Sports journalists from 43 countries had no doubts about the best European male athlete of the 2019 season, choosing world no. 1 Rafael Nadal ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lewis Hamilton. The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) granted the honor to Nadal for the first time since 2008 when he became world no.
1 for the first time, returning to the top 11 years later after another stellar season that saw him winning two Majors and two Masters 1000 titles, finishing as the year-end no. 1 for the fifth time. Sidelined from the court since the US Open 2018, Rafa had to postpone the start of the season, withdrawing from Brisbane and making a return at the Australian Open where he reached the final without losing a set, only to suffer a severe defeat to Novak Djokovic and finish runner-up.
Nadal had to deal with injuries in Acapulco (wasted match points against Nick Kyrgios) and Indian Wells (withdrawal before the clash against Roger Federer), heading to his favorite clay surface with no form or momentum after skipping Miami.
Fabio Fognini, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Nadal in the semi-final in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, taking the titles away from the clay-court king who didn't have much time to find his A-game ahead of Rome and Roland Garros.
With no room for errors, the Spaniard claimed both titles, earning 3000 points and spreading his reign in Paris to unmatched 12 years, keeping that level until the end of the season and entering the battle with Novak Djokovic for the year-end no.
1 spot. Roger Federer toppled him in four sets in the semi-final at Wimbledon and Rafa was back at his best in Montreal and the US Open, adding another block of 3000 points to his name and two significant titles to his already impressive tally, becoming the favorite for the year-end no.
1 position. Nadal had to skip Shanghai Masters, returning in Paris eager to chase big points and defend the lead in the ATP Race in front of Novak Djokovic. An injury forced the Spaniard to withdraw before the semi-final clash with Denis Shapovalov, missing another chance of winning Paris Masters and heading to the ATP Finals with 640 points advantage over the Serb who conquered the crown in France and 1000 points.
In London, Rafa played one of the worst matches of the season against Alexander Zverev in the first match, looking terrible on the court before bouncing back against other young guns Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas to earn 400 points and stay ahead of Novak who also failed to pass the round-robin stage, allowing Rafa to finish as the year-end no.
1 for the fifth time. In Madrid, Nadal was the leader of the pack at the Davis Cup Finals, scoring eight victories to lead Spain towards the title, dropping only two matches after Madrid in May to conquer the ATP throne. Rafael Nadal, a 19-time Major champion, wrapped up the year on a high note, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic final to grab the record-breaking fifth Mubadala World Tennis Championship crown, taking some rest and returning to the court at the ATP Cup where he won all three group matches.