Rafael Nadal’s achievements over the past 12 months have earned him the prestigious 'Laureus World Sportsman of the Year' on Thursday. The Spanish phenomenon won his 13th title at Roland Garros in 2020, however, without leaving even a set for his opponents along the way.
Yet another triumph in the French capital also allowed him to equal Roger Federer's all-time record, reaching 20 Grand Slams. The former world number 1 will be the big favorite in Paris again in this edition, with the serious chance of overtaking his eternal rival in the all-time ranking for the first time.
The Majorcan's approach to the second Slam of the season is proving to be more difficult than usual, given that Rafa did not go beyond the quarter-finals either in Monte Carlo or in Madrid. The 34-year-old Iberian has won his so far only 2021 title in Barcelona, having nullified a match point to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final act.
In a recent interview with the 'Telegraph', Nadal revealed that the outbreak of the pandemic prompted him to think deeply.
Nadal will have to settle for being the 3rd seed in Paris
"For me, personally, it (the pandemic) has been tough," Rafael Nadal told The Telegraph.
"It was difficult for me to keep going after the lockdown. The circumstances made me think about what was the right decision for my career: if I keep playing, or stop for a little more? It was not an easy decision. So I missed the US Open last year - that was tough, but it was a decision that I needed to take," he added.
"And then I just played Rome and Roland Garros. Finally, I was able to have success there. Winning titles, for me, has always been difficult," he added. "And today for sure is even more difficult, because at the age of 35 (he turns 35 in June), normally it is more difficult to win titles than when you are 25."
The 34-year-old went on to claim that he is looking forward to life away from tennis, but is happy with his game right now and is not considering retirement yet. "After my tennis career, I think I have enough interesting things to do in my future," Rafael Nadal said.
"But today, I'm happy to do what I'm doing. I can't predict my future, but I'm not worried about that. When the day arrives, I will know." The last time Rafael Nadal was not in the top two seeds of the French Open was back in 2017.
Since then, he has swept aside every challenger in his path and in 2021 is looking towards a 5th consecutive and 14th overall French Open title. This year, however, Nadal is getting a stern competition on clay from the next-gen stars, and he also has his rival Novak Djokovic to worry about. With a dip in ranking, Nadal will now have to settle for being the 3rd seed at French Open 2021.