Belonging to a generation of era-defining champions is of greater importance to Spanish juggernaut Rafael Nadal than his long-term rivalry with Roger Federer.
World number one Nadal won his third US Open and 16th grand slam title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 demolition of South African Kevin Anderson, triggering speculations on his chances of surpassing Federer’s record of 19 major championships.
“Of course this rivalry has been important for our sport, in my opinion,” Nadal said of his battles with the Swiss great. “That involved a lot of people, and because of different styles, different characters, and we played for the most important things for such a long time, I think that was the great promotion for our sport,” Nadal told a news conference.
“I feel happy to be part of this rivalry, but at the same time, I played even more matches with Novak (Djokovic) than with Roger in such important matches, too.”
Since Nadal won the first of this 10 French Open titles, he, Federer and Djokovic have won 43 of the 51 grand slams. “In my career, I have been involved in different rivalries. I feel lucky to be part of all of them in some way. In another way, I have been in an era where three players achieved 19, 16 and 12 (grand slams),” he said, referring to himself, Federer and Djokovic.
“That’s a lot, no? There is a remarkable part of the history of our sport. So that means was difficult for everybody to win titles in this part of the, in this era.” Since then, only Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic have managed to win major titles.
“That’s difficult to find some players in the same generation that achieve all the things that we achieved,” Nadal said. “We are in an era that is not nice to say, because I’m part of it, but we are in an era that some players make incredible things in this sport, no?
“Happy to be part of it, and I feel lucky to be part of it and enjoying the fact that I have been involved in some way in the two rivalries. That is amazing, no?”
Nadal and Djokovic have played each other 50 times, the Serbian prevailing 26 times but losing three of their four grand slam final encounters. The Spaniard has a 23-14 win-loss record against Federer and he won six of their nine finals at a major.
“I think nobody played more matches against each other like Novak and I and with Roger, because we competed for such a long time for the first and second spots and competed for most important events,” said Nadal.
“It’s been great but at the same time, there have been difficult moments to win a lot of titles, but in some way, we should be very happy, no? Because us three, we still won a lot of things, and probably even Roger and me or Novak even much more than we ever dreamed.
“We feel very happy about all the things that happened to us, and probably everybody, we feel lucky in some way.”