Oviedo, Spain:Tennis great Rafael Nadal has called the 2008 season in which he won his first Wimbledon title and captured Olympic gold and the No. 1 ranking the most special year of his sporting career to date.
The 22-year-old Spaniard, who was honoured with the prestigious Prince of Asturias prize called it "the most important they could give me", EFE reported on Friday.
"I've said on several occasions that, off the court, for me the Prince of Asturias prize is the most important they could give me," Nadal told a press conference.
Asturias is the first of the eight prizes Nadal has been given.
The awards, which honour outstanding individuals in the categories of the arts, social sciences, communication and humanities, international cooperation, sports, technical and scientific research and letters, have acquired a prestige comparable with the the Nobel Prize's.
Regarding his being ranked in the No. 1 spot in the world tennis this summer, Nadal said that he "was already happy when I was number two," the position he had held since the summer of 2005, after winning his first French Open.
When asked by one journalist if he would have liked to have shared this award with Switzerland's Roger Federer, who Nadal dethroned as the world's top-ranked player in this year's French Open and Wimbledon finals, the Spaniard said: "It's clear that Federer deserves this award at least as much as I do."
"Sharing it with him would have been an honour," said Nadal, who became the fourth tennis player - and the first male - to win the award after Czech-born American Martina Navratilova, Spain's Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Germany's Steffi Graf.
Nadal denied that he felt extra pressure about being the No. 1 player and said that he plans to train hard in December in preparation for the 2009 season.