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Rafael Nadal Earning No. 1 Rank Is Cherry on Top for Epic 2013 Season

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 04:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates winning against Fabio Fognini of Italy during his men's quarter-final match on day seven of the 2013 China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 4, 2013 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
Feng Li/Getty Images
Jesse ReedCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2013

Rafael Nadal had a season for the ages in 2013, and he added to his impressive list of accomplishments on Saturday, Oct. 5.

Nadal reclaimed the No. 1 world ranking when he reached the men's final at the China Open, as noted by Yahoo!:

Novak Djokovic went on to beat Nadal in said final, but the loss couldn't possibly detract from the Spaniard's achievements this season.

Speaking of losses, Nadal suffered just four this year. 

To this point in the season, he carries a record of 65-4 into the final stretch, having won 10 titles this year, including two Grand Slams.

Entering 2013, Nadal was ranked No. 4 in the world, and when he withdrew from the Australian Open in January, he fell to No. 5 in the rankings. 

Many wondered if Nadal's best days were already behind him given the knee injuries he'd been dealing with. But it didn't take long for that perception to quickly disappear. 

After losing in the final at Vina del Mar in Chile, The King of Clay won three-straight titles. He then lost to Djokovic in the final at Monte Carlo but came back strong with another four-straight championships—including his eighth French Open title. 

Before he won at Roland Garros, Nadal told reporters that "he plays with less pressure" and came back from his injury with more motivation and energy, as noted by the tournament's Twitter account:

It surely showed on the court, as Nadal easily dispatched all challengers to his throne at the French Open. 

But he experienced the lowest moment of the season shortly thereafter, losing his first-round match at Wimbledon in straight sets. It was the first time in his career that Nadal had lost in the first round of a Grand Slam, and once again, many wondered if Nadal was headed downhill. 

His knee appeared to bother him badly in that match, and afterwards, Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times noted he'd be surprised if Nadal played in more than three tournaments the rest of the year:

Rothenberg wasn't the only expert who wondered about Nadal's health, but he proved everyone wrong by coming out with two more big wins on his way to the U.S. Open before winning his second Grand Slam of the season at Flushing Meadows. 

Sep 9, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Rafael Nadal (ESP) poses with the championship trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic (SRB) in the men's singles final on day fifteen of the 2013 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Nadal wouldn't have to do anything else this year to finish with one of the greatest single seasons in ATP history. Starting the season at No. 5 in the rankings, nobody thought he'd reclaim the top spot before the season was out.

His knee has apparently healed, and he's playing the best tennis of his career. Now, the biggest question for Nadal is what he'll do for an encore in 2014. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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