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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, October 19, 2020

Marco Madonia

"For me [Rafa Nadal] is the best athlete, not even in tennis, the best athlete in history,” St. Petersburg champion Andrey Rublev said.

Photo credit: Andrey Rublev Facebook

Rafael Nadal has a new title.

The king of clay is supreme sport ruler, says Andrey Rublev.

More: Rublev Rides On

The 22-year-old Rublev, who topped Borna Coric in the St. Petersburg final to capture his fourth title of the season, is a big Nadal fan who has practiced with the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the past.

Rublev says Nadal's fighting spirit is so fierce even on his worst days he can summon his competitiveness to beat the best players.

“Even if you take other sportsmen or athletes, they can have bad days. But because maybe the team is good, they are still winning,” Rublev said. “In tennis, if you are having a really bad day… it is really tough to find a way [to win] and compete like nothing happened.

"[Rafa] has done this during all his career. For me he is the best athlete, not even in tennis, the best athlete in history.”

The eighth-ranked Russian, who resides six spots behind the second-ranked Nadal in the ATP rankings, asserts Nadal's run to his record 13th Roland Garros crown solidifies his status as the top fighter in all of sport. 

The 34-year-old Spaniard, who has won a record six Grand Slam titles since celebrating his 30th birthday, is a superb problem solver whose mental strength is unmatched in tennis history, says Rublev.

“Every player, even Roger [Federer] or even Novak [Djokovic], they had one moment in their career when they were mentally a little bit down or they could get a little bit emotionally down during the match and, if something happens, they could lose or something,” Rublev said. “Rafa is the only one player in history that it doesn’t matter how he feels, bad or good. In the end he always finds a way to win.

"If he is not winning, he is losing in three sets after three hours if it is not [at] a Grand Slam. If it is [at] a Grand Slam, it is going to be five hours and [against] the players that are really good… I don’t know how it is possible to be this strong mentally during all his career.”

Tennis Express

At a clinic Rafael Nadal's uncle and original coach, Toni Nadal, conducted at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre in Costa Mujeres, Mexico last spring, Uncle Toni cited two main qualities as key components to his nephew's success: his competitive character and his insatiable work ethic.

“When you lose, there’s only one way to go and that’s train harder," Toni Nadal told us. "I was lucky enough to train a guy who was excited every single day for practice as he was before a final.”

Uncle Toni Nadal asserts the most important talent in tennis and in life is the capacity to work, focus and improve. It's a quality he says his nephew, Rafael Nadal, has exuded from a very young age.

Toni Nadal also cited two Spanish standouts—and former Davis Cup teammates—to illustrate that theory.

“When they were young, you could ask who has more talent: Feliciano Lopez or David Ferrer? Normally the people all said Feliciano Lopez,” Toni Nadal recalled. “I said: it is not true. It’s David Ferrer who has more talent. Because the talent, for the young, is the potential, the capacity to improve, work and do good in the future.”


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