Nadal wraps up No.1 ranking
Originally published on: 06/11/13 00:00
The 13-time Grand Slam champion edged out a stubborn Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6(5) 7-6(6) to become the first player to regain the year-end No.1 ranking for a second time, having previously topped the standings in 2008 and 2010.
An unbeaten run since the US Open had seen Novak Djokovic keep his chances of ending the year on top for a third successive year alive, but the defending champion will be forced to settle for second best after Nadal clinched his own fate with two wins in London.
It marks a extraordinary year for the Spaniard, who returned from a seven-month absence with a knee injury in February and went on to win 10 titles and take his major tally to 13 with victory at the French Open and at the US Open.
“This is one of the best things that I have done in my career,” he said. “To come back to No.1 after three seasons. That’s very difficult in our sport, and after a very [serious] injury.
“That’s an emotional thing for me. [Returning to No.1] was not my goal but after all the success I had during the season…and after everything that happened last year, I felt I deserved to be there at the end of the season.”
Nadal, who is now 73-6 for the season, also booked his place in the last four at The O2 with one round-robin match to spare. Having come into the tournament with a losing record (9-10 in five previous appearances), Nadal is bidding to win the year-end championships for the first time.
“I am [still] very far away from winning this title,” Nadal said of his chances. “Winning two matches already, that’s a very positive thing for me. But even if I am in the semi-finals, on this surface, I am not the favourite.”
Wawrinka had never taken a set off Nadal in 11 previous meetings, but he made his opponent work hard for the victory, coming from a break down in both sets only to succumb in the tiebreak. An untimely stumble on set point saw the Swiss hand Nadal the opening set and the top seed tightened his grip with an early break in the second.
With a perfect record against Wawrinka, the outcome looked inevitable, but the US Open semi-finalist, who won his opening match against Tomas Berdych on Monday, refused to surrender as he broke back, only to suffer heartbreak once again in the tiebreak. Over the course of the two-hour, 13-minute encounter, Wawrinka won 83 points to his opponent’s 80, but was left to rue his failure to win the important points.
“I am really disappointed for sure,” Wawrinka admitted. "I had so many [chances] but I had the feeling that I couldn’t change the match; I couldn’t change the score. I was playing the right tennis, but maybe did a few mistakes in the important points.
“But at the end of the day it is Rafa in front, he’s the No.1 player. It’s so tough to play him – that’s why he’s so good, because even when you play good tennis, your best tennis, he’s still there, still trying to find a way to win it.”
Debutant Wawrinka still has a chance to make it out of Group A, but David Ferrer's semi-final hopes were ended with defeat to Tomas Berdych. The Czech broke a two-match losing streak against the world No.3 to record his first win in Group A to keep himself in contention for a place in the last four.