Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open on Thursday, but that was not his only victory of the day. Later in the evening the Spaniard was announced as the 2021 Laureus Sportsman of the Year.
Nadal also claimed the prestigious award in 2011 and was a nominee in 2009, 2014, 2018 and 2020. The other nominees this year were Joshua Cheptegei, Armand Duplantis, Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James and Robert Lewandowski.
— Laureus (@LaureusSport) May 6, 2021
“I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to the Laureus Academy. I have had some amazing competitors,” Nadal said. “The rest of the sportsmen probably deserve the trophy the same as me, but this was the year for me and I can’t be happier.
“Winning the French Open and equalling the 20th Grand Slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment. It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It’s something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court.
“The pandemic that we are facing is something unprecedented and I want to send a message of support to all the families that have suffered or lost somebody.”
The Spaniard received a message of congratulations from WTA legend Martina Navratilova.
“What can I say to you that hasn’t been told to you by countless others? But, for me, watching you play, watching you compete for every point as if it is match point, your total and utter commitment to the sport, your professionalism is off the charts,” Navratilova said. “People will be writing books about you so that they can teach others to do what you have done so well for, now almost 20 years. So, I salute you, I respect you, I love watching you play and I hope you never quit so you can win, maybe 30 Roland Garros titles. Anyway, congratulations.”