Rafael Nadal is back on top…
Almost nine years to the day since he first became No. 1, the 31-year-old Spanish tennis star has returned to the top of the ATP rankings for his fourth stint at the pinnacle.
Nadal, who had previously spent 141 total weeks at No. 1, replaces Andy Murray, who had held the top spot for 41 weeks since November 7, 2016.
Nadal, who first ascended to No. 1 on August 18, 2008 at the age of 22, last held top spot three years and 45 days ago on July 6, 2014.
Nadal will now look to stay ahead of rival Roger Federer and finish atop the year-end ATP rankings for the first time since 2013 and for the fourth time in his career (2008, 2010, 2013).
“Being No. 1 after all the things that I have been going through the last couple of years is something unbelievable, so [it] is, for me, an amazing achievement to be back to that position after [a] few years, three years,” said Nadal.
Nadal has spent three previous stints at No. 1 – 46 weeks between August 18, 2008 and July 5, 2009, 56 weeks from June 7, 2010 to July 3, 2011 and 39 weeks between October 7, 2013 and July 6, 2014.
He holds the record for the longest gap – nine years and three days – between his debut at No. 1 and his return today, which betters the previous mark of Jimmy Connors, who was first No. 1 on July 29, 1974 and last at No. 1 on July 3, 1983 – a gap of eight years and 339 days.
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, “To regain the No. 1 ranking nine years after having first reached it is unprecedented. Rafa has been setting records throughout his remarkable career and this one is as impressive as any. It shows incredible dedication and longevity, and we congratulate him on this amazing achievement.”
Nadal, who ended the 2016 season early due to a wrist injury, has returned in 2017 playing some of the best tennis of his career. In compiling an ATP World Tour-best 49-9 match record, Nadal has captured four trophies this season, including historic 10th titles at Roland Garros (d. Wawrinka), the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Ramos-Vinolas) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Thiem), in addition to a fifth crown at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem).
He has also reached three other finals – the Australian Open (l. to Federer), Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco (l. to Querrey) and the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Federer).
On 12 June, Nadal became the first player to qualify for the 2017 season-ending ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. It is the 13th straight year that he has qualified for the elite eight-player tournament.