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Rafael Nadal puts Grand Slam chase with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic into perspective after opening Australian Open win


Nadal is on the verge of Federer’s Slam record (Picture: Getty)

Rafael Nadal began his quest for a joint-record 20th Grand Slam title with a routine victory over Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien at the Australian Open on Tuesday but was quick to cool talk of moving level with Roger Federer’s 20-majors haul.

A second title at Melbourne Park for ‘King of Clay’ Nadal, 33, would see him become the first man in the Open Era to win twice or more at each Slam and become the fifth player – along with Margaret Court, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf and Federer – to hit the 20-Slam mark.

Nadal has always been keen to play down his three-way battle for supremacy – with 16-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic the third player in this ludicrously successful tussle – but as this is the first time he has been within one title of Federer throughout his entire career, it’s reasonable the question was put to him again.

The fiercely competitive Spaniard insisted: ‘I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16, I just try to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career. It’s not like 20 is the number I need to reach.

‘If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things I did in my tennis career.

‘I’m very satisfied about my tennis career because I gave it all most of the time so that’s the only thing that matters.

‘I don’t think in the future achieving 21 Grand Slams in the future, I’m going to be happier than if I reach 19. I mean, in 10 years.’ He shrugged before adding: ‘I won the US Open a few months ago and I was super happy in that moment but today I’m happier than if I didn’t win the US Open? Probably not.



Most Grand Slam titles (ATP)

20 – Federer
19 – Nadal
16 – Djokovic
14 – Sampras

‘That’s the only thing that matters in this life. Of course I’m going to do as best as possible because I’ve been doing that since the beginning of my life almost but the only thing I can do is try and put in all my effort and keep going.

‘The rest of the things, the future will see.’

While the ‘Big Three’ are, presumably at least, in the latter stages of their illustrious careers, one man has been making an impression in his teenage years.

Federer had cast his eye over red-headed Italian teenager Jannik Sinner on Monday and Nadal, too gave his assessment on a man he practised with before the tournament’s start.

When it was put to Nadal that Sinner – the world No. 82 who won his first Grand Slam main draw match against Max Purcell on Tuesday – is seven places higher in the ATP rankings than Djokovic was at the same age, Nadal quipped: ‘I think Jannik will be very happy if in 15 years he has the same career as Novak.

‘They’re just statistics. All that matters is how much he’ll be able to improve. That’s it. That’s the only thing that matters in this sport.

Sinner has impressed the game’s biggest names (Picture: Getty)

‘You can remember a lot of good names, that I will not name today or now to respect to them, who at 18 years old had a lot of good perspectives in the future and it never happened that good.

‘Personally I think this will not be the case because my feeling is he’s a humble guy, a hard worker. I practised with him the other day. He has a good character on court, he’s positive. I see him having a great tennis career. He has everything to achieve a great tennis career.

‘The only thing he needs to do in my opinion is have the right people around and work.’





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