FLASHBACK: Mackenzie McDonald defeats Rafael Nadal in the 2023 Australian Open second round.


Rafael Nadal is among the nominees for the 2023 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award—but if it were up to him, Nadal says he’d hand the trophy to last year’s World Cup champion Lionel Messi.

Nadal is up for the prestigious award for the seventh time, named alongside Kylian Mbappe (soccer), Lionel Messi (soccer), Max Verstappen (F1), Mondo Duplantis (athletics) and Stephen Curry (basketball). But the 2022 Australian Open and Roland Garros champion tipped his hat to Messi in an Instagram post on Tuesday, after the Argentine soccer great guided his team to glory at the World Cup in Qatar with a dramatic final victory over France.

“An honour to be nominated again to the Laureus Sportsman of the Year… but… this year… Let’s go @LeoMessi you deserve it,” wrote Nadal, who also won the award in 2011 and 2021.

“Having such a great athlete like you post this about me has left me speechless,” Messi posted in response. “Thank you very much @RafaelNadal, you also deserve everything for the way that you compete each time you enter the court.

“You are a champion, and we have a lot of competition here, eh? Really [all the nominees] deserve it this year!!!”

A massive soccer fan, Nadal told press he couldn’t help but be moved at the sight of Messi’s World Cup victory—and neither could the rest of the tennis world, with players posting up a social media outpouring of congratulations in December.


Nadal was named Sportsman of the Year in 2011 and 2021.

Nadal was named Sportsman of the Year in 2011 and 2021.

“Without supporting Argentina, when Messi scored the third goal, tears came to my eyes, because of the emotion of seeing someone so great achieve what they were missing and someone who had suffered so much to achieve it,” Nadal told Spanish sports newspaper As last year.

Nadal is seeking his fifth Laureus trophy, having also won the Breakthrough award in 2006 and Comeback award in 2014.

In tennis, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek is also up for Sportswoman of the Year, while last year’s US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina are both nominated for Breakthrough of the Year.

Wheelchair tennis player Diede de Groot, who completed her second consecutive calendar Grand Slam last year in singles, is also named in the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability category.