For the second time in his career, Rafael Nadal won the Laureus World Sports Award for Athlete of the Year. It is Nadal's second Laureus honor and the first in ten years, becoming the third multi-award winning tennis player after Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Nadal won the title ahead of Joshua Cheptegei, Armand Duplantis, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James and Robert Lewandowski, mainly thanks to his thirteenth Roland Garros crown and twentieth Major that put him on the same level as Roger Federer for the first time.
Established in 2000, the Laureus World Sports Award honors the most outstanding athletes in different categories. The first two editions of the Laureus World Sports Athlete of the Year Award went to Tiger Woods, followed by Michael Schumacher and Lance Armstrong as the next winners.
Roger Federer took over since 2005 to add four consecutive awards and make history during his best years. Usain Bolt secured four honors, along with Novak Djokovic, whose most recent crown came in 2019 following a stellar 2018 season that saw him return to the ATP throne from outside the top-20.
Rafael Nadal won the first Laureus Award in 2011 after lifting three Major crowns in 2010, being in contention last year after a remarkable 2019 season. Rafa fought Lewis Hamilton, Eliud Kipchoge, Marc Márquez, Lionel Messi and Tiger Woods and finished third behind Hamilton and Messi.
Nadal's nomination for the award in 2021 was a bit surprising, as Rafa was not the best player from the previous season, finishing almost 2,200 points behind Novak Djokovic. Against that background, Tennis Channel recently invited four-time Major winner Jim Courier and 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick to discuss Roger Federer's prospects in the clay season.
Courier speaks about Roger Federer
"If you're a Roger Federer fan, which most of us are, fitness is going to be the biggest factor for him going forward because he won't lose his artistry with the racket," Jim Courier said.
"He just might not be in position to hit many great shots if his fitness isn't there. If we're concerned about the fitness also, what kind of fitness questions are they? Is it the question of health, is it whether he's behind in cardio and working for best-of-five..."
Courier said. "Well, we don't have that info. But it's worrisome, no doubt about it." Jim Courier then reiterated that Roger Federer's main goal for the year would be doing well in the grasscourt season.
"All of this clay is just a preamble to the main course, which is the grasscourt season," Courier said. "That's what he's trying to get ready for Andy, I don't know if he's that concerned about results much as how does his body come out of clay and into the grass."