Relentless Nadal returns to world number one for eighth time
Rafael Nadal has become the second-oldest world number one in ATP rankings history after he reached top spot for the eighth time on Monday. What does he have left in his remarkable career and what does 2020 have in store for him?
What has happened?
Nadal usurped Novak Djokovic to snatch back top spot in the ATP rankings for the eighth time in his illustrious career.
It is exactly 12 months to the day since the Spaniard's last stint at world number one when he assumed the position on November 4, 2018.
Context of an incredible career
Nadal's eight times holding top spot have drawn him level with Ivan Lendl, the first coming on August 18, 2008 when he was 22 years old. On that occasion, he spent 46 weeks at top spot until July 5, 2009.
Following his first occupation of top spot in the rankings, he has returned to the summit seven times:
- June 7, 2010 - July 3, 2011
- October 7, 2013 - July 6, 2014
- August 21, 2017 - February 18, 2018
- April 2, 2018 - May 13, 2018
- May 21, 2018 - June 17, 2018
- June 25, 2018 - November 4, 2018
- November 4, 2019 - Ongoing
Nadal 'super happy'
The Mallorcan was forced to withdraw from his Paris Masters semi-final with Canada's Denis Shapovalov with an abdominal strain on Saturday in what he described as a "super sad moment".
But despite that late-season setback, he has still been able to reflect on another brilliant year.
“It was a tough beginning [of the season] but then I was able to find a way to be back playing at a very high level of tennis and be in the situation that I am today," he said.
" I'm very proud about the year that I am having. I'm super happy with my season."
A spectacular 2019 already
The 33-year-old had to end last season prematurely due to injury, but in 2019 he has recorded a 51-6 match record and won two Grand Slams.
Nadal has won four titles in total this season: a ninth Rome Masters crown; a 35th ATP Masters 1000 trophy at the Montreal Masters; his 12th Roland Garros triumph; plus a fourth US Open to round off the Slams in style.
It is yet to be seen if he can regain health and fitness for the ATP Finals in London after he qualified for the season-ending tournament way back on July 11.
What can Nadal achieve in 2020?
Nadal is second favourite to triumph at Melbourne Park in the first Grand Slam of 2020, only behind rival Novak Djokovic, who will be desperate to reclaim top spot in the rankings.
The key for the Spaniard is to continue to carefully manage his schedule in order to peak at the right moments in the season, as he did superbly this year.
Daniil Medvedev gave him a real scare in the US Open final and demonstrated his serious talent, but ultimately Nadal still had enough to pull through when it really mattered.
It remains to be seen when Medvedev, who is the third favourite to win the Australian Open, and others can finally usurp the 'old guard', but Nadal should be expected to at least win yet again at Roland Garros in adding to his Grand Slam tally.
Most weeks at number one in ATP rankings
- Roger Federer - 310
- Pete Sampras - 286
- Novak Djokovic - 275
- Ivan Lendl - 270
- Jimmy Connors - 268
- Rafael Nadal - 197 (ongoing)
- John McEnroe - 170
- Bjorn Borg - 109
- Andre Agassi - 101