PARIS — For all of his clay titles and his 20-10 record over Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal says in the grand scheme of tennis, he has not yet caught up with the Swiss.
Nadal, tipped again as favourite at the French Open as he bids for an eighth title from nine editions, bases his analysis on simple numbers.
And on the face of things, Federer still sets the overall pace.
"I think the head-to-heads are important (regarding) important matches," said the third-seeded Spaniard. "But, for instance, Chelsea beat Manchester United in both matches during the season, but Manchester United won the Premier League. The better team is Manchester United. That’s an example."
For Nadal, there is no getting around Federer’s record-setting 17 Grand Slam titles compared to his own 11.
"Roger has 17 Grand Slams and a lot of records on his shoulders. It would be arrogant and stupid for me to say that today I have a comparison with him just because he has a negative head-to-head against me.
"I’m happy about what I achieved, I’m happy about what I’m winning. But Roger has better numbers than me, and that’s the real thing. Nobody has more Grand Slams than him.
"He’s the guy with more weeks in history in the No1, I think. So these kind of records say that he’s the best of the history. Numbers are for that."
The Spaniard has won four of his past five matches against the Swiss, most recently the Rome final last month.
With fervent fans all over the tennis world, it is nearly always a "home" match for Roger Federer — even when the Swiss is playing a local, as he did in his quarterfinal loss at the French Open.
But after going down in quick straight sets to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on what was clearly an off day for the world No2, Federer can appreciate the support he got in the heated atmosphere of the Chatrier Stadium at Roland Garros.
"I thought the crowd was more even today than it was against (Frenchman Gilles) Simon, for some reason, which I was happy to have a lot of fans on my side today," said the French-speaking Swiss.