Roger Federer paid tribute to long-time rival and friend Rafael Nadal after the Spaniard equalled his all-time record of 20 Grand Slam triumphs by beating Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the French Open final on Sunday.
Nadal clinched his record-extending 13th Roland Garros success in sublime style, destroying world No 1 Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 with a ruthless display on his favourite clay surface.
He becomes the fifth tennis player of all time – male or female – to reach the 20-Slam milestone after Federer and icons of the women’s game Steffi Graf (22), Serena Williams (23) and Margaret Court (24).
His win over Djokovic also puts the 34-year-old on 100 wins at the French Open alone, with his record now reading a phenomenal 100-2.
And Federer said on Twitter afterwards: “I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion.
“As my greatest rival over many years I believe we have pushed each other to become better players.
“Therefore it is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory.
“It is especially amazing that he has now won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport.
“I also congratulate his team, because nobody can do this alone.
“I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”
Speaking after his latest success on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal insisted he was prouder to win yet again at Roland Garros than he was to tie Federer.
“It has been a very tough year but winning here means everything to me. Today I don’t think about the 20th and equalling Roger,” he said.
“Today for me is just a Roland Garros victory. Roland Garros means everything to me. I have spent most of the most important moments of my career here.
“For me, just being here is a true inspiration. The love story I have with this court and this city is unforgettable.
“For me winning here another time, I can’t even say it is a dream. It is out of my better thoughts.
“I am super happy for everything. Everybody knows this court is the most important court in my tennis career, the court I enjoy the more special moments. Today was one of these.
“We are under very tough circumstances. In some ways it is not that happy because we can’t celebrate the tournament in a normal way.
“But anyway, thanks to all the fans for their support.
“I really hope that in a couple of months when we will be back here in June we will be able to celebrate this amazing, beautiful new stadium with a full crowd.”
Despite his defeat, Djokovic – who has lost seven times in eight French Open meetings with Nadal now – declared that his rival is very deserving of his ‘King of Clay’ nickname.
He said: “I want to say a huge congratulations to Rafa and your team and your family of course. What you are doing on this court is unbelievable, not just on this court but throughout your entire career you’ve been a great champion.
“Today you have shown why you are ‘King of the Clay’. I’ve experienced it in my own skin! It was a very tough match for me today.
“Obviously I am not so pleased with the way I played but I was definitely outplayed by a better player today.
“It’s been a fantastic couple of weeks. The situation is very difficult for everyone worldwide but we have the possibility to play the sport we love.
“I’m very grateful to everyone who organised this tournament and allowed us to be on the court.”
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently, see more details here