Rafael Nadal Must Get Edge on Novak Djokovic at BNP Paribas Masters

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2013

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 06:  Novak Djokovic  (R) of Serbia and Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain pose with their trophies during the medal ceremony after the Men's Single Final of the China Open at the China National Tennis Center on October 6, 2013 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Maybe Rafael Nadal can give the No. 1 ranking back.

Ever since earning the accolade following the China Open final, he's been struggling a bit, at least by the ridiculous standards he's set for himself in the rest of 2013. This is a guy who's lost five matches the entire season.

Now, in the space of two tournaments, Nadal lost that final to Novak Djokovic in straight sets and then fell to Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

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The reigning French and U.S. Open champion has an opportunity to atone for that loss in Beijing. He meets fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers in the second round of the BNP Paribas Masters, with the intention of getting that 11th title of the year. There's a good chance that if he makes the final, it will be a rematch of Beijing.

Although he got the better on the Serbian star in Flushing Meadows, Nadal needs to have a strong tournament and take back whatever advantage he lost in China.

That loss to the Djoker in Beijing should be a bit worrisome for the world's No. 1. The Australian Open champion was a different player. He was more aggressive and took the match right to Nadal. He didn't sit back and let the Spanish star dictate the pace of the match, as he did at the U.S. Open.

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Looking forward, you could give the world's No. 2 player the advantage. He's the more complete player and the only guy on the tour who can match Nadal's stamina.

Not often should you think about Iron Man 2, but Djokovic's win hearkens back to what Ivan Vanko said to Tony Stark. If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in him. Now that fans have seen the Djoker go on the offensive and beat Nadal, you have to expect more of the same in 2014.

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After all, Nadal has dominated this rivalry over the last two years. The China Open was only the second time in the last eight meetings between the two that Djokovic has won.

From the Nadal point of view, he should be looking to assert himself as the best player in the world again. It's hard to argue that the Spaniard doesn't deserve to be No. 1 based off of his ridiculous 2013. But that win in the China Open helped to create some doubt. Only furthering that doubt would be a bad way to end what has otherwise been such a great season.

It's not how you start. It's how you finish. Nadal can't let one of the lasting images of his 2013 campaign be another possible loss to Djokovic. This close to the end of the season, you want to go out on a high note. And if you can put back that little seed of doubt in the Djoker's mind, that's a win-win.

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