There will be no end-of-season arm-wrestle for the world No 1 ranking at London’s O2 Arena, sadly for the Nitto ATP Finals. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have travelled in parallel for much of the year, but Nadal has claimed a victory in Paris that gives him 1,550-point lead over his great rival.
Given that Federer can only collect a maximum of 1,500 points in London, Nadal is now safely established at the head of the rankings ladder - until the beginning of 2018 at least.
He will thus end the year as No 1 for the fourth time, having split the four majors equally with Federer. And the ATP will have to live without a repeat of last year’s cliffhanger at the O2, where Andy Murray secured the top position by beating his own great rival Novak Djokovic in the season’s final match.
The deal was sealed when Nadal disposed of Hyeon Chung, the promising 21-year-old from South Korea, in his first match at the Paris Masters. This was a more difficult challenge than might have been expected, as Nadal faced a break point at 5-5 in the first set. But he saved it with the help of a classic lefty swinging serve, and then claimed his own break in the next game when he delivered an irresistible forehand winner up the line.
Nadal’s 7-5, 6-3 victory thus made him the oldest man to finish a year at No 1 since the rankings were introduced in 1973. He first achieved this feat in 2008, aged 22, and did it again in 2010 and 2013. Now he is 31 and arguably playing better than ever.
“I am very happy for everything,” Nadal told the on-court interviewer Cedric Pioline. “It has been an amazing year. One year ago for sure I never dreamed about being world No 1 again at the end of the season. It’s something that means a lot to me, but the season’s not over now.”
Nadal started 2017 ranked No 9, his lowest position going into the Australian Open since he was a teenager. This was the result largely of the serious wrist injury that disrupted his 2016 season. But he fought his way to the Melbourne final against Federer, where he was a break up in the deciding set before going down to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 defeat.
Still, he was not discouraged, and dominated the clay-court season with his usual ferocity, moving up to No 2 in the world after claiming his tenth French Open title in early June. The final promotion, to No 1, came after he reached the quarter-finals of Cincinnati in August.
“I played well since the beginning,” Nadal said. “But of course the most important moment of the year for me was the clay-court season and winning Roland Garros.” His only headache this season has been an unexpected reverse in his previous domination of Federer, who has played him four times – all on hard courts – and won the lot.
Source: The Telegraph