By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal would love to add more silverware to a bursting trophy cabinet at the end of the Australian Open but says beating Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles would probably not make him any happier in the long run.
Top seed Nadal, with 19 major titles one short of Federer’s mark, opened his campaign at Melbourne Park in style on Tuesday, hammering unseeded Bolivian Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-3 6-0 at a sunbathed Rod Laver Arena.
At 33, the reigning French and U.S. Open champion remains at the top of his game and even if he fails to win a 20th Grand Slam in Melbourne he will be heavily backed to do it at Roland Garros, where he has triumphed 12 times in the last 15 editions.
Nadal, however, said he was only focused on Wednesday’s practice before his next match.
“If I am able to reach my highest level, that’s the thing that I have to worry about,” Nadal told reporters after setting up a clash with either Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa.
“If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances. If not, impossible.
“So, I don’t care about 20 or 15 or 16 (Grand Slam titles). I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career.
“It’s not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?
“I don’t think in the future …. achieving 21 Grand Slams, for example, I’m going to be happier than if I (have) 19 in 10 years.”
Nadal claimed his only Australian Open title in 2009, when he beat Federer in the final and left the Swiss in tears.
He has since lost four times in the Melbourne title-decider, including last year’s straight sets trouncing by Novak Djokovic and the 2017 final against Federer.
Djokovic, third on the men’s all-time list with 16 Grand Slam trophies, also had Nadal’s measure in the 2012 final, a nearly six-hour epic, but the Spaniard was unlucky to suffer an injury in the 2014 decider against Stan Wawrinka.
“I went through a couple of things, more than in New York honestly,” Nadal, a four-times U.S. Open champion, said when asked about his relatively lean Australian Open record.
“But I don’t know. Maybe the conditions are better for me in New York than here. That’s the only reason that I can find.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)