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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, November 1, 2017

 
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal topped Hyeon Chung, 7-5, 6-3, clinching the year-end top spot for the fourth time—and becoming the oldest year-end No. 1 in ATP history

Photo credit: AFP/Christophe Archambault

A resurgent Rafael Nadal rose to another Paris peak.

Nadal dispatched Hyeon Chung, 7-5, 6-3, in his Rolex Paris Masters opener, clinching the year-end world No. 1 ranking for the fourth time in his career.

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The 31-year-old Spaniard made history as the oldest year-end No. 1 and the first man over the age of 30 to hold the top spot since the inception of the ATP computer rankings in 1973.




"Of course, I'm very, very happy for everything," Nadal told the crowd in his post-match interview. "Having an amazing year. One year ago for sure I never dreamed about being world No. 1 again at the end of the season. So it's something that means a lot to me. 

"I'm very happy for everything, but the season is not over. So here I am in Paris, the most important city in my career without a doubt, so I am just looking forward to keep going and trying my best."

Five months after Nadal clinched La Decima, dropping just 35 games en route to his record-extending 10th Roland Garros championship, he was beaming in the City of Light again.




Enduring a nervous start today’s match, Nadal grew stronger as the mach flying through the finish line with his arms raised on top of the world again.

Nadal also ruled the world rankings in 2008, 2010 and 2013. This fourth season-ending trip to the top may well be his sweetest.

After pulling the plug early on 2016 to rest and rehab his left wrist, Nadal opened 2017 fighting to retain his Top 10 spot.

Working with former mentor Carlos Moya as coach, a revitalized Nadal has won six titles this season, including Roland Garros and the US Open, and regained the world No. 1 ranking nine years after he first rose to the top. That’s the longest span between a player’s first and most recent stints at No. 1 in ATP history.




Securing his fourth season-ending top spot, Nadal equals John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic’s marks. Pete Sampras holds the all-time ATP record with six finishes as year-end No. 1, followed by Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors, who each held the year-end top spot five times.

The 21-year-old Chung pushed Nadal to a tie break set in their first meeting in the Barcelona quarterfinals earlier this year and used his skill taking the ball on the rise to test the top seed again today.

A forehand error gave Chung a second break point in the third game. Reading Nadal’s forehand, Chung sprinted right and rifled a running forehand winner down the line breaking for 2-1.

The pair faced off nose-to-nose at net with Nadal pushing an angled forehand pass to break back after 23 minutes of play.

Quick off the mark and showing tremendous speed around court, Chung carved out a delicate forehand drop volley winner for triple break point—his fifth break point in the world No. 1’s first three service games.

Digging in, Nadal responded with five consecutive points working througha hard-fought hold for 3-2.

Asserting his aggression, Nadal snapped off a high backhand volley—making the toughest shot in tennis look relatively routine—breaking in the sixth game.

Stepping into the court with more frequency, Nadal dug out a terrific low forehand volley to start the seventh game. When Chung missed a backhand return, Nadal won his 13th of the last 14 points surging out to a 5-2 lead.

Serving for a one-set lead, Nadal again struggled on his serve. Working his way forward, Chung snapped off a smash for his second triple break in Nadal’s last three service games.

Bursting out of the blocks, Chung caught up the Spaniard’s drop shot and went right back at Nadal before spinning a forehand pass down the line breaking at love for 4-5. Chung held for his third straight game to level.

Deadlocked at 30-all in the 11th game, Nadal sprayed an inside-out forehand, exhaling at the error, to face break point. A crunching short forehand saved it as Nadal worked through another break point holding for 6-5.

All of the good work Chung did all set dissolved in his sloppiest game of the set. He clanked successive errors to face triple set point.




Nadal curled a forehand winner down the line closing a turbulent and sometime sloppy set with seven straight points.

In a seven-deuce game, Chung staved off three break points, including a clever forehand drop shot, withstanding a gritty 12-minute hold for 2-all when Nadal netted a forehand.

Sharpening his agggression, Nadal opened triple break-point lead in the eighth game. Trying to play close to the lines to keep the ball out of the top seed’s reach, Chung missed the mark with a diagonal forehand wide as Nadal broke at love for 5-3.




Zapping an ace out wide brought Nadal to match point to seal the year-end top spot.

When Chung sailed one final forehand, Nadal raised his arms in celebration, erupted in a smile, waved to roaring fans and threw a fist pump in celebration.

Continuing his quest for a record 31st Masters championship, Nadal will play Pablo Cuevas for a quarterfinal spot. Nadal owns a 3-1 record against Cuevas.

7-5, 6-3, Nadal will face Pablo Cuevas for a place in the quarterfinas.

 

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