The 2022 season will begin with the Big 3 paired at 20 Slams each. Rafael Nadal equaled his historic rival Roger Federer last year at Roland Garros, while Novak Djokovic closed the gap with his resounding 2021. By winning three of the four Majors staged this year, the world number 1 achieved the 'hook and even had a chance to overtake the US Open.
With the 'Calendar Grand Slam' up for grabs, the Serbian phenomenon was unable to handle the pressure and surrendered sharply to Daniil Medvedev in the final. In spite of the New York joke, it seems evident that the 34-year-old from Belgrade is the one with the greatest chance of ending his career at the top of this special ranking.
Roger turned 40 last August and underwent yet another knee operation, with many doubts related to his return. Rafa has played just seven official tournaments this season, as well as having to deal with a nagging foot problem.
In a recent interview for the MARCA website, Toni Nadal analyzed the Big 3 statistics in detail.
Toni Nadal on the Big 3
Rafael Nadal, who made his main draw slam debut in 2003, had only managed to play 62 slam events in his 18-year long career.
Even though the Spaniard was largely restricted to clay-court greatness, his records on grass and hard courts were on par with both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Appearing in 28 finals, Nadal emerged victorious in 20 and runners-up in 8 of them.
Talking in a podcast published by Spanish sports website Marca, Toni said, “When I saw that Rafael [at 23 or 24 years old] had already [won every] Grand Slam, I started to think that he could win a lot and that he could aspire to be one of the best.
If you look at the numbers, the best is Federer or Djokovic. But Rafael has missed many Grand Slam tournaments with injuries and faced others while injured,” Toni concluded. Iga Swiatek has been a long-time admirer of Rafael Nadal, and her dream of practicing alongside the Mallorcan came true at this year's Roland Garros.
Swiatek trained for about 20 minutes with Nadal ahead of her first-round match against Kaja Juvan in Paris. "You know, like tennis-wise, I don't think he was playing 100%," Swiatek said. "So well, first of all, I was just super excited because that was my birthday present from my psychologist.
So I wasn't expecting that at all," Swiatek added. "I was pretty stressed at the beginning because I didn't know if I would be able to talk to him normally or if I would stutter!"