Rafael Nadal admits it’s a special feeling returning to the top of the rankings after struggling with injuries over the past few years but the Spaniard feels sorry for the Cincinnati Masters, which has lost yet another marquee name with Roger Federer’s withdrawal.
Nadal is guaranteed the No. 1 ranking next week thanks to Federer pulling out of the event due to a back injury he picked up in Montreal.
The Swiss joins a long list of high-profile absentees n Ohio that includes Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Gael Monfils.
Nadal is the only top-six player competing in Cincy this week, with the US Open less than a fortnight away.
Incidentally, Cincinnati was where Nadal captured the No. 1 ranking for the first time back in 2008, and it’s where he will return to the summit, more than three years after he last held that spot.
“(Cincinnati) was the place that I thought I’m going to be No. 1, and it happened in 2008, and it’s happening here again,” Nadal told reporters at the Western & Southern Open on Monday.
“Obviously it’s bad news for the event that Roger isn’t playing.
“For me personally obviously to be back to that position is something special. A lot of things have happened since the last time I was in this spot, injuries, some tough moments of course…
“I have held the passion and love for the game, that’s why I had the chance to be back in that position again. So just trying to enjoy the moment and to be ready to compete well here, that’s the most important thing for me now.”
Nadal spent three stints at world No. 1, the last of which ended in July 2014, and he has suffered various injuries since then that fueled his doubters and sceptics.
Asked if he ever had doubts himself that he would find his way back to the summit, Nadal said: “If you don’t have doubts, then you are very arrogant, and I am not very arrogant. It’s obvious that there is a young generation coming, there are a lot of players that are very good, so it’s tough to be back to No. 1.
“It’s true that Roger and I are having a great season both of us, and I think both of us will have a chance to be in that position until the end of the season. It depends on the results, one or the other will have that position more weeks, we’ll see. I have an opportunity here to compete well this week and I’m going to try to do it.”