Rafael Nadal, who missed the Australian Open and didn’t appear on tour until February due to an extended injury layoff, nonetheless secured the year-end No. 1 ranking on Wednesday after a 7-6(5), 7-6(6) win over Stan Wawrinka in round robin play at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
The win elevated him to 2-0 in round robin play and secured him a spot in the semifinals.
“Today, it was more important secure the No. 1 at the end of the season,” Nadal said. “One of the best things that I have done in my career — coming back to the No. 1 after three seasons. That’s very difficult in our sport.”
Nadal also finished year-end No. 1 in 2008 and 2010. He started the season late after an extended layoff to heal his chronic knee problems, which have miraculously been cured in 2013, seeing the Spaniard mow down the competition on every surface.
“At the end of the first set there were two amazing points,” said Nadal, who improved to 12-0 career against the Swiss. “One lob that I don’t know how I put it there. I saw it on the TV after the match, and I felt that I was very far away from the ball. He was unlucky the next point. He made a bad movement at the net.”
Wawrinka tried to come to terms with playing some of his best tennis, but falling to 0-12 career against the Spaniard.
“It’s a strange feeling right now,” Wawrinka said. “For sure, I’m really disappointed. I was playing the right tennis, but maybe made a few mistakes on the important points. But at the end of the day it’s Rafa in front. He’s the No. 1 player. It’s so tough to play him. That’s why he’s so good, because even when you play good tennis, your best tennis, he’s still there, still trying to find a way to win it.”
Tomas Berdych was also a winner on the day, keeping his hopes alive of advancing into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 round robin win over David Ferrer. Berdych and Wawrinka both sit at 1-1 in their round robin group, while Ferrer fell to 0-2 and is mathematically eliminated from the semifinals.
“The serve was working really well today and I think that was the key, especially for my game,” Berdych said. “When I make a lot of points from the serve I feel much better from the back of the court.”
Ferrer looked like he was out of gas after completing his 83rd match of the year, the most of any player on the ATP circuit.
Berdych in his final match Friday will have to defeat Nadal, who he has lost his last 15 matches against.
“Matches against him are always like a final because you’re playing the No. 1 player in the world,” Berdych said of the Spaniard. “Every time you go on court with him it’s amazing. It’s already many, many matches that he’s won and I need to do something about that.”
On Thursday Roger Federer will meet Richard Gasquet, and Novak Djokovic will meet Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro trails 10-3 in his head-to-head with Djokovic, but was victorious in three sets this year at Indian Wells.
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