nadal trophy
Nadal was exceptional in 2013, winning two Grand Slams. Reuters

With 2013 coming to a close, it’s almost time for Sports Illustrated to name the Sportsman of the Year Award. The presitigious honor from the American weekly publication may choose a tennis player in 2013 when it announces the decision on Dec. 16.

Rafael Nadal could be a top candidate to win the award, despite SI usually choosing athletes from team sports such as Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, who won in 2012. After sitting out for seven months with a knee injury, Nadal was the most dominant player on the ATP World Tour by a wide margin.

Nadal’s numbers speak for themselves. He led all competitors by winning 10 titles, which is three ahead of the next player on the list. When he wasn’t winning tournaments, the 27-year-old was usually reaching the finals. He failed to reach the last round in only a handful of his 20 tries.

The biggest reason for Nadal's consideration is his performance in the Grand Slams. Nadal took home the title at the U.S. Open and French Open, making him the only player to win multiple times at the major tournaments in 2013.

Novak Djokovic is the closest thing Nadal has to real competition for the honor amongst tennis players. He ended the season with seven wins, including the Australian Open title. Nadal also beat his rival in a few big matches, topping the Serbian star in Paris and New York.

Nadal and Djokovic weren't the only players with strong seasons. Andy Murray had a breakout year before being sidelined. He defeated Djokovic at Wimbledon in the men’s final. Murray finished fourth in the rankings and ended his season early because of back surgery.

The last time a tennis player won the award was 1992 when Arthur Ashe received the honor. Two women in tennis have won the award, Billie Jean King (1972) and Chris Evert (1976).

In November, Sports Illustrated writer Michael Rosenberg selected Nadal as his choice for the award. Evert wrote an article for SI in support of Serena Williams.