Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal lost in the semi-finals at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. In this picture, Spain's Rafael Nadal leaves court after losing to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during the continuation of their men's singles semi-final match on the 12th day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 14, 2018. NIC BOTHMA/AFP/Getty Images

Australian tennis legend Rod Laver paid tribute to Rafael Nadal labeling him the "greatest athlete in the sport" after the Spaniard made it to the semi-finals at the recently concluded Wimbledon Championships.

The third Grand Slam of the year was Nadal’s first tournament after his victory at the French Open in Roland Garros in June. He took a break after winning the second major of the year and Wimbledon was the only grass court event he played.

And despite the lack of preparation on a completely different surface — he made it to the last four — a step further than pre-tournament favorite Roger Federer — where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

Federer was expected to win but went down 6-2, 7-6, 5-7, 4-6, 11-13 to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, despite holding match point in the third set. Nadal came through a tough encounter with Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals and fought right till the very end against the Serbian before going down 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 8-10.

In getting to the last four and Federer failing to defend his title, Nadal strengthened his place at the top of the world rankings. Nadal’s gap to world number two Federer was just 50-points before the tournament got underway, but, is now over 2000 points ahead.

Laver acknowledged his achievements of getting into rhythm on a completely different surface with minimum preparation and believes that makes him “possibly” the greatest athlete in tennis history.

“And a quick word on Rafael Nadal — he proved to be superhuman at Wimbledon — to win Roland Garros and come very close here on grass is truly amazing. Possibly the greatest athlete our sport has ever known,” Laver wrote on his official Twitter account after the semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic.

Laver also had words of praise for Djokovic after the Serbian won his fourth Wimbledon title defeating Anderson on Sunday. It was just his fourth title since winning the French Open in 2016.

The 31-year-old struggled with form and fitness issues over the last 24 months and admitted after the win that he himself had many moments of doubt about whether he could get back to challenging for the major honors.

It was his first win in 2018, one that brings him back into the top 10 in the ATP men’s singles rankings after having dropped out of the top 20 prior to the start of the tournament at the All England Club.

“Bravo Novak Djokovic — a commanding performance worthy of 50 years of Open tennis. I am sure there will be many more crowns to come. Your comeback is inspirational Wimbledon,” Laver, also considered as one of the greatest ever, wrote after the final on Sunday.

The next major tournament is the Rogers Cup in Montreal, where Federer was the losing finalist in 2017 while Nadal lost in the third round to Denis Shapovalov. Djokovic skipped it due to injury and it is likely that all three players will be part of the draw in 2018.