He did so by beating the other member of the elite group, Novak Djokovic, 6-0 6-2 7-5, in the French Open final under the roof on Philippe Chatrier Court amid the late afternoon autumnal chill.
Nadal sunk to his knees after an ace on championship point in what was a surprisingly lopsided conclusion to the fortnight.
But this is indeed Nadal on clay. He said the tournament’s new balls and cool weather don’t favor his spin heavy game — the coronavirus pandemic prompted organizers to move the event from its usual late May start — but the 34-year-old Spaniard overcame the different conditions to tally a 13th Roland Garros crown and 100th win in southwest Paris.
“I do not think today about the 20th to equal Roger on this great number,” he said as he addressed the crowd. “For me this is just a Roland Garros victory. Roland Garros means everything to me.
“I spent here the most important moments, or most of the most important moments in my tennis career, no doubt about that. Just to play here is a true inspiration and the love story I have with this city and with this court is unforgettable.”
Later, in his news conference, though, Nadal did reflect on tying the Swiss’ mark.
“I am just excited and of course is something that means a lot to me,” he said. “At the same time share this record between us, that we had an amazing rivalry for such a long time, is something in some way beautiful I really believe. Let’s see what is going on.”
Federer was quick to congratulate Nadal on Twitter.
“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” Federer, recovering from a knee injury, wrote. “As my greatest rival over the years, I believe we have pushed each other to be better players.
“Therefore it is a true honor 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.”