'You have to beat Rafael Nadal if...', says ATP ace

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'You have to beat Rafael Nadal if...', says ATP ace

Rafael Nadal played only seven tournaments in 2021, adding 27 victories and lifting two titles. Like many other players, the Spaniard struggled through the pandemic, staying home between March and September and skipping the US Open.

Rafa claimed the title in Acapulco in late February and had not competed until September. Starting over, Rafa lost in the Rome quarterfinals before raising his level at Roland Garros to claim the 20th Grand Slam title without dropping a set.

That trophy secured Rafa the second Laureus World Sports Athlete of the Year Award, his first since 2011. Speaking about last year, Nadal said it was difficult for the whole planet, admitting that he would give away the Roland Garros trophy to erase the pandemic and recover daily life.

"I want to thank the Laureus Academy from the bottom of my heart. I have had some fantastic competitors. The rest of the athletes probably deserve the trophy as I do, but this was my year and I couldn't be happier. Winning the French Open and equaling Roger Federer's record of 20 Grand Slam titles has been an unforgettable moment.

It means a lot to be at the height of my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It is something extraordinary after all the history we have had together on and off the court. The pandemic we are facing is unprecedented and I want to send a message of support to all the families who have suffered or lost someone”.

In a recent interview, the 34-year-old revealed that the COVID-19 crisis had caused him to take inventory of his priorities seriously. He also claimed that doubts related to the pandemic played a major role in his decision to skip defending his US Open title.

Zverev comments on Rafael Nadal

Newly-crowned Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev recently gave his thoughts on Rafael Nadal's prospects at this year's Roland Garros. Speaking to the media ahead of his participation at the Italian Open, Zverev asserted that Nadal was still the favorite to triumph in Paris despite his recent setbacks.

"He's (Rafael Nadal) still the favorite, that hasn't changed," Alexander Zverev said. "You have to beat him. The chance for him is relatively great. Our job is to prevent that from happening." Zverev then went on to name himself, Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem, among a few others, as the players who could possibly challenge Rafael Nadal in Paris. "Novak, Domi, me and a few others, we can challenge him," Zverev remarked.