Remember when Rafael Nadal wasn’t in the top 10 in the ATP world rankings? Probably not.
Nadal has now passed the milestone of 6,000 consecutive days inside the top 10, having broken in for the first time on April 25, 2005.
It’s an incredible testament to his longevity, and the record he holds for most consecutive weeks in the top 10 is unlikely to be broken soon. As of the start of this week, on September 27, Nadal has spent 836 weeks in a row inside the top 10 in the world. Second in the list is Jimmy Connors on 789 weeks, with Roger Federer in third on 734 weeks.
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And that total doesn’t include the 22 weeks that the rankings were frozen last year due to the suspension of the season during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nadal, who made his debut on the ATP Tour in 2002, made it into the top 10 for the first time in 2005 after winning his first Barcelona title, beating Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final. It was the season that an 18-year-old Nadal would announce himself as a star, with Barcelona his fourth title of an 11-title season, still the highest total of his career. The top 10 at the time that Nadal broke through also featured Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Gaston Gaudio, Tim Henman, Andre Agassi, Carlos Moya and David Nalbandian.
Novak Djokovic had only made his Grand Slam debut a few months earlier at the Australian Open, where he lost to Safin in the first round, and Federer was the only one of the ‘Big Three’ to have won any major titles, having already secured four. Barcelona was also just the fifth title of Nadal’s career; he has now won 88. Nadal finished the 2005 season as world No 2, a position he maintained for 160 consecutive weeks before finally overtaking Federer at the top of the rankings in August 2008.
Since that landmark victory in Barcelona, Nadal has won the tournament a record 12 times, along with 20 Grand Slam titles, putting him level with Djokovic and Federer on the all-time standings.
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Nadal has won two titles this year but shut down his season in August in a bid to help him get back to full fitness. Despite not playing for the rest of 2021, Nadal seems unlikely to drop out of the top 10.
He is currently ranked No 6 in the world and does not have many points that will drop from his rankings until 2022. He is set to lose 400 points from the 2019 ATP Finals, 360 points from the 2019 Paris Masters, and 180 points from 2019 Indian Wells.
Nadal is on 5,815 ranking points, behind him are Matteo Berrettini (5,173 points), Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer (who are both out for the rest of the year at least due to injury), Casper Ruud (3,440 points), Felix Auger-Aliassime (3,368 points), Hubert Hurkacz (3,333 points) and Denis Shapovalov (3,265 points). It would take a few big performances in the remaining two months of the season for anyone to move above Nadal in the rankings.
Even going into 2022 Nadal does not have many points to defend as he only made the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this year. However, if he is not back to his best for the clay season then his top-10 run could be in danger.
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Nadal announced earlier this month that he is recovering after undergoing treatment on his foot injury. His last match was at the Citi Open at the start of August when he was beaten by Lloyd Harris.
Speaking about his recovery, he said: “It is a time that is a bit complicated on a personal and professional level. Honestly, with the illusion of improving and facing a process that is going to be difficult and painful at some point, but that I have to go through to get back in a position to fight for what I want. I am determined to do it.”
Nadal’s former coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, believes his nephew will be ready to go again in 2022.
"Things are going better,” he told Tennis Majors about the rehab. “He has set his sights on starting in Australia. He will be fine. I'm convinced. The idea is to have a great year 2022. He will put his all into it."
Nadal recently teased fans that he may return to Laver Cup action in 2022, having missed the event this year. The Spaniard has been one of the stars of the Laver Cup, along with Federer, and hinted that a ‘Fedal’ reunion could be on the cards in London.
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