Rafael Nadal Earning No. 1 Rank Is Cherry on Top for Epic 2013 Season
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!:
Rafael Nadal reaches the Beijing final and will re-claim the world's No. 1 spot from Novak Djokovic: http://t.co/W6Mx6h4iUS— Yahoo (@Yahoo) October 5, 2013
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.
Nadal will finish the 2014 season with the _____ ranking.
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:
Nadal says he plays with less pressure than before now. He came back from injury fresh and with motivation and energy. #RG13— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) June 5, 2013
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:
I'll say it now: I'd be surprised if Nadal played more than three more tournaments this year. #Wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 24, 2013
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.
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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