Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Rafael Nadal - I cried when Rafa Slam died

Courtesy: The Australian

RAFAEL Nadal admits he cried in the locker room after his dream of a "Rafa Slam" collapsed in the third game of his quarter-final against compatriot David Ferrer at the Australian Open.

After capturing the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, the world No 1 was three matches away from becoming the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles at once, when a hamstring injury in the first set of the Ferrer match struck him down. He was bundled out in straight sets by his good friend.

"I was crying in the locker room. I hate to go out of the tournament," Nadal said yesterday. "Last year, I had to do it and it was something I didn't want to repeat. But from the third game I knew I didn't have a chance to win. David was playing fantastic and I wasn't able to run enough to rise to the level to beat him."

But yesterday there were no tears - broad smiles in fact - as Nadal was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year at a glitzy ceremony in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi, an award he described as the "most important in world sport".

It was perhaps more than a consolation for Nadal, who has cemented his position as world No 1 and proved himself one of the greatest players of all time.

But the pain of the loss in Melbourne obviously lingers. Nadal insisted the Rafa Slam was "never a real thing, it was an illusion". Clearly an illusion he still dreams of attaining.

Nadal said yesterday he remained hungry for success and felt he had years of his best tennis ahead of him.

"I am hungry every day for success and although I am not young on the tour - and have been on the tour for nine years - I am young in man years," he said. "I hope to have many opportunities to win again."

Nadal won the Laureus award from NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, soccer stars Andres Iniesta of Spain and Lionel Messi of Argentina, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and German Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel.

It was a big night for Spain, with the country's World Cup-winning soccer team taking out the Team of the Year.

Australia's two nominees at yesterday's awards missed out. Four-time world surfing champion Stephanie Gilmore was pipped by her male counterpart Kelly Slater, who won his 10th title last year.

"Ten beats four by about six," said Gilmore, who won the award last year. And the World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, where swimmer Matt Cowdrey was a nominee, was won by German visually impaired skier Verena Bentele.

Another skier, American Lindsay Vonn, won the World Sportswoman of the Year after a stellar 12 months in which she secured her third straight World Cup and the Olympic downhill gold medal.

Brilliant young golfer Martin Kaymer of Germany, who came from almost nowhere to win the US PGA Championship and push Tiger Woods out of the world No 2 ranking, was presented with the World Breakthrough of the Year Award.

The Comeback of the Year Award went to colourful Italian MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi, the seven-time world champion who returned to the track just 41 days after breaking a leg.

Perhaps the most popular award in this Muslim nation was to French football legend Zinedine Zidane, who received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Spirit of Sport Award went to the European Ryder Cup team.

It was announced at the ceremony that Australian five-time 500cc motorcycle world champion Mick Doohan and five-time Olympic rowing gold medallist Steve Redgrave, of Britain, have been elected to the Laureus World Sports Academy.

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