Rafael Nadal will finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fourth time.The 31-year-old Nadal assured himself the No. 1 ranking by beating Hyeon Chung, 7-5, 6-3, Wednesday in the second round of the Paris Masters.It is the first time he has finished the year at the top since 2013, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray doing so after that.
“One year ago, for sure I never dreamed about being No. 1 again at the end of the season,” said Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam winner who missed large parts of 2016 because of a wrist injury. “It has been an amazing year.”
Nadal’s comeback from injury, loss of form and confidence, has been remarkable. He reached three Grand Slam finals this year, losing to Roger Federer at the Australian Open and winning a 10th French Open title before clinching the United States Open for the third time.
Nadal, who also finished as No. 1 in 2008 and 2010, is also the oldest, a testament to his relentless determination.
“It’s about the passion for what you are doing,” he said when asked what drives him. “It’s about the mentality of waking up every morning with the right motivation to go on court and improve something. That’s the winning mentality, no?”
The only downside to his remarkable season has been always losing to Federer, who leads the ATP Tour with seven titles this year.
Federer has beaten Nadal four consecutive times — not dropping a set in three of those meetings — and Federer was in outside contention for the No. 1 ranking before pulling out of Paris to focus on the season-ending ATP Finals in London next week.Nadal was not at his best against the 21-year-old Chung, but was rarely tested.Chung broke Nadal back in the ninth game of the first set and held for 5-5. But Nadal then broke Chung to love to clinch the first set.
Chung saved four break points in a long fourth game of the second set lasting 12 minutes, holding for 2-2. But Nadal pulled away after that to serve out the victory on his second match point when Chung hit a forehand long.Nadal, who is tied for a record 30 Masters titles with Djokovic, has never won the tournament in Paris. He will next face Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay.