This is an excerpt from Nadal's interview with SI.com
"SI.com: How much does history motivate you? Do you know, for instance, whose record you tied today?
Rafael Nadal: The history is there for sure, being part of these players -- Connors, Agassi, Lendl -- it's amazing. Just an honor to be close to these players. But I am 24 years old and it's very difficult to talk about the history now, where I am. In my opinion the Grand Slams are not the only thing to value ... I don't have a lot of the information, but what Lendl did at the Masters was amazing. We have to see. We have to value different things, no? We have to see when I finish my career where I am. Right now I am very happy -- I never thought I can be here with 18 Masters 1000 and eight Grand Slams."
This should lay to rest the notion that Federer is a history and record freak whereas Nadal is just out there to play tennis to the max of his ability without any worry about where he is in history. Rafa's response is almost exactly the same as Federer's at about the same point in his career, halfway through Sampras's record.
Notice how Nadal also said the Grand Slams were not the only thing to value and mentioned his 18 Master Series. There's no question he's a fierce competitor and, like Sampras and Federer before him, is very aware of his place in history. This is only natural. High caliber athletes cannot be content with just winning days in and days out against lesser mortals. They have to compete with history.
"SI.com: Do you believe in God? We see football players crossing themselves. You don't do that. Do you do praying?
Nadal: It's hard to say, "I don't believe in God." I would love to know if God exists. But it's a very difficult thing for me to believe. I don't know. It's private and I don't want to speak about it, but I say, "If God exists, you don't need [to cross yourself] or pray." If God exists, he's intelligent enough to [do] the important things, the right things."
Interesting answer from Nadal, but this is as perfect an answer as it gets, and he's only 24.