Nadal secures year-end No.1 spot
Originally published on: 17/09/10 15:06
The news just keeps getting better for Rafael Nadal, who, for the second time in three years will finish as the No.1 player in the year-end South African Airways ATP rankings following his US Open victory on Monday.
Nadal is the ninth player since the ranking system was introduced in 1973 to finish as ATP World Tour Champion at least twice.
Roger Federer is the only other player since 2000 to clinch the year-end No.1 ranking in the week after the US Open. Federer managed the feat in 2005 and ’06.
Nadal, only the third left-hander to finish No.1 at least twice along with Jimmy Connors (five times, 1974-78) and John McEnroe (four times, 1981-84), also joins Ivan Lendl and Federer as the only players to have held, lost and regained the year-end No.1 ranking in the 37-year history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973).
Lendl held the year-end No. 1 ranking from 1985-87 and finished No.2 in 1988 before reclaiming No.1 in 1989. Federer was No.1 from 2004-07, went to No. 2 in ’08 and then returned to the top spot last year.
Cherry on the cake
Ending the year at the top of the rankings is merely the cherry on a cake of a season for the Spaniard, who became the youngest player in the Open era to achieve a career Grand Slam on Monday, defeating Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.
It was his ninth career Grand Slam Crown, making him the second youngest player behind Bjorn Borg to win nine Slam titles.
He is also the first player to win three straight Grand Slam titles in the same year since Rod Laver won all four in 1969.
Nadal said: “It has been an incredible season – one of my best ever, if not the best. Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy. I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1.”
He leads the ATP World Tour with six titles and a 59-7 match record in 2010. Since April he has won 43 of 46 matches, winning six of nine tournaments, including three consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court events (Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid) and his fifth Roland Garros title in six years. In July, he captured his second Wimbledon title in three years.
But is he better than Federer?
Since his US Open win, the tennis world has split over Rafa’s place amongst the tennis elite in history, while journalists even dared ask the question: was he now better than the mighty Roger Federer?
Novak Djokovic certainly seemed to think so after losing to the young Spaniard in the final, graciously describing him as the ‘best ever’ following the final on Monday. But a humble Rafa said: “I think talking about if I am better or worse than Roger (Federer) is stupid…because the titles say he’s much better than me, so that’s true at that moment. I think that will be true all my life.”
Rafa’s coach, Toni Nadal, was also in agreement with his protégé of two decades during an interview with the Times: “The best of all time are Laver, Federer, Borg…then Sampras. We are very happy with nine grand-slams and 18 Masters [titles], but after one month or in 15 days, we have problems again because tennis is relentless. We will go to Shanghai and there, Rafael has to try to win. To demonstrate that he is a good player, this is always the same. It’s important to win now, but for nothing else.”
Without a doubt, Toni Nadal has to be given credit for keeping Rafa’s feet firmly on the ground and his mind forever in the present. Both coach and player are fine ambassadors for the sport.
Rafa will be officially crowned as the 2010 ATP World Tour Champion during a special ceremony at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Nov. 21-28.
The BBC announced this summer that they will be televising the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals for the next two years, which is great news for tennis fans across Britain.
The race for the final six positions
Nadal and Federer are the first two players to qualify for the eight-man field. As it stands, Novak Djokovic is in third position, with Andy Murray trailing him in fourth, both with over 4000 ranking points. Robin Soderling is in a strong position at fifth, around 400 points above his nearest rival, Andy Roddick.
However, there are only 1239 ranking points between Roddick, currently sitting in seventh and Mardy Fish in fifteenth. With three 500 tournaments and two Masters events still left to play, Roddick needs to step up a gear if he wants to make up for missing last year’s finals, as in form Fernando Verdasco, Mickhail Youzhny and David Ferrer are all nipping at his heels.
Year-to-date South African Airways 2010 ATP Points (13.9.10)
|Rafael Nadal (qualified)
|Roger Federer (qualified)