Rafael Nadal puts pressure back on Novak Djokovic after pulling ahead in Grand Slam race

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Rafael Nadal has put all of the pressure back on Novak Djokovic in the Grand Slam race despite pulling ahead of his rival by winning a 22nd Major title at the French Open on Sunday. The Spaniard is now two clear of Djokovic and Roger Federer who are tied on 20 each but believes the Serb has the best chance of ending his career with the biggest haul.

Nadal won a record-extending 14th French Open title and 22nd overall Grand Slam on Sunday, extending his lead as the all-time record holder in men’s tennis. The world No 5 had already broken the Grand Slam record at the start of the season by winning his 21st Major in Australia.

The Roland Garros victory allowed him to pull further ahead from Djokovic and Federer, who are tied on 20 Majors each. But the 36-year-old has now piled the pressure on his Serbian rival to go on and surpass his current record by claiming that the world No 1 is the favourite to end on the most Grand Slam titles.

“Anything can happen,” Nadal said of his record, speaking to the ATP Tour. “Clearly, Novak is in the best position to be able to beat that because he has no physical problems, and he’s playing at a spectacular level.”

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Nadal beat Djokovic en route to his 14th title at Roland Garros, getting revenge over the top seed with a four-set quarter-final victory after losing to him in the semi-final stage last year. It was the third successive year with a meeting between the two rivals in Paris, as the Spaniard also beat the 35-year-old in the 2020 final.

The 36-year-old got off to a quick start this year, leading 6-2 3-0 before Djokovic broke him in an 18-minute marathon game and ended up coming from behind to win the second set 6-4. But the Spaniard made his own comeback from 2-5 down in the fourth to win 6-2 4-6 6-2 7-6(4).

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And Nadal touched on their meeting this year, admitting that his performance in 2020 was still better. “In the final year of 2020, this is the best, but you have the most emotion for the result,” he said.

“I was playing very well, but I couldn’t keep it in the second set,” he admitted of this year’s clash. “Intensity is a habit. It was a surprise that in the third half it was possible to play aggressively, with determination.”

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