Rafa Nadal is not ready for Roland Garros to be renamed in his honour, but he can picture a time when he might be the one handing out the trophies in Paris rather than breaking records on court.
He bosses the French Open, defeating great rival Novak Djokovic 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 on Sunday to become the first man to win nine titles at any Grand Slam event.
But when asked whether the stadium, named after a French aviator when it was built in 1928, should be called Nadal Garros if he won even more, he told reporters, smiling: “The name is very nice, Roland Garros, so don’t need to change nothing.”
The world number one’s win over the Serbian second seed equalled Pete Sampras’s haul of 14 Grand Slam titles, putting him joint-second on the all-time list, three shy of Roger Federer, but Nadal demurred over any comparisons between them.
“The most important thing today is I won the most important tournament of the world in clay, probably the most important tournament of the year for me,” he said.
His tears at winning and hearing the Spanish anthem booming over Philippe Chatrier were not just for the landmarks reached on Sunday, but the realisation, having celebrated his birthday this week, that it will not get any easier as he gets older.
Hanging up his racket
“Last year was with 27; this year is with 28. That’s not forever. You know how hard is all the things that I am doing here. You want to enjoy the moment. You feel your emotions when you are there and you did it,” he said.
“You have a few more opportunities, yes, but you don’t know if you’re going to win it again.”
When he does hang up his racket though, he may be back at Roland Garros handing out trophies to the stars of tomorrow.
“I would love to do it, hopefully,” he said. “Tennis is a thing that I did during almost all my life. So if I am healthy, nothing happens, I would love to be back in the future here for sure.
“Having past champions or very important champions of our history in our sport involved in tennis, coming to the big events, supporting, keep supporting our sport, makes our sport bigger,” he added.
Before six-times French Open champion Björn Borg did the honours with the Musketeers’ Cup on the podium on Sunday, 33 years after his last win in Paris, a montage of his finest moments were beamed onto court.
For Nadal, they will need a longer showreel. – Reuters