By Chris Oddo/ Saturday, October 5, 2013
Rafael Nadal will regain the top spot in the ATP rankings for a third time after reaching the final of the China Open in Beijing.
Photo Source: AP
After a year's worth of hard-fought battles, it wasn't the scenario that Rafael Nadal envisioned. But nevertheless, his abbreviated victory on Saturday in Beijing was yet another coronation for Nadal, who advanced to the final of the China Open and assured himself a return to the ATP's No. 1 ranking for a third time when Tomas Berdych was forced to retire at 2-4 down in the first set of the China Open semifinal with back problems.
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Berdych has now lost 15 straight decisions against Nadal--that may have played a part in his decision to play it safe with the injury rather than risk further aggravation for the sake of reaching his 50th match victory of the season. After leaving the court to seek treatment for his back after falling behind 4-2, Berdych returned but elected to pull the plug midway through the seventh game.
Nadal's victory improves his current winning streak to 22 (his career best is 32, achieved in 2008) and improves his hard court record during 2013 to a remarkable 26-0.
Safe passage into the final means that the Spaniard will return to No. 1 in the ATP's rankings on Monday, regardless of the outcome of Sunday's final.
Nadal originally reached No. 1 in August of 2008, which ended Roger Federer's record-breaking 237-week stay at No. 1. After holding the top ranking for 46 weeks, Nadal would lose the top spot to Federer in July of 2009 only to gain it back for another 56 weeks in June of 2010. After Wimbledon in 2011, Novak Djokovic took over the No. 1 ranking, and he and Federer have held it for the last 118 weeks.
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Nadal's third stint as No. 1 comes during a year that has seen the Spaniard return from career-threatening knee problems to win ten titles, two Grand Slams and carry a record of 65-3 into Sunday's China Open final.
Nadal will now bid to become the first person in ATP history to return to finish as year-end No. 1 three years after his last year-end No. 1 ranking. Nadal finished as the ATP's year-end No. 1 in 2008 and 2010.