Spain’s Rafael Nadal thinks tennis will remain the same once its “Big Four” retire, but he knows his generation has ruled over the sport for an impressive number of years.
“The current generation has been dominant, consistent and at a very high level,” the world number two told DPA in an interview.
Nadal will not express an opinion as to whether Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and himself is one of the best groups of players in history, because doing so would show “pretty major arrogance.” “But the other day I saw some statistics: of the 34 most recent majors, there has been just one winner outside the rankings’ top four (Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open), the rest went to Federer, Djokovic, Murray or me,” he said.
“Over the 34 previous majors there had been 18 different winners.” Over the course of his career, Nadal, 27, has had historic rivalries with former world number one Federer of Switzerland, and the currently top-ranked Serb Djokovic. However, he refuses to choose between his two top rivals.
“They are completely different matches, that you approach differently. They are special matches. With Federer, I have shared and continue to share a rivalry since I started out. We have lived very beautiful moments in our careers. But with Novak too,” he said.
“I feel happy to have been part of such rivalries, and to have played matches like the ones I have played against them both,” he said.
Nadal does not think that Federer is showing signs of weakness, for example in his recent temporary change of racket. Instead, the Spaniard sees such moves as proof that a player “wants to evolve, wants to look for something else.” “Even if things are going well, it does not mean that they cannot go better,” he noted.
Federer has won a record 17 grand slam tournaments but only one major in the past three years. Nadal thinks that means only that his priorities have changed.
“I don’t think his main goal is to return to the world number one spot. That is my feeling. His goal is to stay competitive to win tournaments that he really wants to win, more than being world number one,” Nadal said of his historic rival.
Nadal thinks his sport will survive the retirement of its dominant “Big Four,” however.
“Tennis without Federer will still be tennis,” he said.
“It will have lost one of the most important ambassadors it has ever had in its history, but the same will happen when Djokovic retires, when Murray retires, when I retire...”