With his quarter-final win over Marin Cilic at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, the remarkable 32-year-old Spaniard assured his place among the top eight men at the end of the season for the 14th consecutive year.
Nadal has ended the year as world No1 four times, including last year, and is certainly lining up a fifth opportunity with an outstanding season. Should he succeed, he would tie with Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer, just one behind Pete Sampras’s record six.
The achievement is all the more outstanding because Nadal did not play between his quarter-final loss by retirement with hip injury at the Australian Open until April.
He then returned to help Spain into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup with two straight-sets wins against Germany, and followed it with a surge on his beloved clay to claim a tour-best four titles. He won the Monte-Carlo Masters, Barcelona 500 and the French Open, each for the 11th time, and in between, he made the quarters of the Madrid Masters and won his eighth Rome Masters.
After pulling out of Queen’s with a knee injury, he played two exceptional five-setters against Juan Martin del Potro and then Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, losing the latter in the semi-finals, and he is now targeting his 116th career final in Toronto.
Should he win his remaining two matches at the Rogers Cup, he would become just the fourth player in the Open Era to win 80 titles, and would notch up 40 wins for the season, all from just eight tournaments.
Despite 14 qualifications for the end-of-year jamboree, Nadal has played only eight times due to repeated battles with injury late in the season. And it remains the biggest title he has yet to win, though he reached the final in 2010 and 2013. This year, with an extended break early in the year, that may finally change.
Nadal and old rival Roger Federer have shared the No1 ranking through 2018, but the Spaniard is extending his lead with his Rogers Cup run and is guaranteed the No1 ranking at the US Open irrespective of Federer’s performance on his return to the tour in Cincinnati next week.
Indeed, in the Race to London—based on points won during 2018 alone—Federer is currently third to Alexander Zverev, who has won three titles this year, including his third Masters title in Madrid.
Among the current top eight, only one has never qualified for London before, Kevin Anderson, who made his first Wimbledon final in July to hit a new career-high No5, and will rise to at least No6 in the Race by the time he arrives in Cincinnati. He could rise to No4 should he win his first Masters title on Sunday.
Race to London: the standings [as at SF stage of Rogers Cup]
1. Rafael Nadal
2. Alexander Zverev
3. Roger Federer
4. Juan Martin del Potro
5. Novak Djokovic
6. Kevin Anderson [up to 4 with Toronto title]
7. Marin Cilic
8. Dominic Thiem
9. John Isner
10. Fabio Fognini
11. Kei Nishikori
12. Marco Cecchinato
13. Grigor Dimitrov
14. Diego Schwartzman
15. Kyle Edmund
16. Borna Coric
17. Stefanos Tsitsipas [up to 10 with Toronto title]
18. Hyeon Chung
19. Roberto Bautista Agut
20. Pablo Carreno Busta
21. Karen Khachanov [up to 10/11, with Toronto title, depending on Tsitsipas]
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