Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic differ on record-setting ambitions

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic differ on record-setting ambitions

Nadal and Djokovic sparred over the meaning of the word "ambition" over the weekend when the 20-time major champion felt his Serbian rival was more focused on records.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are both chasing the Grand Slam record—but only one of them wants to talk about it.

Nadal has won a record-tying 20 Grand Slams alongside Roger Fedrer, and is a perennial favorite for the French Open, while Djokovic won his 18th major at the Australian Open.

Though Djokovic has spoken of aiming for the record, Nadal has downplayed the Grand Slam race.

"Of course, I want to win more Slams, yes. No doubt about that," Nadal told Metro. "Novak is more obsessed about this, more focused."

Nadal added that his comment was not in a "negative way," saying, "No, he’s more focused on just these things and it means a lot to him all of this stuff. Like he’s always saying and talking about these records.

"But it’s not my approach to my tennis career."

Nevertheless, the Spaniard also has goals he wants to achieve in his career.

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"Of course, I am ambitious; if not, I would never be in the position I am today, but I have probably a different kind of ambition than him," said Nadal. "I just keep going, keep doing what I’m doing and just try to put myself in a position to keep enjoying the tour and, of course, try to achieve as much as possible."

Djokovic did not agree with Nadal's characterization.

"Personally, I do not feel that I am obsessed with anything," he was quoted as saying at the Serbian Open. "I am going towards achieving my goals and I have never had a problem verbalizing it. 

"I do not know why would that be a bad thing, not just in terms of records, but anything, [like] politics in tennis, for instance."

Their different approaches have come up in both those subjects recently. Djokovic is now also the player with the most weeks at the No. 1 ATP ranking, breaking Federer's record, which Nadal recently described as "just another" of the trio's achievements. Djokovic's backing of an independent player group is in contrast with Nadal's return to the ATP Player Council, with Nadal saying "some need to make public all these things we do for others while some of us do it in a more private way."

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Each has found a way of succeeding, suggests Djokovic.

"I have said a lot of times in the past that the love for the sport is the main motive why I keep playing professional tennis," he said.

"Ever since I was a young player, I did not fear voicing my goals—I wanted to be No.1 and to win Slams. Of course, those goals are growing—when you fulfill one, another one appears. It is my path, and it is unique, just like Rafa’s.

"It is all a matter of perception and interpretation of what one says. I respect Rafa, probably more than any other player in the world.

"Everything he has achieved, his dedication to tennis and the way he goes about practicing and tennis in general, these traits of his are worthy of admiration. He knows what sources of motivation he has, I cannot go into that."

Djokovic is No.1 in the rankings. Nadal is No.3 in the rankings.