RAFAEL NADAL has had a perfect start to the 2022 season.
Rafael Nadal is still very much young at heart, which is what separates him from his two greatest rivals, according to seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander. Nadal has had a stunning start to 2022 which has seen him leapfrog Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic as the most successful male tennis player of all time in terms of major tournament wins.
Nadal won the Australian Open in January to go clear of Federer and Djokovic on 21 Grand Slam titles.
The Spaniard has also won the Melbourne Summer Set and the Mexican Open, meaning he has been victorious in every match he has played so far this year.
Wilander is astonished at the performances of the 35-year-old but claims his ability to be “emotionally” younger sets him apart from his rivals.
The Swede told Eurosport: “Obviously, he is turning 36 during the French Open, and it would be amazing if he can keep this up when we really thought last year that this was very close to being the end of Rafa’s career.
“He thought himself it could be close to the end of his career. I would never imagine that he would be able to do what he is doing, even though he would always be playing physically.
“No, not in a million years would I have thought that Rafael Nadal could do that, not this part of the year.
“Now we are back to Rafael Nadal, the ageless clay court king.
“I mean, he is closer to 16 years old than he is 36 years old emotionally, and that is where he separates himself from the others in the ‘big three’, I have to say.”
Wilander says Nadal clearly still has the love for tennis that he had as a youngster coming through.
He added: “I’m sure there are some professors out there or scientists that never, ever get bored of challenging themselves and finding the result of the next problem. For Nadal, that is the same thing.
“So no, I don’t think there has ever been a professional tennis player that finds it more enjoyable to feel fear, to be afraid of the outcome, to be nervous, to not really know what is going to happen at the end of a match.
“He 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 just to find out what is around the next corner. Rafael Nadal is willing to take that chance.”