For Rafael Nadal, Topping The Year-End Rankings Remains His Second Best Achievement

Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

It has been a record-breaking and glorious past 11 months for Rafael Nadal, who sealed the year end No.1 ranking on Wednesday. The comeback has drawn praise from his fellow rivals, but it is the bigger picture that is more significant.

In 2016 the 31-year-old ended his season early due to a troublesome wrist injury. It was during a year where he withdrew from his beloved French Open for the first time and was once again sidelined from the tour for weeks. Many talked about the possibility of a strong comeback from the Spaniard, but few imagined it to go so smoothly.

“A lot of things have happened since the last time I was in this spot. Injuries and some tough moments, of course, but I have held the passion and the love for the game, and that’s why I have the chance to be back in that position again.” Nadal reflected about his return to world No.1 in August.

Prior to this week’s Masters 1000 tournament in Paris, Nadal has won six titles this season. His best performance since 2013. The king of clay achieved a double ‘la decima’ by winning Roland Garros and the Monte Carlo Masters for the tenth time in his career. Overall, he has won 65 out of 75 matches played in 2017 (not counting Paris).

Throughout the year, finishing the world at the top of the Emirates rankings for a fourth time was never a priority for the Spaniard. During a career that has had its fair share of injuries, especially with his knees and wrist, there was only one goal in mind. To end the year how he started – fit and injury-free.

“It had never been a goal, until the opportunity appeared.” Nadal told El Espanol. “Then it became a goal. The Asian tour was very important for me, adding many points helped me. When I receive the (year-end No.1) trophy in London it will be an exciting time for me because I thought it would not happen again.”

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Coach Carlos Moya has attributed Nadal’s rise to his ability to avoid injury. Moya was appointed as a mentor of the 10-time French Open champion last December. The decision was taken to provide fresh input into Nadal’s game. Who has mainly been coached by uncle Toni throughout his entire career.

“So far, Rafa has been injury-free and he could constantly compete. It’s probably one of the keys of the great season he had,” said Moya.

Even at the top of the men’s tour, Nadal refuses to forget the struggles of his past. As the oldest man to ever achieve the year-end accolade, he believes it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for his fighting spirit.

“It means that I have had a very long and successful career. It means that I have maintained the illusion despite the adversities. It means that I have maintained the desire to play despite the adversities that have been raised at the level of (my) injuries. It means a lot after where I’ve been in these last years.” He commented about the importance of his current ranking.

Celebrations have been placed on ice for Nadal with the potential of more milestone being achieved before the season ends. Should he win in Paris this week, the Spaniard will become the first player to win 31 Masters 1000 titles. Further ahead, he is also bidding to claim his maiden title at the prestigious ATP Finals in London.

Nadal’s 2017 season

Brisbane – QF (lost to Milos Raonic)
Australian Open – finalist (lost to Roger Federer)
Acapulco – finalist (lost to Sam Querrey)
Indian Wells – R4 (lost to Federer)
Miami – finalist (lost to Federer)
Monte Carlo – champion
Barcelona – champion
Madrid – champion
Rome – QF (lost to Dominic Thiem)
French Open – champion
Wimbledon – R4 (lost to Gilles Muller)
Canadian Masters – R3 (lost to Denis Shapovalov)
Cincinnati – QF (lost to Nick Kyrgios)
US Open – champion
Beijing – champion
Shanghai – finalist (lost to Federer)
Rome – TBD
ATP Finals – TBD

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