x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Rafael Nadal can cement himself atย No 1 for 2018 with Paris Masters win

The Spaniard will look to maintain his fine form on Friday afternoon in the quarter-finals of the ATP 1000 event against Filip Krajinovic

Rafael Nadal can cap a fine 2017 season with victory in Paris Masters. Ian Langsdon / EPA
Rafael Nadal can cap a fine 2017 season with victory in Paris Masters. Ian Langsdon / EPA

Given how things have gone for Rafael Nadal this year there will be a little part of him that will likely be disappointed the season is wrapping up in two weeks with time.

Having started the year as world No 9 and with major doubts over his future due to injury problems, the fact that we are now at a stage where Nadal has cemented himself back as No 1 with grand slam wins at the French Open and US Open, as well as four other titles, is a remarkable effort.

_________________________________________________________________

Read more

Nadal 'never dreamed' of return to world No 1 spot

Djokovic and Wawrinka join Nadal at 10th Mubadala World Tennis Championship

_________________________________________________________________

He will obviously be glad of the rest, after a long season in which has had already played 75 matches.

If he reaches the Paris Masters final on Sunday and then the final of the ATP World Tour Finals later this month then he will reach a total of 83 for the year, his busiest season since 2011.

The impressive thing in Nadal's season has been the fact he has played every big tournament and that has emphasised that he truly has put his injury problems behind him.

Of the 17 events he has played in 2017 at only three of them has he failed to get to at least the quarter-finals.

A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal) on

The Paris Masters, the final ATP 1000 event of the season, is one of the few tournaments that the Spaniard has yet to win, and he will not have a better chance to remedy that then this year.

The closest he has come to prevailing previously was in 2007 when he was beaten 6-4, 6-0 by David Nalbandian in the final.

He faces qualifier Filip Krajinovic on Friday for a place in the semi-finals, where he will meet either Juan Martin del Potro or John Isner.

With Marin Cilic the only player in the top 10 on the other side of the draw, the 31 year old should be confident of his chances of a seventh title in 2017.

Prior to winning the US Open in September, you had to go back to January 2014 in Qatar for the last time Nadal had won an ATP hard court tournament.

Yet this is probably the biggest sign of Nadal's return to being a force in the game.

He was runner-up at the Australian Open in January, and then lost in the final in Miami in April, both times to the equally rejuvenated Roger Federer.

Since losing to Nick Kyrgios in the quarter-finals in Cincinnati, before the US Open, he has won 19 of his past 20 matches on the surface, the lone loss being against Federer in Shanghai.

Yes, Federer has had the edge on him on hard courts, but Nadal has had the greater longevity over the season. He played, and dominated, the clay season as his Swiss rival sat it out to prepare for the grass court season, a decision that proved wise as he charged to an eighth Wimbledon title.

Going into Friday's match with Krajinovic, Nadal has played 22 more matches then Federer.

Nadal is already guaranteed to be No 1 come the end of the season, but going on to win in Paris on Sunday would go a long way towards cementing him in the position for a good deal of 2018.

He is 1,460 points ahead of Federer, and that will extend by another thousand points if he lifts the Paris title.

A strong performance in London in the ATP World Tour Finals should mean he goes into 2018 with a lead of close to 2,000 points.

It will be hard for Federer to make big in-roads into that in 2018, unless Nadal has injuries or a dramatic loss in form, given he has so many ranking points to defend.

With Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka all set to start 2018 outside the top 10 after time out with injuries, it is hard to see who will get Nadal's No 1 spot, if he stays healthy, until at least the second half of the year.

But to be in that position he has to keep his high level of play up, starting with Krajinovic today.