Rafael Nadal on his ‘healthy ambition’ and how personal motivation and not Big Three rivalry shaped his career

A smiling Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal has opened up about his hopes of winning more Grand Slams, but he insists he is not “obsessed” with records while he also feels personal motivation and not his rivalry with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have inspired him to bigger and better things.

When the Spaniard won a record-extending 12th title at Roland Garros in September 2020, he drew level with long-time rival Federer on 20 Grand Slams.

With world No 1 Djokovic just two majors behind them following his success at this year’s Australian Open, the race for the most Grand Slam titles is hotly contested affair and one of the most-talked about topics in tennis.

Although Nadal admits he would love to win more majors, he told Metro.co.uk in an exclusive interview that it is a “health ambition”.

“I enjoy what I am doing,” the 34-year-old said. “I am happy playing tennis…. I want to win more Slams, yes. No doubt about that.

“But I never get – I mean, Novak is more obsessed about this, more focused… [pauses for a moment before quickly shaking his hand and head adding:] “Not in a negative way.

“No, he’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him all of this stuff. Like he’s always saying and talking about these records and well done for him… but it’s not my approach to my tennis career.

“I have a healthy ambition. Of course, I am ambitious, if not I would never be in the position I am today but I have probably a different kind of ambition than him, for example. I just keep going, keep doing what I’m doing and just try to put myself in a position to keep enjoying the tour and, of course, try to achieve as much as possible.

“I am super satisfied about the career I’m having. Not today, I was super satisfied years ago already but I am not making a step back in motivation because of that. I don’t get frustrated if I am losing one tournament, I am trying to approach the thing in a different way.”

Nadal’s rivalry with Federer and Djokovic and the debate about who will end up as the greatest player of all time has transcended tennis.

Many believe that the Big Three have pushed each other to greater heights, but while Nadal admits that his two big foes have had an impact on his career, he believes his own ambition is the driving force behind his success.

“Well, of course, when you have great opponents in front, it helps to have a clear way about what you need to do to become better and better,” he said.

“I always had great opponents in front, since the beginning of my career I had Roger there and then Novak came a little bit later, but not much. I always had good examples of amazing players in front of me, competing for the same things so that helps to give you a clear way.

“But in some ways, I want to think – and I do believe it’s really like this – that my personal motivation is much higher than the motivation to have other players in front. I’m just playing for myself, for my team, for my fans, for my family, for myself, of course.

“Not for the others, no? Not for my rivals. I’m just trying – my approach to that is I always wanted to be a better tennis player, because I understand the sport like this. I understand the sport going on a practice session every day with the goal to improve something, with the goal to be better.

“Not because I need to be better because I have Roger or Novak in front of me. I want to think that I want to do it because that’s the way I understand the sport. And of course, having these kinds of players in front of you helps to give you a clear way about the things you need to do better.”

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