It takes more than a string of impressive results to be labelled as an icon in the competitive world of international sport. It’s not a status that comes lightly.
The best of them become household names, and among those stars, an elite band of legends have been immortalised for their character, their consistency, their longevity and their incredible ability to keep fighting when it looks like they’re down and out.
Muhammad Ali, Pele, Tiger Woods, Donald Bradman, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Ben Ainslie, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps. All stars that will shine forever at the centre of their own galaxies within the sporting universe.
It takes a lot to be listed among the best of the best, and it’s only when we run out of superlatives to explain their achievements that individuals join the likes of these global icons.
And when he raised his racquet on Sunday, Rafael Nadal stepped out of the world of tennis and found a galaxy of his own.
Nadal has been absolutely phenomenal.
His list of achievements speaks for itself, including 22 Grand Slam singles titles and a remarkable 14 victories at the French Open.
Having spent 209 weeks of his career at the top of the world rankings, there are no words to really express how well he has done on court.
But Nadal has been more than a great player. He has been a game changer too, with his notable physique playing a key role in bringing a new dynamic to the sport, raising the bar in terms of fitness and expanding the focus of top-flight tennis players far beyond their technique.
In addition, he has been able to rise above two other phenomenal players – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic (for now, at least) – in what has been one of the most memorable three-way rivalries in the history of international sport.
No matter what he does now – and he by no means looks to be done – the Spanish player has earned his place alongside the all-time greats.
Nadal is undoubtedly an icon, and as is always the case with people of his stature, his place among the best is very well deserved.