US Open champion Nadal proud to be part of 'incredible' era
World number one Rafael Nadal feels proud and privileged to be involved in a special era of tennis alongside fellow greats Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Nadal, 31, claimed his second gram slam of the year and third US Open title after outclassing Kevin Anderson 6-3 6-3 6-4 in Sunday's final.
It was Nadal's 16th major title of his illustrious career and first on a hard court since 2013 as the French Open holder moved within three trophies of Federer's record of 19, the duo having split the four slams in 2017.
When Pete Sampras retired in 2003, his record of 14 majors seemed untouchable but Nadal and Federer have enjoyed a remarkable period of dominance, while Djokovic has collected 12 slam honours of his own.
Asked about himself, Federer and Djokovic, Spaniard Nadal told reporters: "I think we had the spirit of improvement all the time, passion for what we are doing, and we have been hard workers in general terms, because we were not playing with up-and-downs.
"We have been there almost every week for a lot of years. That's difficult to make it happen. That's difficult to find some players in the same generation that achieve all the things that we achieved.
"We are in an era that is not nice to say, because I'm part of it, but we are in an era that some players make incredible things in this sport.
"Happy to be part of it, and I feel lucky to be part of it and enjoying the fact that I have been involved in some way in the two rivalries. That is amazing. Because I think nobody played more matches against each other like Novak and I and with Roger, because we competed for such a long time for first and second spot and competed for most important events, have been so special because of combination of styles, too.
"It is great, and in the same time, have been a difficult moment to win a lot of titles, but in some way, we should be very happy. Because us three, we still won a lot of things, and probably even Roger and me or Novak even much more than we ever dreamed. We feel very happy about all the things that happened to us, and probably everybody, we feel lucky in some way."
After dominating in 2015 and 2016, former world number one Djokovic threatened to do the same this year but the Serbian star struggled with form and injury after his early exit at the Australian Open as veterans Nadal and Federer enjoyed a resurgence.
Federer reigned supreme over Nadal at Melbourne Park before the latter claimed an unprecedented 10th French Open.
Wimbledon went to Federer, while Nadal capped a sensational year in New York, where Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori were absent.
"Of course I am surprised. I was surprised in January. Now I am not that much surprised," Nadal said when asked about the success he and Federer experienced this year. "After the first two, three months of the season, of course you see that I am playing well, and if I am playing well on clay, I'm normally going to have my chances. He was playing great, so of course he will have his chances on grass and on hard later, like he had here.
"It was a surprise some time ago. Now a little bit less. And there are just two things that probably we share, that is passion for what we are doing, passion for tennis, passion for the competition, and the spirit of improvement all the time."