Rafael Nadal, the new world number one

It’s relatively easy to think the unthinkable, but to actually do it, to manage to climb to the top once more, to overcome relentless difficulties and obstacles… well, it takes a real champion to succeed. After a six months time out caused by a troubling knee injury, Rafael Nadal came back on the courts at the beginning of 2013 and, without playing in the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, started an incredible run that in the end lead him to the first position of the ATP world rankings. The Spaniard is again, according to the new rankings released today, world number one, after managing to dethrone his most redoubtable rival, Novak Djokovic. In order to overcome the Serbian, the left-handed player born in Manacor had to reach the final of the Beijing tournament, at which point the results of his opponent didn’t matter anymore, because Nadal would have accumulated sufficient points to uncrown him. The Spaniard reached his goal after encountering an extremely difficult resistance in the early stages of the competition, especially in the quarter finals against Fabio Fognini, to whom he lost a set and was 4-1 down in the second. And, to become even more exciting, he met in the final the now former leader of the men’s circuit, Novak Djokovic.

Having been beaten by Nadal in their last three encounters this year, the Serbian exhibited some of his best tennis and gave his rival no chance whatsoever. Perhaps Novak acted out of wounded pride, perhaps he felt he had nothing more to lose and merely tried to enjoy the game, feeling pressure-free, or perhaps he wanted to boost his morale for the upcoming end of the season. No matter what the explanation was, Djokovic showed up extremely confident on court, controlled authoritatively the game and thereby sent the right signal to the Spaniard: he may’ve lost this battle, he may’ve lost the first place, but the war is far from being over. His main strength turned out to be his serve, precise and varied, managing to outscore his opponent and leaving him with only six points gathered in the two sets. He also moved much quicker on the court, was able to reach more easily the balls and to respond more aggressive, especially with his backhand down the line, causing major damage to Nadal’s strategy. In the end, the Serbian won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, perhaps more comfortable than the score shows it, after a match dominated from start to finish.

After an amazing year, in which he won two Grand Slam titles and five Masters Series, Rafael Nadal is, according to today’s new rankings, the new world number one with 11.160 points, 40 more than Djokovic. This is not a premiere for the Spaniard, it is actually the third time in his career when he manages to climb to the top and be first in the rankings. He led the rankings in 2008-2009 and in 2010-2011, but couldn’t manage to hold that position for too long despite his continuous efforts. Nadal has now 103 weeks spent as world number one and has overcome Djokovic in this battle, but is far, far away from legends like Pete Sampras, 286 weeks as leader of the ATP rankings, and especially Roger Federer, who spent 302 weeks on top.

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