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 had to work hard against Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman in the quarters and semis, beating both rivals in a combined six hours to advance to the final. Never losing the title match in Paris, Rafa put on another masterful performance, toppling the world No.
1 6-0 6-2 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes. Nadal controlled the pace in the first two sets and prevailed in the third to emerge on top and celebrate one of the highlights of his glorious career. "I want to thank the Laureus A*ademy from the bottom of my heart."
Rafa reflects on the mental aspect of the sport
One of Rafael Nadal's biggest strengths is his mental fortitude, as the Spaniard has dominated the sport for the better part of two decades. "Mental strength is one of the important elements for competition.
Everything can be trained and that mental strength is something I also worked with my uncle Toni since I was a child. Then, with the evolution of my career that work continued and the competition itself made it intensify and continue to evolve," Nadal said.
"All elite sports are complicated and tennis especially being a one-on-one sport. The match is against an opponent who is sometimes better than you, or who is in better shape that day even if it is worse in theory. But the fight is also against oneself and that is a section that sometimes costs a lot."