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Rafael Nadal won 47 of 49 matches during a four-month streak in 2008 to first rise to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

Remembering Nadal's Rise To No. 1... 10 Years On

ATPWorldTour.com looks back at the rise of the iconic Spaniard to World No. 1

Ten years ago today, on 18 August 2008, Rafael Nadal first rose to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. The Spaniard had long become accustomed to playing a waiting game, in stark contrast to his on-court dynamism and tenacity. For 160 consecutive weeks, a record, he had sat in second position, denied a place at the summit of men’s professional tennis by Roger Federer, the No. 1 for a record 237 straight weeks.

In the 1,119 days between Nadal first rising to No. 2 on 25 July 2005 and finally becoming the 24th player to rank World No. 1, since the advent of the ATP Rankings in August 1973, the then 22-year-old had compiled a 220-37 match record and lifted 22 titles. He went 20-2, with three titles in 2005; 59-12 and five titles in 2006; 70-15 and six titles in 2007 and from 1 January to 18 August 2018 he compiled a 71-8 record with 8 titles.

“I had three-and-a-half good years – 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008,” said Nadal. “I was winning a lot of points every year, but there was a player that was winning more than me in Roger. That year, Novak [Djokovic] also started playing well, so for me he was another tough rival. I began questioning whether I would ever be No. 1, so it was important for me to achieve it. I believed I deserved it after playing at a high level for many weeks and it means a lot to me.”

To break Federer’s tight hold on No. 1, which had begun when the Swiss first achieved the ranking on 4 February 2004, Nadal had gone on a four-month tear, compiling a 47-2 record (including a 32-match winning streak across three different surfaces – clay, grass and hard courts). In that period between 21 April to 17 August 2005, Nadal won eight titles from 10 tournaments — including two Grand Slam championships at Roland Garros and Wimbledon (d. Federer both times), the Beijing Olympics gold medal (d. Gonzalez), three ATP World Tour Masters 1000s in Monte-Carlo (d. Federer), Hamburg (d. Federer) and Toronto (d. Kiefer), one 500-level at Barcelona (d. Ferrer) and one 250 at Queen’s Club in London (d. Djokovic).

“I remember him playing with the best since a very young age. Once he rose to World No. 1 at 22, he was a very experienced player," former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero said. “I’m sure that surpassing Roger was a goal they established, something really huge to do back in the day. It was like sending a bold message: 'I’m here, and I’m going to fight for this for a long time'."

Today, he remains at No. 1, albeit in his seventh different stint (Nadal and Federer have already moved between No. 1 and No. 2 on six occasions this year). With a 40-3 record and five trophies in 2018, Nadal has amassed 80 crowns in an illustrious career — including 17 Grand Slam championships and a record 33 Masters 1000 crowns — and with a 2,495 points gap over second-placed 21-year-old Alexander Zverev and 2,750 points ahead of Federer in the 2018 ATP Race To London, the legendary Spaniard is firmly in contention to finish the year-end No. 1 for a fifth time (2008, 2010, 2013, 2017). "To finish the year as World No. 1 is different, more important," said Nadal. "The first time in 2008 was amazing, but it was more emotional and special to me in 2013 after overcoming problems with my knees."

Nadal's coach, Carlos Moya, who also held the No. 1 spot, is impressed by his charge's ability to still compete with the very best in the sport a decade after first ascending to the top.

“It’s been 10 years, he has recovered the No. 1 so many times, has overcome injuries, just won a Grand Slam 13 years after his maiden major," Moya said. "In an individual sport we have rarely seen something like that. Not in my day, that’s for sure."


Stint At No. 1 Weeks Titles/Finals Win-Loss Record
1) 17 August 2008-5 July 2009 46 5/2 56-8
2) 7 June 2010-3 July 2011 56 6/6 84-14
3) 7 October 2013-6 July 2014 39 4/4 54-11
4) 21 August 2017-18 February 2018 26 2/1 22-3
5) 2 April-13 May 2018 6 2/0 12-0
6) 21 May-17 June 2018 4 1/0 7-0
7) 25 June 2018-present 8 1/0 10-1
Totals 185 21/13 247-37 (.867)

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