Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Triumph assures ranking for Nadal

AFP, PARIS

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns to South Korea’s Chung Hye-on in their Paris Masters second-round match at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Rafael Nadal on Wednesday secured the year-end world No. 1 ranking with a 7-5, 6-3 second-round victory over South Korean Chung Hye-on at the Paris Masters.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is the oldest man at 31 to finish a season at the top of the rankings, after a year that saw him win the French and US opens.

It is the fourth time the Spaniard, who started the season ninth in the rankings, has finished the season ranked No. 1 after 2008, 2010 and 2013.

“Of course it was not the goal [at the start of the season],” Nadal told a news conference. “It was impossible for me to think about that when you are coming back from a tough period of time without playing tennis and with so many injuries in the last couple of years.”

“But yes, here we are, [it] happened, and [I’m] very happy of course. Means a lot, no? After almost 10 years since the first time that I finished the year with this number,” he added.

Nadal went into the match knowing victory would give him an unassailable lead as world No. 1 over old rival Roger Federer, after the Swiss legend withdrew before the start of the Paris tournament.

Chung, 21, put up a brave fight, but a fired-up Nadal proved too hot to handle.

Nadal was yesterday to face Pablo Cuevas in the last 16, after the unseeded Uruguayan edged out Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/1), 6-2.

Victory in Sunday’s final in Paris would see Nadal move clear of Novak Djokovic with a record 31st Masters crown.

“I am on a good dynamic, playing well the whole season,” said Nadal, who has won only two of his 75 ATP titles indoors.

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro gave his ATP World Tour Finals bid a boost with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa.

The 13th-seeded Argentine needs to reach at least the semi-finals to take the eighth qualifying spot from Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who was dumped out by French wild-card Nicolas Mahut on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old was 47th in the points standings before the US Open in August, but an excellent run of form during which he reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows and won the Stockholm Open title has dragged him back into contention.

Del Potro is next to face unseeded Dutchman Robin Haase.

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed in his his efforts to reach the season-ending eight-man event with a surprise 2-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 defeat by compatriot and world No. 83 Julien Benneteau.

Another home player, Lucas Pouille, kept his slim hopes of reaching London alive by seeing off Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 6-4, while US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson’s chances ended with a 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 loss to Fernando Verdasco.

Bulgarian world No. 8 Grigor Dimitrov, who has already booked his ticket for the finals, knocked out French favorite Richard Gasquet with a straightforward 6-4, 6-4 win.

Earlier on Wednesday, fourth seed Alexander Zverev was dumped out by Haase in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 second-round defeat.

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