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Rafael Nadal downplays GOAT debate as he claims Djokovic and Federer race takes ‘backseat’

Rafael Nadal has downplayed the GOAT debate as he said the records took a “backseat” when he considered what he wanted to be his legacy when he eventually retired. The world No 2 is in a race to be the greatest with rivals Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer and currently holds the most Grand Slam titles, but said he didn’t care about being remembered for his records.

Nadal is currently on an exhibition match tour of South America with world No 3 Casper Ruud, and finally lost his first match of the series to the 23-year-old 6-4 6-4 in Ecuador. After arriving in Quinto for his latest exhibition with the Norwegian, the Spaniard was asked whether he thought he was the greatest male player when questioned about the legacy he wanted to leave behind.

“I don’t think about it. I think it’s something that takes a backseat,” the 92-time title winner said, rubbishing the idea that he wanted to end his career as the GOAT. “The important legacy is that all the people I have met during these 20 years of my career have a good human memory of me.”

Explaining how he wanted to be remembered instead, the 36-year-old continued: “At the end of the day, the personal issue, education, respect and the affection with which you can treat people comes before the professional issue, because that is what remains with time.”

Nadal’s words come off the back of a season that saw him break the record for most Grand Slam singles titles owned by a male player, as he won his 21st Major in Australia at the start of the year before extending his record to 22 by winning the French Open, which was also a historic 14th crown on the Parisian clay. He then had a less successful second half of the season after becoming plagued by injuries, playing just four events after pulling out of his Wimbledon semi-final with an abdominal tear.

He still managed to end the season at No 2 in the world behind fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, with the 19-year-old becoming the youngest year-end No 1 in ATP history. But Nadal didn’t think he could maintain his position near the top, as he said: “I don’t think it’s going to be a trend,” he said. “It’s difficult to maintain such a high level.

“I play very few events at this stage, so it’s difficult to maintain a very high ranking because you have to be very accurate in the events where you compete.” While he questioned whether he could keep his ranking, he was confident that Alcaraz deserved his spot at the top and could continue to improve.

“Carlos has incredible potential and that’s why he is where he is, because he deserves it, and he is also very young and has a lot of years ahead of him,” he added. “Casper was very close to being world No 1 and winning his first Grand Slam at the US Open.”

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