Rafael Nadal voted as the greatest Spanish athlete of all time
- Rafael Nadal beat Pau Gasol in the final of Marca's poll to emerge as the best Spanish athlete of all time.
- The poll also included other great athletes like Fernando Alonso and Andres Iniesta.
Rafael Nadal's stunning achievements on the tennis court have earned him a special place in the history books of the sport. But his success is so far-reaching that it has also given him recognition beyond the world of tennis.
Rafael Nadal is widely considered to be a national treasure in Spain, revered by millions of even non-tennis fans. And now, in a poll organized by Spanish newspaper Marca, Nadal has beaten 15 other players from his country to bag the title of 'Spanish GOAT'.
In a 16-player draw, the 19-time Grand Slam champion and Spain's three-time Olympic medalist basketballer Pau Gasol made it to the final. But the 39-year-old Gasol, who was a part of the 2006 FIBA World Cup-winning team for Spain, was no match for the tennis ace in the final poll.
Gasol managed to garner only 18% of the votes in the ultimate round, thus allowing Nadal to take the top honor by a huge margin.
Rafael Nadal also beat the likes of Andres Iniesta and Fernando Alonso
Marca had opened the voting on 11 May, asking its followers to pick who they thought was the best Spanish athlete in history. And with a bevy of Spanish stars in the field, it wasn't an easy decision by any means.
The list of luminaries included 2010 FIFA World Cup-winning footballers Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, as well as former F1 world champion Fernando Alonso. Former World No. 1 golfer Seve Ballesteros, two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador and tennis great Manolo Santana also made it to the list.
In the first round, Rafael Nadal was pitted against former World Rally Championships winner Carlos Sainz, whom he outscored by a margin of 94% to 6%. Gasol also had it easy in the initial round, grabbing 83% of the votes against Raul Gonzalez.
Ballesteros, Xavi, Raul and Santana were some of the stellar names to be eliminated in the first round while Nadal, Contador, Alonso, Gasol, Iniesta and Casillas progressed into the last-eight. Retired road racing cyclist Miguel Indurain and multiple MotoGP World Championships winner Marc Marquez also found a place in the second round.
Rafael Nadal continued his ruthless domination, clinching 94% of the whopping 90,449 votes against Contador to sail smoothly into the semi-finals. Gasol and Iniesta, meanwhile, were locked in a hard-fought battle; the basketball ace just managed to edge the football star by a 57-43 margin.
In the semi-finals, Nadal faced Indurain while Gasol was up against Marquez. Much like how he demolishes opponents at Roland Garros, the 12-time French Open winner crushed his opponent by an 83-17 ratio. Gasol on his part beat Marquez by a 62-38 margin.
The final thus saw Nadal and Gasol - who have been close friends for years - crossing swords with each other.
The two had joined forces recently to raise funds for the Spanish Red Cross and help their country tide over the coronavirus outbreak. But the friendship took a backseat in the battle for the Spanish GOAT (greatest of all time), and eventually the imperious Nadal ran away with the prize
The poll once again validates Nadal's sky-high popularity in his own country. His incredible records, unwavering dedication to the sport and most importantly his humility have made him a peerless role model for countless fans.
Highly admired even by champions from other sports, the 33-year-old icon has carved a special place for himself in Spanish sports history. And now, he has a well-recognized poll to back that up.