: “There will be one that will be the best, which I don’t think is easy to define because everyone has their arguments to defend one player or another beyond the objective data.”
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And the Spaniard thought it was tough to have the conversation while he and Djokovic were still active, with Federer only retiring three months ago at the Laver Cup. “In addition, today two of those three tennis players are still active,” he added. While Nadal often tried to remain humble, he also admitted that he knew himself, Djokovic and Federer had been able to achieve exceptional things and were happy to co-exist in the same era, exceeding even their own dreams.
“In the end what matters is that both Federer and Djokovic or I have done much more than we had dreamed of,” he explained. “I don’t like to talk about these things because I am part of the equation but by numbers we have achieved things that have never been done before in our sport, so the three of us will go down in tennis history.”
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But Nadal was candid as he refused to deny his desire to end his career as the man in the history books, adding: “Of course I would like to be the one who ends up with the biggest ones. Yes of course. I am a competitor, without a doubt, but for me it has never been an obsession nor will it be.
“Well, it may be an illusion, but not an obsession at all. In the end I always say the same thing and I can only thank life for everything it has made me live for so many years, not only as a tennis player but as a sports fan, because I have been able to experience many things that I would never have dreamed of when I was a child.”