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Rafael Nadal plans to enjoy his return to No. 1.

Returning To No. 1 'Something Special' For Nadal

Spaniard will face Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati opener

Injuries, heart-breaking losses and doubts about if he'd ever return to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Rafael Nadal has experienced it all since he last reigned at World No. 1, on 6 June 2014.

But during that time, he has courageously placed distractions to the side and forged ahead with the work of improving his career. On Monday 21 August, he'll receive another reward when he returns to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Nadal and Federer were set to battle for the top Emirates ATP Ranking this week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. But with Federer's withdrawal because of a back injury on Monday, Nadal is guaranteed to take the top spot in one week.

“Obviously it's bad news for the event that Roger is not playing. For me personally obviously to be back to that position is something special,” Nadal said on Monday during his pre-tournament press conference.

“A lot of things have happened since the last time I was in this spot. Injuries and some tough moments, of course, but I have held the passion and the love for the game, and that's why I have the chance to be back in that position again. So I'm just trying to enjoy the moment and just trying to be ready to compete well here. That's the most important thing for me now.”

Considering the past 12 months for Nadal, his climb to No. 1 must be especially sweet. He ended last season early because of an injury to his left wrist. The final time his fans watched him play in 2016 was a straight-set loss to Serbian Viktor Troicki at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.

How would Nadal return in 2017? Would he be able to re-gain his top form? Questions of all kinds were posed at the Spaniard in January. But he has more than answered every question – in the press room and on the court – this season.

Nadal has four titles this year, including his historic “La Décima” at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Roland Garros. He has reached three other finals, including the Australian Open and the Miami Open presented by Itau, falling to Federer, and the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco, when he lost to Sam Querrey of the U.S. Nadal leads the ATP World Tour with seven final appearances.

“I am having a great season,” Nadal said.

But plenty of tournaments remain for the Spaniard, and for Federer, who could re-take No. 1 later this year. “Roger and I are both having a great season. I think both of us are going to have the chance to be in that position until the end of the season. It depends on the results... So let's see. I have an opportunity here to compete well this week and I'm going to try to do it,” Nadal said.

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He is the top seed at this week's ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati. Nadal has spent 141 weeks at No. 1, and first ascended there nearly nine years ago to the date, on 18 August 2008, at the age of 22.

He will meet Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the second round. The left-hander leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 14-0 and has not lost a set against Gasquet since 2008. “I have been playing great. I think I am practising well, too. I think I am ready to compete,” Nadal said.