Nadal still improving as gongs roll in
Originally published on: 21/12/10 11:39
For Rafael Nadal, 2010 is the year that keeps on giving.
The world No.1’s stellar season, which has left him with a shot at the ‘Rafa Slam’ in January following his Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open triumphs, has landed him international acclaim that stretches beyond the tennis realm.
Having been named the ITF world champion last week alongside fellow world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, the 24-year-old received the BBC’s Overseas Sports Personality of the Year award after completing his career slam in New York.
Nadal joins fellow career slam champions Rod Laver, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer as winners of the BBC gong, along with fellow tennis greats Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe, and Jimmy Connors.
“For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said Nadal. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.”
Perhaps the greatest compliments from the star-studded award show came from the three men closest to the Spaniard in the world rankings: Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
“I think what Rafa has done at such a young age, so consistently, is quite phenomenal really and he’s the best player by far in 2010,” Federer, who lost his world No.1 ranking for a second time to Nadal in 2010, told the BBC.
Beaten US Open finalist Novak Djokovic was similarly effusive in his praise of Nadal.
“What’s amazing about him is his mental ability to play continuously, each year better and better,” said the world No.3. “He’s actually improving – he’s a real example of a tennis champion.”
“He fights so hard on the court,” Andy Murray added. “He treats every match like it’s going to be the last one and he’s one of the best players of all time.”
But they might not so thrilled to hear the assertion that there is more to come from the man from Mallorca. Nadal is relishing the prospect of becoming the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once, and is not prepared to rest on his laurels by any stretch.
“It is an honour to be named ITF World Champion for the second time,” he said last week. “After a difficult year in 2009, it was an amazing feeling to regain the number one ranking and finally win the US Open.
“My goal all the time is to keep improving and be a better player each year than I was the previous year.”