Rafael Nadal earned the second Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsman of the Year 2021, following his incredible achievement in the fall of 2020. It was Rafa's first Laureus Award in ten years, becoming only the third tennis player with multiple honors after Roger Federer and Novak.
Djokovic. Nadal won the award against Joshua Cheptegei, Armand Duplantis, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James and Robert Lewandowski. Rafa secured the honor thanks to his 13th Roland Garros crown in October 2020. The Spaniard added his 20th Major title to his tally and joined Roger Federer at the top of the GOAT list for the first time.
In an emotional speech with the trophy in his hands, Rafa said that winning the 20th Major title was an amazing moment, especially after fighting Roger for 15 years. Roland Garros was the last Major event in 2020, and Rafa showed up to it after only playing a couple of tournaments that year due to the pandemic.
Despite the difficult conditions in Paris in October, the Spaniard once again demonstrated his greatness and wrote history. Rafa defeated all seven of his rivals in straight sets to extend his dominance on clay at age 34 and celebrate a Major trophy.
Nadal is having an incredible season so far
During a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open, Rafael Nadal recalled an incident from Roland Garros in 2005 when the crowd was constantly on his back. The Spaniard said the atmosphere at times was "unplayable" but that his job was to maintain his focus and find a way to carry on.
"I've always had a very basic point of view and it's to do the things that are going to help you play better or win more. You can be sad, you can be very upset - if that helps you play better or win more, do it.
But that's not true in my case," Nadal said. "When I am upset or lose my concentration, I say, I am not this kind of guy [who gets upset]. I like to be positive, not negative. Not just on the tennis court, in my normal life too."
Nadal asserted that he simply tried to do what kept him going, which he could not have achieved by becoming sad or upset about the crowd's behavior. "So, of course, I remember that match and for a moment it was unplayable, but was not my job to stop that.
It was the referee's job to stop this atmosphere that was making it impossible to play tennis in that moment," he said. "But then I think we stopped for light or rain, I don't know, and then we come back the next day. But I just tried to do the things that help me to keep going."