Even after climbing to within one Grand Slam singles title of all-time leader Roger Federer, four-time US Open winner Rafael Nadal insists he’s not got his eye on the prize.
And the 33-year-old adds that he doesn’t worry about surpassing Novak Djokovic to take back the top ATP ranking either.
“I would love to be the one who win more (major titles), but I am not thinking and I not going to practise every day, (I’m not) playing tennis for it,” he said after holding off rising threat Daniil Medvedev in five sets at the weekend to win the Open after nearly five hours of battle.
“I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis,” said the winner of his 19th Slam.
Due simply to his clay court magic – he owns a record dozen titles at Roland Garros – the 33-year-old surely threatens to level with Swiss rival Federer at next year’s French Open, should he win it yet again and Federer does not win in Australia to start 2020.
But Nadal will not go there in his mind when there is the rest of the current tennis calendar to deal with.
“I can’t just think about Grand Slams, tennis is more than Grand Slams. I need to think about the rest of the things.”
“I play to be happy – and of course, the victory of today makes me super happy,” he said in New York after just holding off the hard-charging, ice-calm Medvedev over the full five-set distance, winning on a third match point.
“If that competition attracts fans and create interest (for) the people, that’s good for our sport, no? I feel honored to be part of this battle.”
Nadal admitted: “You cannot be all days looking next to you about if one having more or one having little bit less (Grand Slam titles, for instance) because you will be frustrated.
“All the things that I achieved in my career are much more than what I ever thought and what I ever dream.”
While he plays down any overtaking of the third-ranked 38-year-old Federer who lost in the Open quarters to Grigor Dimitrov, Nadal would certainly not object to somehow winning another major or two.
“What gives you happiness is the personal satisfaction that you gave your best. In that way I am very, very calm, very pleased with myself.”
In addition to climbing the Grand Slam victory ladder, Nadal now seriously threatens the top ranking position of Djokovic, whose event ended in the fourth round last week to Stan Wawrinka.
“If’ I’m able to be No. 1 doing it my way, great. But I always say the same: that is not my goal.
“It’s great to be in that fight. But for me personally, is 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 to follow the No. 1. I need to think about my career in a different way.”
Nadal added: “My main goal is play as long as possible and compete, being competitive. Sometimes if you need to follow the No. 1 (dream) , you going to lose years of your career.
“But if I’m able to play well until the end of the season, I’m going to have my chances. That is going to be amazing. But that is not my main goal today.”