Rafael Nadal may be one grand slam away from equalling Roger Federer’s record and could finish the year overtaking Novak Djokovic to become world number one – but he insists he is chasing no one.
Nadal won his 19th major title in dramatic fashion after holding off a remarkable comeback from Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s US Open final.
He led by two sets and a break but ended up playing for almost five hours before closing out a breathless 7-5 6-3 5-7 4-6 6-4 victory.
A fourth US Open title has opened up the possibility of stealing a march on his two ‘big three’ rivals, but the 33-year-old Spaniard said: “I don’t look (at) it that way.
“I always say the same, I would love to be the one who wins more, but I am not thinking and I am not going to practice every day or not play tennis for it. I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis.
“I feel honoured to be part of this battle. But you can’t be all day looking next to you if one has more or one has a little bit less, because you will be frustrated.
“I would love to be the one who has more, yes. But I really believe that I will not be happier or less happy if that happens or does not happen.
“What gives you the happiness is the personal satisfaction that you’ve given your best. In that way I am very, very calm, very pleased with myself.
“If I am able to be number one doing it my way, great. But it’s not my main goal.
“Of course, it’s great to be in that fight. But for me personally, it’s not really a fight. I just try be competitive the weeks that I need to compete, or the weeks that I want to compete.
“With my age and with my goals, I cannot lose energy or time following the number one. I need to think about my career in a different way.
“For me, my main goal is play as long as possible and compete, being competitive.
“But I am there. If I am able to play well until the end of the season, I’m going to have my chances.”
Medvedev, who came so close to breaking the hegemony of the ‘big three’, is now officially the next cab off the rank having moved up to four in the world.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s really tough because these guys, they are playing amazing tennis.
“It’s really tough to beat them, even to get a set from them, even every game to win is tough. We’re just doing our best job to try to make it happen sometimes.”