For an athlete to be so successful in a single event is unprecedented, while Nadal has also set himself apart from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by winning 22 Grand Slam titles to his rivals’ 20.
“I don’t think good old Phillippe (Chatrier) will mind if his court changes the name to Rafael Nadal: (a) statue is not enough.”
But Nadal, always eager to underestimate his achievements, believes his record at Roland Garros could one day improve.
“I always consider myself a very normal guy, so if I did it, maybe someone else can do it,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“It’s obvious that the record of 22 Grand Slams is something much more likely that someone could increase that record. I’m sure that’s going to happen; 14 Roland Garros is something… very difficult.”
In the 17 years between Nadal’s first and most recent French Open titles, he has lost just three matches on clay in Paris: two against Djokovic, including in the semis last year, and one against Robin Soderling.
Sunday’s win saw Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, become the oldest men’s champion at Roland Garros, and it was also the first time he had won the Australian Open and French Open in the same calendar year for get away from Federer and Djokovic. Grand Slam counts.
“Of course, I want to be the player with (the most) Grand Slams in history, that’s competition,” Nadal said.
“But it’s not something that I obsess (with) and it’s not something that changed my mind… Honestly, it’s something that doesn’t bother me if Novak wins 23 and I keep 22. I think my happiness won’t change in all, not even one percent.
play while injured
The events leading up to this year’s French Open are likely to make this title seem particularly special, not least unlikely, for Nadal.
At last month’s Italian Open, he withdrew from the tournament against Denis Shapovalov in the last 16 while battling a foot injury, an ongoing problem that Nadal said required daily injections at the French Open to continue playing and training. .
It meant that he played the final without feeling anything in his foot.
“After the pandemic, something happened to my foot. I am not able to handle the pain to play often and even practice,” said Nadal, who has been plagued by injury problems throughout his career.
“The only thing I can say is that I am going through all these challenges, I always have the passion to keep going and I always have the love for the game,” he added. “I always wanted to move on. That’s probably why I’m in the position I’m in today.”
At Sunday’s news conference, Nadal said he would undergo a “radiofrequency injection” into the nerve in his foot in an attempt to ease the pain and continue playing.
Whether he will compete at Wimbledon later this month hinges on the success of that treatment, and for now, his long-term future in the sport is unclear.
“It was never in my mind (plans) to announce any retirement after this event, but of course, there is a possibility that things are not looking up,” he said. “Then I don’t know what can happen.”
Is the ‘Clay King’ now just ‘The King’?
Winning the first two Grand Slams of the year means that Nadal, for the first time in his career, can potentially win a calendar Grand Slam by triumphing at Wimbledon and the US Open.
It’s a feat that Djokovic came within a game of completing last year, and one that no male player has accomplished since Rod Laver in 1969.
“The chances are small in this health situation,” tennis journalist Christopher Clarey told CNN Sport’s Christina Macfarlane on Monday about the likelihood of Nadal triumphing at the next two Grand Slams.
“Wimbledon isn’t his best surface anymore; it’s been a while since he won. But how can you not try if you’re healthy?”
Even if it doesn’t add to his Grand Slam tally, it will be impossible to question Nadal’s status as one of the best to play the game. And over time, “el Rey de la Barro” may be remembered simply as “el Rey”.
“I achieved my dream and I enjoy what I am doing,” said Nadal, who remains unconcerned about his ranking among his peers.
I know that the press and people always care a lot about these things, but somehow I am an important part of the history of the sport and that makes me proud and happy.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter much.”