Nadal: 'I Prefer To Be No. 1 To No. 2'
Rafael Nadal got married last Saturday. But after one day off, it was straight back to work for the Spaniard, who returned to practice on Monday and arrived in Paris on Thursday for the Rolex Paris Masters, the final ATP Masters 1000 event of the year.
There is a lot on the line for Nadal both this coming week and at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, as the 33-year-old is in a battle with current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking. He is trying to earn that recognition for the fifth time, which would tie Djokovic, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors in a tie for second all-time.
“It’s fantastic,” Nadal said. “I prefer to be No. 1 to No. 2 and No. 2 to No. 3. And of course, finishing the year world No. 1 is something special, and I would love to make that happen.”
This is Nadal’s first appearance since the Laver Cup due to a left hand injury. But he says he is ready to go in Bercy, where he seeks a record-extending 36th Masters 1000 title.
“I had my problem in the hand after the US Open, so I couldn't finish the Laver Cup the way that I wanted. Then I had to stop for a while,” Nadal said. “I feel better, that's why I'm here. And I am here with the goal to play my 100 per cent. That's what I expect.”
During Nadal’s pre-tournament news conference, a reporter asked him if one of the reasons he has never won the Rolex Paris Masters is because of “bad luck”. But Nadal takes plenty of confidence in this city, knowing he has triumphed at Roland Garros 12 times.
“If it's not good luck that I won 12 times in Roland Garros, it's not bad luck that I never won here,” Nadal said. “I missed this tournament a lot of times in my career. And other times I didn't play well and other times opponents have been better than me.”
Nadal has won just two of his 84 tour-level titles indoors. But with the year the Spaniard has had in 2019, there’s no reason to think he cannot challenge for the trophy in Paris. The lefty owns a 48-6 record this year, winning 28 of his past 29 matches, with his most recent loss coming in the Wimbledon semi-finals against Roger Federer.
“Of course it's an indoor surface that in the past is the surface that I had less chances. I think I have been improving the game to be able to play well. I think this year the surface is quite quick, quite fast. But I don't know. I'm happy to be here,” Nadal said. “As everybody knows, for me it's the most important city in my tennis career, so I love to be in Paris. [The city] always gives me good vibes.”
Now Nadal has an opportunity to finish his year strong. With just two victories over these final two events of the season, Nadal will eclipse the 50-win mark for the 11th time. Regardless of results in Paris, the Spaniard will reclaim World No. 1 on 4 November.
“I'm super happy with my season. [It was] a tough beginning of the season. Then I was able to find a way to be back playing at a very high level of tennis and [to] be in the situation that I am today,” Nadal said. “After Monte-Carlo [this] was something very difficult to imagine. So I'm very proud about the year that I am having and it's the moment to keep pushing a little bit until then.”