© Peter Staples/ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal celebrates his fifth title at Canada's ATP Masters 1000 event, propelling him into the lead in the ATP Race To London.

Nadal Passes Djokovic For Top Spot In ATP Race To London

Spaniard lifts his 35th ATP Masters 1000 title in Montreal

If the ATP Tour calendar is a racetrack, the best tennis players in the world are more than halfway to the finish line. But two superstars have pulled away from the pack in pursuit of first place. And on Monday, Rafael Nadal will pass Novak Djokovic for the lead in the ATP Race To London, giving him the edge in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking.

Nadal captured his record-extending 35th ATP Masters 1000 title on Sunday with a straight-sets victory against Daniil Medvedev at the Coupe Rogers, giving him 1,000 points in the Race, which will move him 500 points ahead of second-placed Djokovic. 

“I am never too confident. I always respect every situation and every opponent,” Nadal said. “That's why I'm always putting my 100 per cent attention.”

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If the 33-year-old advances to the final of the Western & Southern Open, he will hold onto the top spot regardless of Djokovic’s efforts in Cincinnati, where the Serbian is the defending champion. It has been an exciting back-and-forth battle all year between the two legends of the sport, and the tension will only build as the season continues forward.

If Nadal finishes the season atop the ATP Rankings, he will tie Djokovic, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors for the second-most year-end No. 1 finishes in history behind only Pete Sampras (6). Djokovic, however, is trying to match Sampras’ record.

Most Year-End No. 1 Finishes In The ATP Rankings

 Pete Sampras  6
 Jimmy Connors  5
 Novak Djokovic  5
 Roger Federer  5
 Ivan Lendl  4
 John McEnroe  4
 Rafael Nadal  4

What’s most important to Nadal is that after some early-season health struggles, he is healthy and playing good tennis, as evidenced by his performance in Montreal. The lefty has made at least the semi-finals in his past eight tournaments.

“I am healthy for a while. Since Madrid I think I have been improving in all terms, especially on the body. The body is feeling better,” Nadal said. “That makes me play better, too, because my mind is focused on tennis, not thinking about if I can do this thing or another thing.”

Nadal finished his run in Canada in exceptionally strong form, winning eight of the final nine games against Medvedev. The Spaniard knew that the Russian had shown a high level all week, making the final without dropping a set. So Nadal, as always, kept his foot on the gas.

“In this sport you are never under full control. Things change very quickly. When you play against almost every player, when you play Masters 1000s, every single match is tough. Everybody has the potential to cause problems and everybody is dangerous,” Nadal said. “Even if you are winning, especially today I was winning 6-3, 4-0, I know I have an advantage, but of course I cannot be 100 per cent calm knowing that I [am] going to win the match.”

<a href='/en/players/rafael-nadal/n409/overview'>Rafael Nadal</a>

The 83-time tour-level titlist enjoyed the atmosphere, too, as the Montreal fans showed their love for Nadal from the moment he arrived. It is his third victory in Montreal, and his fifth in Canada.

“Every single place has a different atmosphere, different feeling. Every place is special by itself. But honestly here, I think they are very passionate about the sport. They are very passionate about tennis,” Nadal said. “I always felt when I have been playing here, [there has] always an unbelievable atmosphere out here, full crowd. That's so important for our sport and for me personally."

Nadal won his first hard-court title at 2005 Montreal, defeating Andre Agassi in the final. And one thing has remained a constant for him in this city: his driver, Jacque.

“He is not only a good luck charm, [he] is a great man. I am super happy when I see him, always,” Nadal said. “We know each other since a long time. It’s great to have him around.”