Fear does not come into the equation for Rafael Nadal. Having arrived in London for the Nitto ATP Finals, the Spaniard admitted he would not even allow a resurgent Roger Federer, nipping at his heels for a return to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, to play on his mind in the latter part of 2017.
Having achieved so much already, reassuming top spot was a bonus, an unexpected reward for a season that has bagged titles in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Roland Garros, Flushing Meadows and Beijing. The Spaniard begins his season-ending campaign with one less pressure hanging over his head.
Federer can nip at his heels all he wants. The year-end Emirates ATP No. 1 Ranking belongs to Nadal, regardless of results in London.
“I was not afraid at all,” Nadal said of Federer’s pursuit of the top spot. “It’s something that I was clear in my mind. I will not do a different calendar to try to be No.1 again. I did what I thought was best for my happiness, my tennis career and for my results.
“It’s a very important achievement, especially for my age – No.1 in the world at the end of the season is a great achievement for me at 31.5 years old. For sure, it was never on my mind to be in that position again, but here, I made it happen, my team helped me to where I am today.”
Few big titles have eluded the Spaniard over his decorated career. Of his 75 titles, however, none have included the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.
“Yes it’s a goal in my mind, I’ve qualified 13 years,” Nadal said. “Of course being here is an important thing but for me, it is what happens during the year – competing in tournaments, almost every week with a very competitive level of tennis, and being healthy (that matter).”
Seventh seed David Goffin is his first round-robin assignment on Monday night. The pair has squared off twice, both times on the slower clay, both this year – at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Madrid and ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo – where Nadal prevailed each time in straight sets.
“After what happened to him at Roland Garros (an ankle injury), it would be really unfair if he was not here,” Nadal said. “I’m very happy to see him recovered and playing well. Hopefully he won’t play that well on Monday but he’s 100 per cent here and he deserves to be.”
Nadal would have to progress beyond the group stage of the Nitto ATP Finals to have another shot at playing Federer. While he leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 23-15, the Swiss has claimed all four of their encounters in 2017. Any talk of revenge in London, though, is quickly downplayed.
“No I don’t need to beat Roger for good confidence,” Nadal said. “I’ve won enough to be confident. If I play him here it would be great to finish the year playing him again to give me another chance.
“We cannot forget that we played all the times (in 2017) on surfaces that he likes more than me. I just accept that and find different ways to approach the match and if that happens (in London), I’m healthy enough so I hope I have my chances.”