Novak Djokovic is chasing records and history, but Rafael Nadal made it clear in Paris that he couldn’t be more different from the Serb.
Rafael Nadal extended his lead in the men’s Grand Slam race on Monday, but he is not focused on finishing ahead of his biggest rivals.
the Spaniard won his 22nd major trophy with a comfortable straight sets victory over Casper Ruud — putting him two titles away from Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
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But while tennis fans are obsessed with the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) debate on the men’s side, the man of the moment is not.
Nadal was quick to dismiss any suggestion of his motivation to finish his career with more majors than Federer and Djokovic, who have both won 20 grand slams.
“It’s very easy for me to understand. I don’t know, sometimes it’s a little different for you (the media),” Nadal said when asked what drives him at age 36, even as he moves through the debilitating pain from a serious foot injury that threatens his career†
“It’s not about being the best in history, it’s not about the records, it’s about enjoying what I do, I like playing tennis and I like the competition.
“We have achieved our dreams – me, Roger, Novak. We have achieved things that we probably never expected.
“What drives me to continue is not the competition to try to be the best, to win more grand slams than the others.
“What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game. To live moments that will stay in me forever and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums. That is what drives me and the passion for what I do.
“Obviously, if I’m not feeling competitive, I’m not enjoying it, so that’s it.
“It’s not about winning more titles. It’s about the goal of giving myself a chance to keep doing what I love.”
It’s a very different point of view from Djokovic, who has been vocal in the past about being motivated by trophies and time spent as the world’s No. 1 – a ranking he has held longer than any other player in men’s history, having spent 311 weeks at the top last year.
“I really appreciate all the records and achievements. Historically, being the number 1 in the world is probably the most important achievement of our sport,” Djokovic said in November.
It was something Nadal himself noted about Djokovic in 2021.
“He’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him, all these things,” Nadal said. “Like he always says and talks about these records and well done to him, but it’s not my approach to my tennis career.”
Nadal is now level with Steffi Graf on 22 grand slams, behind only Serena Williams (23) and Margaret Court (24). Whether he will be able to add to that number remains to be seen after he revealed the full extent of his foot injury after his 14th French Open triumph.
The southpaw said he can’t keep playing if he has to keep his troublesome foot numb, and admitted: “I can’t go on like this, but I’m working on a solution”.
“Obviously with the conditions I’m playing in, I can’t and won’t continue, so the mentality is very clear. I will continue to work to find a solution and improvement for what is happening in the foot,” he added.
Nadal revealed he required pain-killing injections in his left foot before every game and will be treated again in Spain this week.
“If it works, I’ll continue. If not, it will be a different story and I will ask myself if I am ready for a major operation that may not guarantee that I will be competitive and it could be a long time before I get back.”
Nadal said taking numbing injections into the nerves in his foot was the only way to get through the tournament.
Now he and his medical team will use a technique that will burn the nerve using what he described as “radiofrequency injections” to “put the two nerves to sleep.”
Nadal said he plans to play Wimbledon, where he is a two-time champion and will start in three weeks.
“I’ll go to Wimbledon when my body is ready to play Wimbledon. That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament I want to miss,” he said.
“I love Wimbledon. So if you ask me if I’m at Wimbledon, I can’t give you a straight answer. Let’s see how the treatment works.” If the treatment works and he can survive on anti-inflammatories and not sedation, he will be in the All England Club after finishing last year’s tournament.
“If I can play with anti-inflammatories, yes; to play with anesthetic injections, no. I don’t want to put myself in that position again.”
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