Rafael Nadal had a fabulous start to the season, in which he proved for the umpteenth time that he is an absolute legend of modern sport. The Spanish phenomenon won the Australian Open against all odds, taking away the whim of coming back two sets behind Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Winning his second career title at Melbourne Park, the former world number 1 hoisted himself to 21 Majors by overtaking Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the all-time rankings. The 35-year-old from Manacor has also become the fourth man in history to have won all Grand Slams at least twice (along with Djokovic, Rod Laver and Roy Emerson).
The fracture in the rib remedied during the Indian Wells 1000 complicated Rafa's plans, forcing him to miss the first tournaments on red (Monte Carlo and Barcelona). The Iberian was unable to go beyond the quarterfinals in Madrid and the round of 16 in Rome, also having to deal with a flare-up of the foot problem.
At a press conference at the Foro Italico, Casper Ruud expressed all his admiration for the 21-time Grand Slam champion.
Ruud praises Rafa Nadal
"I try to learn from Rafael Nadal every time I get to practice with him," Ruud said.
"On the court and off the court, I think he's a very good example of how an athlete should behave, the values he has." Ruud said that he has gotten to know Nadal better after spending time at his structure. "I've got to know him a little bit more when I'm in the structure," he continued.
"It's always fun to be there. It's motivating to be around him because you're talking about a guy who has won everything there is to win and still plays today like it's the first time he's playing on the center court.
It's just incredible to see how he's been able to keep the motivation and the intensity for already so many years." Lifting the title last year in Rome, Nadal failed to defend his title this season with his loss against Shapovalov.
Further, the Spaniard will lose crucial ranking points which will see him drop a spot to be ranked number five on the ATP rankings chart. With the former World Number 1 dropping out of the top four, he might potentially face Novak Djokovic as early as the quarterfinals of the French Open later this month.
This comes as a huge blow to Nadal, who is already battling injury issues. Even in his defeat against Shapovalov, Nadal faced foot issues throughout the course of the match.