Rafa Nadal’s 19th Slam Is A Matter Of Celebration. Why Has It Become Conditional?

NEW YORK, September 9, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)

So, Daniil Medvedev reached the final, Daniil Medvedev tried his best, and at the end of five pulsating sets, Rafael Nadal bit into to his 19th Slam title at Flushing Meadows on Sunday.

Now, getting to 19 Slams in itself is an incredible feat. For the tennis community, that has been immersed in the debate about who will end up with the most Slam titles among Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Nadal, the win seems to be just part of the whole. Pinpointing it further, Nadal’s fourth US Open title, putting his record in New York City (in the finals) to 4-1 has been put out as a cog in a wheel of him equalling – before surpassing – Federer’s record of 20 Slams.

The conversation being steered in that direction is not a surprise. The domination of the fabled Big Three coupled has given them the stature of invincibility. This reputation of theirs has become weather-beaten after ebb and renaissance in the last few years. So, at a time, when the troika keeps thwarting the two, fellow-rivalling big-wigs as much as it does the other-ranked players, it is rational to know and accept the origins of such comparisons.

Is it justified to keep rehashing it, though? For one, it is distracting from Nadal’s recent triumph. For another – and most significantly – it is a redundant dragging in of his nemeses in what should be his victory to savour, and remark upon.

In his press conference after his final victory, the Mallorcan was asked another variant of whether he was thinking about possessing the record of the men’s player with the most Slams? His answer was blunt. “I give myself another chance. That’s the personal satisfaction. That’s the personal happiness,” he said.

“You win, you lose. That’s part of all the sport. Of course, I would love to be the one who achieve more Grand Slams, but I still sleep very well without being the one who have more Grand Slams. I am happy about my career. I am very happy about what I’m doing.”

Looking back to some of his previous press addresses – including those at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center this year – the 33-year-old has been giving a similar reply to each of these queries. And, going back to these inquiries, it is hard to understand whether they are put forth so as to try and get a different reply from the now 19-time Slam champion. Or whether there is more than insouciant inquisitiveness at play.

Nonetheless, what is at play is the consequence – one of meaningful relevance – of Nadal’s US Open win. That no matter how keen tennis’ observers may be keen to club each of these players into one entity, their paths were, are, and will be divergent. As such, it does not matter who wins the biggest number of Slams. There will always be someone to come up with a new number. It could happen sooner, or it may take a while – as it did with Pete Sampras’ record.

Numbers can be retallied but it’s players’ legacies that will extend indefinitely without time having any say in it. Be it 14, or 19, or 20.