Former, Current Spanish Stars Reflect On Rafa's Return To No. 1
After his 2016 season, few predicted that Rafael Nadal would be returning to No. 1 on 21 August 2017. The Spanish star had to end his 2016 season early because of a nagging left wrist injury, yet here he is, back at the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Spanish tennis legends, as well as current players from Spain, talked with ATPWorldTour.com about Nadal's ascension to the top.
Read more stories in our Rafa Returns To No. 1 tribute...
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“Rafa is a fighter, a warrior, and has always managed to show his best level after suffering physical setbacks. During the past few months I’ve seen him in play in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Paris and London. His ambition and desire to stay at the top keeps surprising me more and more each time. Right now he’s the best player in the world and his [year-end No. 1] contest against Federer is going to be beautiful. I can’t wait to arrive in New York to follow the US Open and, later, see who clinches the year-end No. 1. It’s been a spectacular season and we the tennis lovers are having a ball.”
“It is fair to say that Spanish tennis is a force worldwide, but Nadal is its captain. Everybody looks up to Rafa and he’s making Spanish tennis even bigger. I would like to underline a point about Rafa: We should inculcate his values of hard work, humility and passion for tennis to every up-and-coming player. To be like him is going to be impossible, but we can transmit his spirit. Having him back at the top is the best thing that could have happened to our tennis.”
“Being back at No. 1 is very important for Rafa, but also a big example of effort, personal growth and fight. It means that he has been doing things right. He needed to lift a lot of big titles to be back at the top. Winning Grand Slam crowns also mean the world for him. Every detail counts to earn his place in history, but being No. 1 once again is incredible.”
“For all the values that Rafa echoes, his return to No. 1 is the best for our tennis. Back in December, when you saw him training, one could imagine him regaining the top spot. He was practising with immense passion, and that is pivotal. He deserves it.”
Roberto Bautista Agut
“Rafa is a great example, not just for tennis but for sport in general. He represents the values and principles of fighting spirit, constant improvement and also the desire to keep winning. He truly deserves to be where he is, so congratulations to him and his team.”
Pablo Carreno Busta
“You can expect everything from Rafa because he has proven time after time that he is able to do amazing things. For instance, being injured and coming back to the top of the top. It’s very remarkable. If someone could do this, for sure Rafa was the one.”
“It’s amazing, but there is also something clear: After I lost the final in Monte-Carlo against him, I could see him back at the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings. His level was unbelievable. At the end of the year it will be between him and Federer but so far Nadal’s achievements have been amazing.”
“People buried Rafa and that was a sure mistake. He had injuries and had struggled physically and even in that situation he has been able to stay among the best, having options and fighting to be competitive again. It is normal that great players such as Rafa come back to their best and with that, reach the top.”
“Being able to regain the No. 1 position is just insane. Another milestone for Rafa, for Spanish tennis but also a great example for the tennis world. If someone dared to have doubts about him, Rafa proves once more that his desire remains intact and his commitment never goes below 100 per cent.”
“I always had faith in Rafa. Always. It’s true that reaching the World No. 1 position was not an easy task seeing how good Djokovic or Murray were playing, or Federer this year. But Rafa never stops surprising you. I knew he would try and try again to be back to his best. But his year has been simply amazing so far. It’s insane. I am really happy for him and I know that for him this is very, very special. Rafa’s success is based on hard work and also that capacity of never surrender. He is an example.”
“For the Spanish tennis, to have Rafa there means that our tennis is back at the top. At the summit. Obviously Rafa is La Armada’s face. That puts us again amongst the best and it is a priceless recognition. Personally I think that Rafa has shown again his personal drive, his spirit of sacrifice. It’s a lesson for all of us. For a long time it was very unfair to hear comments about him. ‘He won’t be the one he was’, they said. ‘He won’t be World No. 1 again’. I never thought that.”
“Rafa shows again that you cannot bury someone of his talent and hunger. I think his achievement is something great for our sport, for sport in general. Youngsters can look up to him and they’ll see him at the top again, where he deserves to be, but also they’ll see what it takes to be there. All the sacrifices and effort you have to put into it in order to succeed. Every comeback is spectacular but the older you get the more difficult and amazing it is to succeed. And to see him fighting like that when he has won everything makes it more admirable.”
“Rafa is the perfect example of perseverance and always wanting to get better and improve. He is incomparable. There will be no one like him. Another player in his situation wouldn’t have made it after all the injuries and difficult moments.”
What You Need To Know About Nadal’s No. 1
Weeks at No. 1: This will mark Nadal's first week at No. 1 in 2017, but overall, the Spaniard will be celebrating his 142nd week and 995th day at the top spot. As far as hours, Nadal has enjoyed more than 23,860 hours at No. 1.
Total Weeks At The Top Emirates ATP Ranking
Longest streak: Nadal spent 56 consecutive weeks at No. 1 from 7 June 2010 to 4 July 2011.
Consecutive Weeks At No. 1
First time: Nadal’s debut at World No. 1 was 18 August 2008 and his stay there lasted almost a year, until 5 July 2009.
Second time: The Spaniard reclaimed the throne on 7 June 2010, the day his longest streak started.
Third time around: In October 2013, Nadal again climbed to the top Emirates ATP Ranking a long injury layoff. It was a remarkable comeback during a year to remember.
Big Titles Won As No. 1: During his three spells at the top, Nadal won five Grand Slam titles and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns.
ATP WORLD TOUR MASTERS 1000 TITLES
Indian Wells 2009 (d. Murray)
Monte-Carlo 2009 (d. Djokovic)
Rome 2009 (d. Djokovic)
Monte-Carlo 2011 (d. Ferrer)
Madrid 2014 (d. Nishikori)
Matches played as No. 1: Nadal has played a total of 227 matches as World No. 1, going 194-33, a winning percentage of 85. Of those 33 losses, eight came against one man: Novak Djokovic.
Longest matches as No. 1: Four times a match exceeded the four-hour mark with Nadal playing as World No. 1. The Spaniard won all four contests.
Two epic back-to-back wins are at the top of the list: Nadal's 2009 Australian Open semi-final against Fernando Verdasco, which lasted five hours and 10 minutes; and Nadal's 2009 Australian Open final against Roger Federer, which concluded after four hours and 19 minutes.