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Nadal among the greats after epic Aussie triumph

Monday, February 2, 2009 , Posted by Linda at 12:47 PM

MELBOURNE – Newly crowned Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal said the fear of a sudden end to his Grand Slam spree is inspiring him to take his tennis to another level after his titanic victory over Roger Federer.

Nadal among the greats after epic Aussie triumph Switzerland's Roger Federer (R) is comforted by Spain's Rafael Nadal after defeat in his men's

The Spaniard is the undisputed king of men's tennis after he surged home to prevent Federer from equalling the all-time majors record in an epic five-setter in Sunday's final in Melbourne.

The 22-year-old holds a special place in tennis, capturing his sixth major title in only his 20th Grand Slam tournament, second only to the strike-rate of Sweden's Bjorn Borg (18 tournaments and six months younger).

By comparison, American Pete Sampras, who holds the record number of 14 Grand Slam wins, won his sixth major in his 25th Grand Slam while Federer reached that mark in his 26th major.

Nadal also became the first Spanish man to win the Australian Open.

His gripping 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-2 triumph in four hours and 23 minutes improved his record over Federer to 13-6 and stretched his lead over the Swiss in the world rankings to more than 3000 points.

But although the world number one is at the height of his tennis powers and holds three of the four Grand Slams, he is cautious about mapping out what he can achieve in the game.

"I have six (majors) right now. I'm happy with my six and I am going to continue to try my best every day to improve my tennis and to continue to win matches and titles," Nadal said after his victory.

"But I know everything is very difficult. Every title, I know how tough it is to win every one.

"I don't know if I'm going to win more. When I won my first one I didn't know if I was going to win more.

"You never know when that (will) stop. So you have to be always with precaution and you have to be humble to continue working."

Nadal is the current holder of the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open titles, with the US Open the only Grand Slam yet to elude him.

The Spaniard is bidding for his fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros at the season's next Grand Slam, starting on May 24, and weeks later will defend his Wimbledon crown after ending Federer's run of five titles at the All England club last year.

"This is very special for me -- it's a dream to win a hardcourt Grand Slam," he said.

"I've worked very hard all my life to improve my tennis outside of clay courts so I'm very happy with the (Australian) title."

Nadal played down talk he was the undisputed king of men's tennis.

"Oh, no, no. I don't know. I've just won an important title in my career," he said. "But I'm no better now than I was five hours ago. I am the same."

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