Rafael Nadal, the undoubted “King of Clay” will turn 35 during Roland Garros. The Spaniard is equal on Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer. The Swiss is the oldest of the “Big Three,” and Federer will likely end his career on less Major titles than his rivals.
Nadal, however, is pushing to be the best male player ever by overtaking the Swiss. The next chance will come in June at the French Open. Should the Spaniard win in Paris, he is the favourite with the bookmakers, then Nadal will move ahead of Federer with 21 Slams.
Clay is his best surface, as evidenced by the fact Nadal has 60 titles so far on the red dirt. It would be foolish to think he cannot win. The Spaniard currently has 13 French Open titles. If Nadal wins in Paris this year, he will have as many French Open titles as Pete Sampras won Major titles [in total] over his illustrious career.
Novak Djokovic is the youngest of the trio, and should have more years ahead of him. The Serbian wants to finish as the best male player ever and is hungry to beat both Federer and Nadal in slam titles.
Rafael Nadal hopes he has at least two more years at the top
The Spaniard has a different take on his tennis future. Speaking to Metro, Nadal knows that retirement will have to come at some point. The current World #3 believes that he can still be competitive for at least the next couple of years. Obviously, he wants more if he can. “Of course, I will not be playing until the age of 45, no?
“I am always trying to do things as best as possible to play as long as possible. As everybody knows, of course it’s going to arrive one day that you cannot keep going. For the moment, I’m happy what I’m doing. I’m enjoying it and I hope to have the chance to keep around the tournaments for the next couple of years.”
Still enjoying Tennis
Nadal continued “I enjoy what I am doing, I want to win more Slams, yes. No doubt about that.” Enjoying the sport is something that is vital as the players get older. With injuries hitting more often, enjoying playing should be a priority for the older players on tour. If you don’t enjoy your job, why would you do it?
The Spaniard has had a long career to date, twenty years in a sport he loves. Although he wants to win more, Nadal is very happy with his success to date. The World #3 does not get frustrated now when he loses at a tournament (like a recent quarterfinal loss in Monte Carlo, where he holds a record 11 titles). Nadal will keep playing all the time he is enjoying it, and physically able to.
When Sampras won his 14th Grand Slam, it seemed back then, that was the greatest achievement and that no one would surpass it. All of the “Big Three: have done just that. Yet Nadal is the one who could lead the others as soon as this season. Winning the French Open for a 14th time would be impressive, and is certainly not beyond Nadal as it stands.
How much longer will he continue to play is uncertain. Nadal is certainly not in any rush to retire; however, he knows that day will eventually come. Age and injuries will catch up will all of the Big three, who will finish with the highest number of slams is yet to be seen. However, it is clear that it will either be the Spaniard or Djokovic.
Will any of the “NextGen” match the records of Sampras, Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal? Probably not, as only Dominic Theim is the only player outside the “Big Three” to win a Slam, and he is 27 so hardly a youngster himself. No one else has won a slam outside the big three since 2017.
Rafael Nadal should finish top of the tree, and will likely win the French Open this year.
Main Photo from Getty.