LONDON – Almost nine years to the day since he first became No. 1, Spain’s Rafael Nadal returned to the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings for his fourth stint at the pinnacle of men’s professional tennis. Nadal, who has already spent 141 total weeks at No. 1, replaces Great Britain’s Andy Murray, who had held the top spot for 41 weeks since 7 November 2016.
Nadal, who first ascended to No. 1 on 18 August 2008 at the age of 22, last held top spot three years and 45 days ago on 6 July 2014. The Spaniard will now look to stay ahead of his great Swiss rival Roger Federer and finish atop the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since 2013 and for the fourth time in his career (2008, 2010, 2013).
“Being No. 1 after all the things that I have been going through the last couple of years is something unbelievable, so [it] is, for me, an amazing achievement to be back to that position after [a] few years, three years,” said Nadal.
The 31-year-old Nadal has spent three previous stints at No. 1 – 46 weeks between 18 August 2008 and 5 July 2009, 56 weeks from 7 June 2010 to 3 July 2011 and 39 weeks between 7 October 2013 and 6 July 2014. He holds the record for the longest gap – nine years and three days – between his debut at No. 1 and his return today, which betters the previous mark of American Jimmy Connors, who was first No. 1 on 29 July 1974 and last at No. 1 on 3 July 1983 – a gap of eight years and 339 days.
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, “To regain the No. 1 ranking nine years after having first reached it is unprecedented. Rafa has been setting records throughout his remarkable career and this one is as impressive as any. It shows incredible dedication and longevity, and we congratulate him on this amazing achievement.”
The Spanish superstar, who ended the 2016 season early due to a wrist injury, has returned in 2017 playing some of the best tennis of his career. In compiling an ATP World Tour-best 49-9 match record, Nadal has captured four trophies this season, including historic 10th titles at Roland Garros (d. Wawrinka), the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Ramos-Vinolas) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Thiem), in addition to a fifth crown at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem). He has also reached three other finals – the Australian Open (l. to Federer), Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco (l. to Querrey) and the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Federer).
On 12 June, Nadal became the first player to qualify for the 2017 season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. It is the 13th straight year that he has qualified for the elite eight-player tournament.