Nadal reaches incredible 17-year milestone but won’t overtake Federer

Roger Federer: The fans are the centre of everything

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Rafael Nadal has been in the ATP top 50 for 17 years in a remarkable sign of his longevity in tennis. However, the Spaniard will not surpass Roger Federer in the coming weeks by ending a sixth calendar year as the world No 1 despite winning the Australian Open earlier in 2022. 

Nadal is third in the rankings, behind countryman Carlos Alcaraz and Norwegian Casper Ruud. Alcaraz is the world No 1 after winning his maiden Grand Slam at the US Open. 

A difficult end to 2022 has seen Nadal miss out on being the top-ranked player. Had he done so, he would have been the No 1 at the end of a year for the sixth time – one more than Federer. Fellow rival Novak Djokovic has achieved that feat seven times. 

Victories at the Australian Open and French Open meant that it was an excellent start to the year. But Nadal retired from Wimbledon through injury and was then surprisingly beaten in the US Open last-16 by Frances Tiafoe. 

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The 36-year-old returned to play at this month’s Laver Cup, doubling up with the retiring Roger Federer in an emotional final game for the iconic Swiss. Federer bowed out following a doubles event against Tiafoe and Jack Sock, although Nadal faced questions over his own future. 

Asked about retirement, Nadal said he was focused on returning to full fitness. He told journalists: “I don’t know, I’m not at that moment (think about retirement) yet. I was close to that moment this year, I’m not going to lie to you. During Roland Garros I thought it might be my last tournament, this is the reality. Although from there everything went very bad physically.

“I broke my abs twice, at Wimbledon and in New York. It’s been a series of major misfortunes, added to all these personal things. But I’m not in that moment and I don’t want to think about that moment.”

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“Today, what I want is to get back to normality, for everything to go well with my personal life, which is the top priority, and then organise my life in the right way. Have peace of mind in my personal and professional life.”

Nadal has struggled with abdominal injuries over the last couple of months. He was visibly emotional in the aftermath of friend Federer’s final outing. 

The 22-times Grand Slam champion added: “It has been a difficult day to handle every single thing, and at the end everything became super emotional. For me, it has been a huge honour to be a part of this amazing moment of the history of our sport. When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving too.”

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