© Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Rafael Nadal is looking for his fourth year-end No. 1 finish.

Nadal In Search Of Historic Year End No. 1 Finish

Set to be photo finish with Federer

The plaudits have rung out for Rafael Nadal since his return to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. It is a feat few would have thought possible when seeing Nadal desolate at withdrawing during his Roland Garros campaign last year and ultimately dropping to No. 9 in the standings.

It was from ninth spot that the Spaniard began 2017 and the tenacity, desire and fighting spirit that has been synonymous with Nadal throughout his career has carried him back to the top. Now Nadal is looking to crown his memorable 2017 by finishing as the year-end No. 1, an achievement that would arguably be of even greater significance in the record books.

It is set to be a fight to the finish with his long-time rival, Roger Federer, with the possibility that the battle for No. 1 could be settled at the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London, where Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in a winner-take-all championship match last year.

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Since the Emirates ATP Rankings began in 1973, only four players (Ivan Lendl, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) have reclaimed the year-end No. 1 spot after losing it. In a showing of unparalleled perseverance, only Nadal has achieved this on more than one occasion, returning to the top of the year-end rankings in 2010 and 2013. Now, he's looking to do it for a third time in 2017.

Players To Have Regained Year-End No. 1


Rafael Nadal 2
2010, 2013
Ivan Lendl 1
Roger Federer 1
Novak Djokovic 1

To pull off this unprecedented feat on the ATP World Tour, Nadal will have to face down Federer. Going into the US Open, where 2000 points are awarded to the winner, Nadal has a 500-point lead on the Swiss, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year. The Spaniard is only defending 280 points for the remainder of the season, but Federer, who curtailed his 2016 campaign in July, is defending nothing. 

The year-end No. 1 ranking is decided by the results over the course of the season. Nadal has finished the season at No. 1 three times (2008, 2010, 2013), placing him seventh on the all-time list on the ATP World Tour. If he were to achieve it for the fourth time, he would be in joint-fourth position with John McEnroe, Lendl and Djokovic.

Most Year-End No. 1 Finishes


Pete Sampras 6 1993-98
Jimmy Connors 5 1974-78
Roger Federer 5 2004-07, 2009
John McEnroe 4 1981-84
Ivan Lendl 4 1985-87, 1989
Novak Djokovic 4 2011-12, 2014-15
Rafael Nadal 3 2008, 2010, 2013

Players will usually say that staying at the top is more difficult than getting there in the first place. Nadal has proven time and time again that he can return to the top of the game. Together with Pete Sampras and Federer, he currently holds one of the most notable statistics in the game: the biggest gap between his first year-end No. 1 finish (2008) and his most recent (2013) - six years. Now Nadal will look to finish as year-end No. 1 10 years after first doing so.

With one Grand Slam, two ATP World Tour Masters 1000s and the Nitto ATP Finals (1500 points for the winner) still to come, it is set up to be compelling viewing for a photo-finish for two of tennis’ greatest rivals as Nadal and Federer both chase down the year-end top spot. 

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