Rafael Nadal admits it’s a special feeling returning to the top of the rankings after struggling with injuries over the past few years but the Spaniard feels sorry for the Cincinnati Masters, which has lost yet another marquee name with Roger Federer’s withdrawal.
Nadal is guaranteed the No. 1 ranking next week thanks to Federer pulling out of the event due to a back injury he picked up in Montreal.
The Swiss joins a long list of high-profile absentees n Ohio that includes Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils.
Nadal is the only top-six player competing in Cincy this week, with the US Open less than a fortnight away.
Incidentally, Cincinnati was where Nadal captured the No. 1 ranking for the first time back in 2008, and it’s where he will return to the summit, more than three years after he last held that spot.
“(Cincinnati) was the place that I thought I’m going to be No. 1, and it happened in 2008, and it’s happening here again,” Nadal told reporters at the Western & Southern Open on Monday.
“Obviously it’s bad news for the event that Roger isn’t playing.
“For me personally obviously to be back to that position is something special. A lot of things have happened since the last time I was in this spot, injuries, some tough moments of course…
“I have held the passion and love for the game, that’s why I had the chance to be back in that position again. So just trying to enjoy the moment and to be ready to compete well here, that’s the most important thing for me now.”
Nadal spent three stints at world No. 1, the last of which ended in July 2014, and he has suffered various injuries since then that fueled his doubters and sceptics.
Asked if he ever had doubts himself that he would find his way back to the summit, Nadal said: “If you don’t have doubts, then you are very arrogant, and I am not very arrogant. It’s obvious that there is a young generation coming, there are a lot of players that are very good, so it’s tough to be back to No. 1.
“It’s true that Roger and I are having a great season both of us, and I think both of us will have a chance to be in that position until the end of the season. It depends on the results, one or the other will have that position more weeks, we’ll see. I have an opportunity here to compete well this week and I’m going to try to do it.”
With so many stars absent from the draw, Nadal has a real opportunity to open up a gap between himself and Federer in the rankings. Djokovic and Wawrinka have both pulled the plug on their seasons early to nurse elbow and knee injuries respectively, while Murray is dealing with a lingering hip problem and is hoping to be ready for the US Open.
No stranger to physical problems himself, Nadal says the key is just to accept that injuries are part of the job.
“It’s just a coincidence. It’s unlucky for the tournament,” he said of the lengthy list of no-shows.
“Of course we are not 20 years old anymore, Andy is 30, Novak too, I am 31, Roger is 36, so it’s normal that we are not playing all the weeks and that’s happening. That’s part of our sport too, I have been in that position a lot of times.
“I skipped for sure many more events than the rest of my competitors during my career. For sure I missed many more events than Roger, than Novak, than Andy. That’s part of the sport, and I accept it. this time It happened with some other players, that’s part of the game.
“I’m sorry for them, I wish all of them a good recovery, we need them on tour for our sport, they are so important, so we hope to see them back on tour.”
Nadal opens his Cincy campaign against Richard Gasquet on Wednesday in the second round.
He’s won his last 10 consecutive matches, is one of just three people to defeat Roger Federer in 2017, and is the first to hand the Swiss a loss in a final this season.
Alexander “Sascha” Zverev owns a tour-leading five titles this year and has positioned himself as a US Open favourite despite his lack of top results at the majors so far in his young career.
Zverev’s 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Federer in the Montreal final on Sunday gave the 2o-year-old a second Masters 1000 trophy of the season, and ended Federer’s 16-match winning streak.
Here are six reasons that prove he’s the real deal…
This is essentially Zverev’s second full season on the ATP tour and he already has six titles. To put this in perspective, Zverev has as many titles as the 30-year-old Gael Monfils and the 26-year-old Grigor Dimitrov.
Two of Zverev’s six titles have come at the Masters 1000 level. That’s more Masters titles than Stan Wawrinka has managed to achieve. The following players are ones who have failed to claim trophies at that level: Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Dimitrov, Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro and many more.
The people Zverev has had to take down in the finals to claim those six titles include: Federer (Montreal), Kevin Anderson (Washington), Novak Djokovic (Rome), Guido Pella (Munich), Richard Gasquet (Montpellier), Wawrinka (St. Petersburg). That is one impressive list of scalps.
Zverev already has 10 wins against top-10 opposition, including two over Federer. He’s posted all those victories within the last 14 months. His 5-1 record in career finals is also an indication that he knows how to step up when it matters the most. It’s why he is now No. 3 in the Race to London.
In today’s game, serving huge is almost like the only way to thrive and Zverev has been constantly improving in that regard. This season, he has held serve in 86 per cent of his service games. That places him in the top-10 in that category in 2017. He also saved 65 per cent of the break points he faces this season, which places him among the top-20 for the year among all players.
Zverev is coached by his father, Alexander Sr. and former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero. The young German described his dad as the best ever coach, considering he has led both his sons (Sascha and Mischa) to the top-30 with each of them sporting opposite styles of play (Mischa is a serve-and-volleyer, Sascha’s a baseliner). The addition of Ferrero earlier this season has paid dividends immediately and it looks like the Spaniard is there to stay on Team Zverev.
Zverev grew up around the tennis scene, thanks to his father and older brother, and has been acquainted with the top stars of the game from a very young age. It could be the reason why he is unfazed when facing such stars. He talks with so much confidence and belief in his abilities and has been portraying that perfectly on the court.
Granted Zverev has yet to reach a Slam quarter-final but he hasn’t done so bad at that level either. At 20, he has contested nine main draws at the majors, making the fourth round at Wimbledon last month and reaching three more third rounds. Zverev is the youngest player since Djokovic in 2007 to win a Masters 1000 title, the youngest since Djokovic in 2006 to rank in the top-20, and the youngest since Del Potro in 2008 to break the top-10. Considering the calibre of players he is emulating, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his Grand Slam breakthrough. It could be as soon as this US Open.
Roger Federer has withdrawn from the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati due to a back problem, which means Rafael Nadal will become the new world No. 1 when the new rankings are released on Monday August 21.
Federer, who lost to Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 in the Montreal final on Sunday, had hinted he was suffering from various aches in his body, as a result of the break he took between Wimbledon and Canada.
“I always enjoy playing here. Cincinnati has some of the best fans in the world and I am sorry I will miss them,” said Federer, a seven-time champion at the event.
As a result of his withdrawal, Nadal will return to the top of the rankings for the first time since July 2014, thanks to a stellar 2017, in which he won a 10th Roland Garros title along with three other trophies.
Since he first reached the top spot in August 2008, Nadal has spent three stints at No. 1 amounting to a total of 141 weeks.
Federer had a chance to return to No. 1 for the first time since November 2012 had he contested Cincinnati. He can still catch Nadal over the next few months in a bid to end the year at the summit.
The 36-year-old will be bidding for a third Grand Slam title of the season, and 20th overall, at the US Open, which commences August 28.
Federer joins a long list of high-profile absentees from the Cincinnati draw. Others who have pulled out include last year’s finalists Marin Cilic and Andy Murray, along with Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.
Nadal is the only top-six players in the draw.