Roger Federer believes Rafael Nadal would “absolutely deserve” to be world No1 again as the Spaniard stands just three wins away from returning to the top of the rankings.
Nadal would usurp Andy Murray as the new world No1 if he reaches the semi-finals in Montreal this week.
The 31-year-old has not occupied the top spot since July 2014 and after struggling with injury end of last year, he has stormed back to his best form this season, winning a 10th French Open in June, along with three more titles in the last seven months.
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“It would be absolutely massive,” Federer told TennisTV of the prospect of Nadal reclaiming the No1 ranking.
“I remember when he was injured at the end of last year and here he is a few matches away from clinching world No1.
“In a way it seems very far, yet it’s very near, so he’s just got to stay focused. I hope for his sake he’s going to make it. If not, I’m happy for Andy to get another week at world No1 because the run that he showed as well last year was tremendous.
“I have unbelievable respect for Andy, that he was able to do it and get to world No1 and finish the year at world No1, that was nice to see. Now there’s probably going to be a changing of the guard at world No1 level, in the near future and I hope for Rafa he can get there again, he would absolutely deserve it after his 10th French Open win in the summer.”
Nadal opens his Montreal campaign on Wednesday against Croatian Borna Coric, who owns two victories in three meetings with the Mallorcan, while Federer faces home favourite Peter Polansky.
A battle for year-end No1 looks likely to transpire between Nadal and Federer over the next few months but the former insists it is not his main focus.
“I never thought about that and I’m still not thinking about it,” said Nadal of the top spot.
“I go day by day and I try my best in every match and then we’ll see what’s going to happen. But it’s something I’m not thinking much about. If it happens, for sure (it’s) welcome.
“It’s obvious that after all the things that happened to me with injuries, going back that spot will be special.”
Murray, who is missing Montreal with a hip injury, has struggled in 2017, claiming just one title, in Dubai, and accumulating a 25-10 win-loss record.
He said after his Wimbledon quarter-final exit to Sam Querrey that he “doesn’t deserve” to keep his top spot much longer.