Established in 1977, the ATP Sportsmanship Award attained its regular owner between 1988-1995, with Stefan Edberg winning five honors. Known as one of the most relaxed and acknowledged players on the Tour, the ATP recognized Edberg in 1996 when the award took his name, represented as the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award since then. In the last 26 years, Alex Corretja, Patrick Rafter, Paradorn Srichaphan, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been the only winners of the award voted by the players themselves, with Federer and Nadal taking every single one since 2004! The streak has stayed alive in 2021 after Rafael Nadal received the honor for the fourth straight year and the fifth in total. Thus, the Spaniard became the third player with five awards after Stefan Edberg and Roger Federer.
Nadal’s first Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award came in 2010, and the next four have arrived every year since 2018. Rafa had a decent season, winning one Masters 1000 title but failing to lift a Major trophy, unlike the past four years. The Spaniard played 29 matches in 2021, missing many tournaments due to an injury and skipping two Majors and the Olympic Games. Struggling with a left foot injury, Rafa wrapped up the season in early August, undergoing a minor procedure and working on his game ahead of the fresh start in 2022. Nadal injured his back in Adelaide in January and skipped the ATP Cup ahead of the Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal secured the fifth Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award.
The 2009 Melbourne champion reached the quarter-final at the season’s first Major and opened two sets to love lead against Stefanos Tsitsipas before suffering a tough loss. Returning to action two months later in Monte Carlo, the Spaniard experienced a defeat to Andrey Rublev before securing the 12th Barcelona Open crown following an epic final over Tsitsipas that lasted for almost three hours and 40 minutes. Rafa lost to Alexander Zverev in Madrid and bounced back at the Rome Masters, beating Novak Djokovic in the final and lifting the 36th trophy at that level. Seeking the 14th Roland Garros crown, the Spaniard lost a memorable semi-final to Djokovic in four hours and 11 minutes, injuring a left foot and playing only two more matches before calling it a season. Nadal will kick off the 2022 campaign at the ATP 250 event in Melbourne ahead of the season’s first Major.