Nadal insists passing Federer's 20 Slams not on agenda
PARIS, France – Rafael Nadal insists that he has no desire to become locked into an arms race with Roger Federer to surpass his great rival's 20 Grand Slam titles.
Nadal clinched an 11th French Open with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory against Dominic Thiem on Sunday, June 10, to take his majors total to 17.
That's three behind Federer who is more than 4 years older.
However, the 32-year-old Nadal said such targets do not concern him, believing his caution is well-placed after an injury-hit career which has seen him sit out 9 Grand Slam tournaments.
"I have never been crazy about this kind of stuff," said Nadal.
"You can't always be frustrated if somebody has more money than you, a bigger house than you, if somebody has more Grand Slams than you.
"You can't live with this feeling.
"Of course I would love to have 20 like Roger in the future or even more but it's not something that is on my mind."
Nadal endured a nervy conclusion to the final, however, when he needed treatment in the 4th game of the 3rd set for a finger injury before sealing victory on a 5th match point when Thiem fired a backhand long.
"It's really just incredible. I played a great match against a great player," said Nadal.
"I had tough moment in the 3rd set with cramps in my hand. I was very scared but that's sport – it was very humid.
"To win 11 times here – it's fantastic and not something I ever dreamed of.
"It is always my dream to win this trophy, you all know how important the tournament is to me."
Nadal joins Australia's Margaret Court as the only player to win 11 titles at the same major.
Victory also took Nadal's record at Roland Garros to 86 wins and just two losses.
For Thiem, playing in his first Slam final, it was a tremendous letdown for a player who is the only man to have beaten the Spaniard on clay in the last two years.
"Rafa, this is one of the most outstanding things an athlete has achieved in any sport," said the 7th seed.
"It's amazing, bravo.
"I saw you win this in 2005 when I was just 11 years old. But I never dreamed of getting the chance to play the final here."
With a celebrity audience – including actors Hugh Grant and Tim Roth as well as French stars Marion Cotillard and Jean Dujardin watching – Nadal flew out of the blocks.
Nadal reeled off the first six points for a 2-0 lead before Thiem settled and repaired the damage for 2-2.
The Austrian speared a 222 km/h ace just for good measure in the 4th game to save a break point.
He saved another two in the 11-minute 6th game, a performance cheered by the crowd who briefly became more animated when glum-looking French football icon Zinedine Zidane was spotted in the stadium.
Despite matching Nadal forehand for forehand, Thiem was undone in the 10th game when three errors handed Nadal the opening set after 52 minutes on court.
A wild, misguided forehand sealed his fate, one of 18 unforced errors to Nadal's 12 in the set.
Nadal plans to return to Paris in 2019 and try and clinch a 12th title at Roland Garros.
But he remains philosophical about the rest of his career which has so far yielded 79 titles in total as well as more than $100 million in prize money.
"You can't fight against age and you can't fight against the watch. The watch keeps going always. So that's it.
"If you tell me 7, 8 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.
"So I am not much worried about the future. Tennis is a very important part of my life, without a doubt, but is not everything."
Next on the campaign trail for Nadal is Wimbledon where he was a two-time champion in 2008 and 2010.
However, his recent record at the All England Club has been dispiriting.
Last year, he lost 15-13 in the 5th set of his last-16 tie against Gilles Muller.
Since his last title in London 8 years ago, he has also suffered a first round exit as well as two defeats in the second round.
"I would love to be playing in as many places as possible, but you understand I need to check how I feel in the next couple of days," said Nadal as he pondered his preparation for Wimbledon which gets underway in 3 weeks' time.
He is currently entered to play the Queen's Club tournament next week.
"It is a drastic change from clay to grass. And I did it in the past when I was much younger, quicker, because I played back to back.
"But it's time to check how I feel in the next couple of days."
Victory on Sunday meant that Nadal became just the 4th man of the modern era to win 3 or more Grand Slam titles after turning 30, joining Federer, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall.
Australia's Rosewall was in the crowd on Sunday to see the final, 50 years after he won the title in Paris.
"I'm just glad I'm not playing today," said Rosewall in a nod to the raw power of Nadal. – Rappler.com