Rafael Nadal news: Tennis icon compared to a scientist who is ‘in love with problem-solving part’ of tennis

Rafael Nadal in action

Mats Wilander has highlighted the differences between Rafael Nadal and his fierce rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, saying the 21-time Grand Slam winner loves the problem-solving part of tennis.

Nadal set a new milestone at the Australian Open in January as he became the first man to win 21 majors, edging ahead of Federer and Djokovic.

It was his second title of 2022 as he won the Melbourne Summer Set trophy and after the season-opening Grand Slam he also won the Mexican Open to take his unbeaten start to the year to 15-0.

His success this campaign came on the back of an injury-ravaged 2021 that saw him miss the latter half of the season due to a career-threatening foot injury and Nadal had admitted that he had doubts over his playing future

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Tennis pundit Wilander is also surprised by his turnaround in fortune.

“He is turning 36 during the French Open, it would be amazing if he can keep this up when we thought last year this is very close to being the end of Rafa’s career. He thought himself it could be close to the end of his career,” the seven-time Grand Slam winner told Eurosport.

“I would never have imagined that he would, even though he would be playing physically, that he would be able to do what he is doing. No, not in a million years would I have thought that Rafael Nadal could do that. Not this part of the year [January and February].

“Move forward a month and a half and the clay-court season has started. Now we are back with Rafa Nadal the ageless clay-court king. He is closer to 16 years old than he is 36-years-old emotionally and that is where he separates himself from the other Big Three, I have to say.”

Former world No 1 Wilander then went on to explain how Nadal manages to stay a top of the game as he compared the Spaniard to “professors and scientists”.

The Swede added: “I am sure there are some professors out there or scientists who never ever get bored of challenging themselves and finding the result of the next problem, because it is mathematical or environmental and the answer is weird and they can’t guess what it is and for Nadal that is the same thing.

“I would have to stretch my imagination to find an athlete that finds it more enjoyable to feel fear, to be afraid of the outcome, to be nervous, to not really know what’s going to happen at the end of his match, but is so in love with the problem-solving part of his profession that he is willing to feel that pain and to feel that anxiety to just find out what’s around the next corner.

“And [in] the next corner could be [boxer] Mike Tyson, who punches you in the face really hard and you might never stand up again and Rafa Nadal is willing to take that chance.”