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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Rafael Nadal

Prince of Asturias Award for Sports 2008

Rafael Nadal (Manacor, Mallorca, Islas Baleares, Spain, 1986)  started practising tennis at the age of five. After setting a record of 160 consecutive weeks as second seed, he seized the Number 1 ranking from Roger Federer (Switzerland) on 18th August this year in a season in which he also successfully defended his titles at the Masters Series Monte Carlo -for the fourth year running- and at the Conde de Godó Championship, as well as winning his first titles at Hamburg and in Canada.

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He began his successful career in the lower categories and in 1999 became Spanish junior doubles champion as well as winning the Nike Junior Tour International Masters Tournament in Barcelona, in the under-14 category. A professional player since 2001, he was one of the members of the Spanish team that won the Winter Cup in Montecatini (Italy). He reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in the junior category in 2002 and that same year became Junior Davis Cup champion in a tournament in which he won two of the three points that gave Spain its victory over the USA.

His rise to fame on the international scene commenced in 2003, the year in which he began to face up to the world´s top seeds. He reached the third round at Montecarlo and was ranked for the first time among the top 100 seeds, a record in ranking and age only previously achieved by Michael Chang (USA). An elbow injury stopped him from competing at French Open in 2003, where he was expected after winning the Prix Burgeon as the tennis player revelation of the year. He made his debut at Wimbledon in June 2003, winning his first Grand Slam title. His rapid progress as a professional won him the Tennis Player Newcomer Award conferred by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) that same year.

In 2004 he formed part of the team that won the second Davis Cup for Spain, becoming the youngest player ever to have won this competition. His good results on clay situated him as favourite in his first French Open, in 2005, where his victory in the final gave him his first Grand Slam title. That same season he won eleven individual titles.

In 2006 he also won the French Open and broke the record held by Guillermo Vilas (Argentina) by winning more than 54 consecutive matches on clay during the first round, as well as becoming the only tennis player to beat the World Number 1 at the time, Roger Federer (Switzerland), in a final. By the end of the tournament, he had been unbeaten in 60 consecutive matches, becoming the best player in history on clay. When he lost the final in Hamburg in 2007, his record stood at 81 consecutive victories. He won the French Open again in 2007 and 2008, making him the only player, alongside Borg (Switzerland), to hold four consecutive Roland Garros titles. In 2008 he created the Rafael Nadal Foundation, a charitable organisation focussing on social work among disadvantaged groups and cooperation for development.

The acknowledgements he has received include the Barón de Güell Cup at the 2004 Spanish National Sports Awards as part of the Spanish Davis Cup team; the 2006 Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Prize; and the 2006 National Sports Prize, awarded by the Spanish Council for Sports. In 2008 he received the ESPY Best Male International Athlete Award (USA) and was bestowed with the Gold Medal by Majorca Chamber of Commerce.

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