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ATP World Tour Finals 2013: Rafael Nadal's Opening Victory Marks Return to Form

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates victory in his men's singles match against David Ferrer of Spain during day two of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at O2 Arena on November 5, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

He's back.

While in the midst of a jaw-dropping return to form in 2013 after injury woes, Rafael Nadal was a disappointment at the Paris Masters thanks to a semifinal loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

That didn't last long, as Nadal proved in stunning fashion he's back to top form for the year-end tournament.

Nadal extracted sweet revenge over Ferrer on the second day of the ATP World Tour Finals in his opening Group A match with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in a little over an hour, as Tennis View Magazine illustrates:

Nadal was helped by extraordinarily sloppy play from Ferrer, who committed 19 unforced errors in the first 30 minutes of the match. Still, Nadal was able to fend off a late push from his old adversary, whom he has now faced 30 times, and pulled through with a win.

As ESPN's Chris Fowler illustrates, Nadal didn't just look back to form against Ferrer—he looked exquisite:

Go figure.

Of course, the top-ranked Spaniard saves his best for last from London.

Why not? Nadal is known as one of the best ever—a current No. 1 ranking, four Grand Slam victories, a record 26 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and even an Olympic Gold medal from 2008 attest to that fact—but Nadal has never won a Barclays ATP World Tour Finals championship:

A record of 72-6—21-4 against top-10 opposition and 10 titles, including two majors—after a seven-month injury hiatus needs an exclamation point, which Nadal can provide with one more victory to finish the year as the No. 1 player in the world—a feat he's done just two other times, in 2008 and 2010.

Any thought of Nadal slowing down needs axed. The best player in the world smells blood—better yet, history.

Group A provides little competition. Nadal's record against the other competitors in his section going into his clash with Ferrer? 47-8.

The Spaniard still has dates with Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, but Nadal's eyes are surely already on the single-elimination rounds, where big fish such as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro await.

Of course, there's something to be said for the fact that Nadal appears uncomfortable with the O2 Arena, as he explained to Courtney Nguyen of SI.com. Nadal dislikes the arena because of its hard surface, which goes a long way in neutering his best weapon—the forehand. His ball stays lower, as the topspin he generates has a lesser impact indoors.

Indoor surfaces also happen to be where Djokovic and Roger Federer play their best and have won six of the last seven ATP World Tour Finals.

Nadal is at home on clay, but it would be unwise to bet against a man on the cusp of history, regardless of the surface. He's shown throughout the year on an unprecedented comeback tour that he remains the best in the sport.

With three matches in round-robin play to build momentum, anything is possible for Nadal. He's back on track, and the rest of the field better come ready for Nadal at his best.

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