Nadal: “With respect to titles, Djokovic is the best in history. The rest is taste.”

The 37-year-old also said he would be open to playing doubles with Carlos Alcaraz at the Olympics in Paris next summer

Rafael Nadal golf 2023 Zuma / Panoramic

Statistics can be spun in many ways but numbers do tell a significant story and when it comes to Grand Slam titles, there’s no doubting that Novak Djokovic has forged ahead at the top of the all-time men’s list – and may well soon go on to break the all-time record of 24 he shares with Margaret Court.

Rafael Nadal sits two behind him with 22, having been off the Tour since the Australian Open. Having had surgery on his injured psoas muscle, the 37-year-old Spaniard is continuing his recovery, hoping to return to the Tour in 2024.

Nothing is impossible, and if Nadal does return, it will mean he believes he can win the sport’s biggest titles. It’s entirely plausible that he has another French Open in him, if all goes well, even if Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will make that incredibly difficult.

Having already spoken to Spanish TV (Movistar +) the day before, Nadal spoke to newspaper AS, discussing a number of topics, from his recovery to his hopes for next year, from the Olympics to Novak Djokovic.

“I congratulate Novak for everything he is achieving”

And on the subject of Djokovic, Nadal said the Serb had proven he is the best ever, in terms of titles won.

“I believe that numbers are numbers and statistics are statistics, and in that sense, I think he has better numbers than mine and that is indisputable,” Nadal said. “I do not have an ego big enough to try to disguise a reality that is not. This is the truth. The rest are tastes, inspiration, sensations that one or the other may transmit to you, that you may like one or the other more. 

“I think that with respect to titles, Djokovic is the best in history and there is nothing to discuss in that. Then, as always, everyone can combine the story as they wish, saying that I have suffered many injuries – bad luck for me or bad luck that I had my body this way. 

“He has had another (path) and in some ways that is also part of the sport. I congratulate him for everything he is achieving and that does not cause me any type of frustration. I have said it when I was the one who won the most Slams, I said it when we were tied and I say it now that I am behind. I am not going to be the one who tries, through a personal struggle, to want to be what I am not. What is, is and what is not, is not. I say this very satisfied with everything I have done.”

Doubles with Alcaraz at Olympics would be good motivation

Nadal repeated many of the things he had said to Movistar +; that he hopes to return at a competitive level, that the French Open will be a main goal, that he could even play beyond 2024, if his body is good and his motivation remains high.

As for the Olympics, Nadal says he has not spoken to Carlos Alcaraz yet about playing doubles, but admits it’s a tantalising proposition.

“For the Games, on a personal level, I would like to play them one more time,” he said. “Everyone knows that I have always been a lover of the Games. I have lived incredible moments of co-existence, of seeing what sport is in its pure essence. 

“Regarding the fact of playing doubles with Carlos, I have not had the slightest conversation with him in that regard. But I would also like (it) and it would be a good motivation, another incentive for me to be able to close my Olympic cycle playing with Carlos, with everything he is achieving, with the young people and with the great future he has ahead of him.”

Nadal cautious on his recovery

Nadal said he feels his recovery is going OK but will know more in a couple of months’ time.

“I don’t know, I like to be cautious,” he said. “They say that everything has gone well, but…the reality is that I like to be cautious and wait to see if the deadlines that in theory have to be met are met and everything is fine, I am as we all hope I am. I am referring to the doctors, my team and myself. 

“For now, it seems that everything has gone well, but it has been an important operation and the truth is that you have to have a little more patience. I walk with lead feet, very slowly trying to assimilate the things we are doing day by day.”

Nadal said he is on the court every day, as well as working in the gym and doing his rehab.

“In the end it is a time to make an effort, many times without seeing immediate results,” he said. “I know how that works. But trusting that in two months, things will change radically and that I will have the opportunity to prepare as I would like for next year.”

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