On Thursday, the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal received the Grand Cross of the Order of the Second of May from Madrid's Regional President, Isabel Ayuso. One of the most decorated Spanish athletes of all time accepted the honor during a ceremony held at the Real Casa de Correos in Madrid.
The Grand Cross of the Order of the Second of May is the award reserved for exceptional individuals or institutions who have helped their country in different areas. Nadal has deserved the honor following an unprecedented desire to compete at his best in every match and carry the Spanish flag worldwide.
For the 14th time in the last 16 years, Nadal secured at least one Major trophy, standing above all at his beloved Roland Garros. It wasn't an easy task to achieve in plagued and reduced 2020, especially after the Australian Open quarter-final loss and closed gates at Wimbledon.
Still, the Spaniard found his A-game when he needed it the most, saving the season and entering the record books again at 34. Rafa lost the ATP throne following losses to Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem at the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, bouncing back in Acapulco in February with the 85th ATP title in his collection.
Rafa spent the next six months at his paradise island of Mallorca during the coronavirus pandemic, enjoying time with his family and friends and not hitting the practice court for two months. Nadal picked the racquet again in May, making a slow return and seeking motivation and desire to get back at 100% after such a long break from tennis.
Rafael Nadal received the Grand Cross of the Order of the Second of May.
With 2000 points for the last year's US Open title safely in his bag, Nadal skipped the season restart in New York and continued to train on clay, entering the first official event after six and a half months at the Masters 1000 event in Rome.
The Spaniard failed to defend the title, losing in the quarter-final to Diego Schwartzman and returning to the practice court ahead of Roland Garros. The Parisian tournament was the last chance for Rafa to secure a Major trophy in 2020, facing unusual conditions like never before in the French capital and hoping to find his best tennis after playing only three matches since March!
Despite cold and rainy weather, the new Wilson balls and a roof above Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal showed his greatness again, securing the 13th Roland Garros crown without losing a set and matching Roger Federer's record of 20 Major titles.
In the final, Nadal defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5, playing on a high level from start to finish in one of the most important matches of the century. By the end of the season, Rafa returned to Paris for the Masters 1000 event, suffering the semi-final loss to Alexander Zverev and reaching the same round at the ATP Finals.
Nadal served for the victory against Daniil Medvedev in London, only to suffer a 3-6, 7-6, 6-3 defeat and finish the season. Rafa will start preparations soon, hoping to shape his game in the next 40 days before heading to Melbourne for the first Major of the new season.