Nadal inspired by competition, not records

Spaniard insists what keeps him going is his 'passion for the game'

Rafael Nadal, finale, trophée, Roland-Garros 2022©Pauline Ballet / FFT
 - Simon Cambers

It’s a philosophy he has lived by his entire life. And despite breaking another set of records at Roland-Garros on Sunday, Rafael Nadal is not about to start changing his mindset now.

The 36-year-old picked up Roland-Garros title No.14 on Sunday, extending a record that will surely never be beaten with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over Casper Ruud, the Norwegian appearing in his first Grand Slam final.

It was a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title for Nadal; he’s the oldest man in history to win the Roland-Garros title and having also won in Australia at the start of the year, he’s halfway to the calendar-year Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

But Nadal has always seen things differently to most and he remains focused only on being the best he can be.

“It is very simple to understand for me,” Nadal told reporters at Roland-Garros on Sunday.

“I don't know, sometimes for you it's a little bit different. It's not about being the best of the history. It's not about the records. It's about I like what I do. I like to play tennis. And I like the competition.”

'Moments that stay inside me forever'

With 22 Grand Slam titles, Nadal now sits two clear of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the all-time list of male singles champions, more fodder for those who feel he is the GOAT (greatest of all time).

In an era when the 'Big Three' have dominated tennis like no other period in Open Era history, Nadal says he is simply not driven by records.

“As I said couple of times in the past and is not a thing that I repeat, is not the thing that I don't feel for me, we achieved our dreams. Me, Roger, Novak, we achieved things that probably we never expected," said the 36-year-old Mallorcan.

“For me, what drives me to keep going is not about the competition to try to be the best or to win more Grand Slams than the others.

"What drives me to keep going is the passion for the game, live moments that stay inside me forever, and play in front of the best crowds in the world and the best stadiums.

“That drives me, no? And the passion for what I do. Then of course if I don't feel myself competitive, I don't enjoy. So that's it. But is not about the goal about winning more titles. It's about a goal to give myself a chance to keep doing what I like to do.”

Rafael Nadal, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Messieurs, Finale, Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

A painful experience

Nadal described his 14th Roland-Garros as one of the most emotional of his career, not least because of the physical effort he had to put in, on and off the court.

The Spaniard arrived in Paris struggling with chronic pain in his left foot, an issue that has bothered him since 2005 and that flared up again last month in Rome.

To get through seven matches in Paris, he required drastic measures.

“Have been an amazing and very emotional two weeks,” he said. “I was able to play during these two weeks with extreme conditions.

“I have been playing with injections on the nerves to sleep the foot and that's why I was able to play during these two weeks, because I have no feelings on my foot, because my doctor was able to put anaesthetic injections on the nerves. That takes out the feeling on my foot.

“I don't want to talk about how many injections I had, because as you can imagine, I had to take a lot of anti-inflammatories too. But before every single match I had to do a couple of injections too.”

© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Uncertain future

Nadal said he will try a special treatment next week, which, if successful, will allow him to compete at Wimbledon. If it’s not, he’ll have to try other options.

“It's obvious that I can't keep competing with the foot asleep,” he said.

“So now is the moment to go back. We have been talking a lot about what's going on and what the possibility is.

"Knowing that if we are able to sleep the two nerves that creates an impact on the foot (and it) improves that much, then we can try to make a treatment to try to create this feeling in a permanent condition.

“I don't know how to say in English exactly the treatment, but it’s going to be a radio frequency injection on the nerve and trying to burn a little bit the nerve and create the impact that I have now on the nerve for a long period of time.

“That's what we are going to try. If that works, I am going to keep going. If that not works, then (it's) going to be another story.

"Then I am going to ask to myself about if I am ready to do a major thing without being sure that the things are going the proper way, for example. A major surgery that don't guarantee me to be able to be competitive again and it’s going take a long time to be back.”

Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud, Roland Garros 2022, final© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

But despite all the doubts, Nadal said he hoped to be ready for Wimbledon, where remarkably he would be chasing the third leg of the calendar-year Grand Slam.

“I'm going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” said Nadal, who is a two-time champion at the All England Club. “That's it. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I think nobody want to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.

“I had a lot of success there. I live amazing emotions there. So full credit and respect to the tournament. A player like me, I am always ready to play Wimbledon.

“So if you ask me if I will be in Wimbledon, I can't give you a clear answer. If I want to win Wimbledon, of course. Let's see how the treatment works. I don't know.”