For the first time since the creation of this world trophy (1975), the team of L'equipe has named two winners among men due to their outstanding results in 2017. Their duet was elected by an overwhelming majority.
• Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in today's issue of L'equipe (29 Dec 2017)
Rafael Nadal: "I was productive all year on all surfaces."
Being at the top with Federer has a special flavour for Nadal:
-- It wasn't an obvious thing, imagining that we'd be playing each other for the top titles after our injuries in 2016. That you put us equal I find normal. It's not easy analysing our seasons because there's good in both of them. [smiles] One could say that what he did was more impressive because he's older than I. That's a purely mathematical argument. He managed to win a lot while playing a little. On the other hand, I played a lot and was productive all year on all surfaces.
Marat Safin says that the fact that two 'old' men can still dominate is a sign of something wrong in the men's tennis of today:
-- I hear that you might think at 31 and 36 we should have been overtaken by younger players. But deducing from that that tennis has a problem seems an exaggeration to me. I think despite everything that, along with Roger, we've brought a lot to the game and are still doing it. But the young players are emerging from the woods very well this year, and seems obvious that this tendency will continue in 2018. Little by little, what Safin describes will change.
-- We're a group, Federer, Djokovic, Murray and I, who have separated ourselves from the others by playing for a long time against each other for the biggest titles. But the future without Roger and me doesn't worry me. You don't worry either - there will always be stars on the tour.
On playing doubles at the Laver Cup with Federer:
-- Honestly, I think I have far fewer memories of it than Roger. I didn't watch him much because I was concentrating so hard. [smiles] I was mega focused on what I had to do so things would work out the best for our team. I think that's something that will stand out both for him and me, but for tennis too in general.
Will he play doubles with him again in a 'real' tournament?
"That would suit me maybe once, but it's not in the future right now. Not at a Slam! That would be very complicated, I think. [laughs]
Nadal doesn't regret never playing Davis Cup with Federer because they have different nationalities.
-- The biggest rivalries stand out more when they involve players of different nationalities. It would have been fantastic for Spain to also have Federer, but it wouldn't have been the best for promoting tennis. Look at motorcycle sport: there are a lot of Spaniards who win. That's great for us, but for promoting the sport, it's not that good. Tennis is a global sport. It's good to have champions coming from all over the world.
He finished 2017 as #1 for the fourth time [2008, 2010, and 2013 were the others].
-- The feeling I had at the end of the Australian Open was that I'd missed the chance to win another Slam, my fifteenth! But under that layer of disappointment, I had a sort of confidence and calm because I'd just played a tournament at a very high level, beating some of the best in the world, I knew I now could fight for big things. That conviction didn't leave me all year.
Heading for another Roland-Garros win?
-- I don't go much up in numbers, and besides, every tournament won is special. But I do realise that the number 10, symbolically, that was very special. But really, whether it's seven, or eight or twelve ... basically, winning Roland-Garros is my passion. And if I get the chance to win an eleventh some day, the joy would be just as strong.
Coming back from ground zero would be easier for him now?
-- No no no, it's easier to stay at the top than having to climb back up every time. It's just that I got injured so much when I was #1 [knee, wrist, abdomen]. And I assure you my motivation doesn't come from believing or not believing that I'll regain a level as high as before.
Nadal is likely the player who has evolved his game the most in the last ten years. But when he's congratulated for it, he throws it back:
-- It wasn't really a choice. I had to change things mostly because of all my physical problems. I had to adapt my body as a consequence, look for solutions to protect certain parts. Most of my opponents haven't had as many niggles as I've had. Without those, I would probably have improved more things, but not because I was obliged to. In any case, we're forced to always keep moving, because the more time advances, the more you lose physically. I've had highs and lows like everyone. Besides, my doubts are always there and will be there the rest of my life, but I know that normally, if I keep the faith, I'll always return more or less to my level, if the body holds out.
Translated by Mark Nixon / @markalannixon