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Spain loves Rafa: Nadal wins his country’s highest sporting honour 

Twenty-times Gran Slam winner, Rafa Nadal has been granted Spain’s highest-ever sporting honour.

The Spanish government confirmed this afternoon that he is to receive the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sports Merit.”We give this distinction to one of the best athletes in the world,” said spokesperson María Jesús Montero at a press conference after the Council of Ministers.

“We are honoured to convey this distinction to him, not just for the undoubted sporting merits of one of the best athletes in history at an international level. It is a pleasure to do it with a person who brings together values, youth references, everything that allows us to be better. The Government makes this recognition very deserved for one of our national pride.

“The world’s number one tennis player is only the second Mallorcan to obtain the highest distinction to which an athlete can aspire in Spain. The first was the cyclist from Porreres Joan Llaneras in 2009.

In the resolution, the prosecutor of the Royal Order of Sports Merit, Juan María Fernández Carnicer, highlighted the “work of extraordinary service and undeniable merit to the world of sport” carried out by Nadal, as well as his ability to “honour the name and reputation of Spain throughout the planet and his exemplary career.President of the Higher Sports Council, Irene Lozano said: “He is an incredible athlete and an exceptional person, as he has shown so many times. Spain loves Rafa and this is another way of recognising it.”On Sunday in Paris, the Mallorcan lifted the  20th Grand Slam of his career, equalling Roger Federer at the top of world tennis.