For an athlete to have so much success at a single event is completely unprecedented, while Nadal also distinguished himself from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic by winning 22 Grand Slam titles against 20 for his rivals.
“Don’t think good old Phillippe (Chatrier) would care if his court changed the name to Rafael Nadal – (one) statue is not enough.”
But Nadal, always keen to underestimate his exploits, believes his record at Roland Garros could one day be improved.
“I still think of myself as 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 possible that someone can increase this record. I’m sure it will happen; 14 Roland Garros is something … very difficult. “
In the 17 years between Nadal’s first and most recent Roland-Garros title, he has lost just three matches on clay in Paris – two against Djokovic, including in the semi-finals last year, and one against Robin Soderling.
Sunday’s victory 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 both the Australian Open and the French Open in the same calendar year to keep him away from Federer and Djokovic. grand slam tally.
“Of course I want to be the player with (the most) Grand Slam tournaments in history – that’s the competition,” Nadal said.
“But it’s not something I’m obsessed with (by) and it’s not something that changed my mind… Honestly, it’s something I don’t mind if Novak win 23 and stay with 22. I don’t think my happiness will change at all, not even one percent.”
Play while injured
The events leading up to this year’s French Open will likely make this title particularly special – and not least unlikely – for Nadal.
At last month’s Italian Open, he pulled out of the tournament against Denis Shapovalov in the round of 16 as he battled a foot injury – a lingering problem that Nadal said required daily injections to Roland-Garros in order to continue playing and training.
This meant he played the final without any feeling in his foot.
“After the pandemic, something happened in my foot. I’m not able to deal with the pain to play often and even train,” said Nadal, who has been plagued with injury problems throughout. throughout his career.
“The only thing I can say is to take on all these challenges, I still have the passion to continue and I still have the love of the game,” he added. “I always wanted to continue. That’s probably why I’m in the position I’m in today.”
During Sunday’s press conference, Nadal said he would undergo a “radiofrequency injection” on the nerve in his foot in an attempt to relieve pain and continue playing.
Whether he takes part in Wimbledon later this month depends on the success of this treatment, and as of now, his long-term future in the sport is unclear.
“I never had in mind (the intention) to announce a retirement after this event, but of course things may not improve,” he said. “So I don’t know what can happen.”
Is the “King of Clay” now simply “The King”?
Winning the first two Grand Slams of the year means Nadal, for the first time in his career, can potentially win a Grand Slam on the calendar by triumphing at Wimbledon and the US Open.
It’s a feat that Djokovic came within a game of completing last year, and that no male player has achieved since Rod Laver in 1969.
“The odds are low 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 is no longer his best surface, it’s been a while since he won. But how can you not give it a try if you’re in good health?”
Even if it adds nothing to his Grand Slam tally, it will be impossible to question Nadal’s status as one of the greatest to play the game. ” can be remembered simply as “the king”.
“I achieved my dream and I love what I do,” said Nadal, who remains indifferent to his ranking among his peers.
“I know the press and people always care a lot about this stuff, but in a way I’m an important part of sports history and that makes me proud and happy.
“In the end, it doesn’t matter much.”