Rafael Nadal stands a victory away from records aplenty with his comfortable semifinal win against Diego Schwartzman on Friday at Court Philippe Chatrier that sent him to his 13th French Open final where he will face an old nemesis, Novak Djokovic. But only one seems to be highlighted ever since his return to tennis action after the pandemic-forced break which is tying the record for the all-time Grand Slam tally in men's singles.
A win on Sunday implies Nadal will be tied with Roger Federer at the top of the all-time major tally with 20 titles. His presently tally of 19 majors included four US Open trophies, two at Wimbledon, one Australian Open trophy and a record 12 at the Roland Garros.
The win would also take his elite French Open tally to 13. He already holds the record for most trophies at a single Grand Slam event in Open Era, male or female. But a 13th title would tie him at the top spot for the most single tour-level event wins in Open Era, male or female with Martina Navratilova who has won the WTA event in Chicago 12 times.
Nadal is presently 99-2 in French Open, hence the Sunday win would take imply 100 wins in Paris, a feat no other player, male or female has achieved in French Open. The triple-digit has however been achieved by players at all the other Grand Slam events.
Nadal will also become the second man after Djokovic in open Era to win a Grand Slam title in three different decades - 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. The Serb had earlier this year become the first player with his Australian Open title. He will also become the first man in Open Era to win six majors after turning 30. Serena Williams holds the record with 10 titles after turning 30.
But more than these, Nadal is focussed on his Sunday opponent who is the second player in tennis history to defeat Nadal at French Open.
“The only thing I know is to play against Novak, I need to play my best,” he said after his semifinal win on Friday. “Without playing my best tennis, the situation is very difficult. I know that it’s a court that I have been playing well on for such a long time, so that helps. But at the same time he has an amazing record here, too, being in the final rounds almost every single time.”
This will be their 56th tour-level meeting with the Serb leading the head-t-head tie 29-26. However, Nadal leads in 9-6 in Grand Slam meetings and 6-1 at Roland Garros. He has also previously defeated Djokovic in two finals at French Open - 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in the 2012 and 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in the 2014.
“It’s one of the toughest opponents possible, but I am here to keep trying my best,” Nadal said. “I like to play in this scenario. I know I have to make a step forward. I think I did one today. But for Sunday it’s not enough. I need to make another one. That’s what I’m looking for.
“I’m going to work hard to try to make that happen.”