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With No. 1 ranking assured after Cincinnati, Nadal begins week by beating Gasquet


By Ricky Dimon


Rafael Nadal already has one title at the Western & Southern Open. That happens to be the same number as what his ATP ranking will look like next Monday.


But Nadal is apparently not content with those aforementioned accomplishments. The 15-time major champion still had business to take care of on the tennis court Thursday night and that is exactly what he did, improving to 15-0 lifetime against Richard Gasquet with a 6-3, 6-4 second-round victory.


Nadal, who had a chance to reach the top spot last week in Montreal but fell to Denis Shapovalov in the third round, clinched No. 1 after following Cincinnati when Roger Federer withdrew earlier this week because of a back injury.


The Spaniard, of course, is passing Andy Murray–not Federer. Murray was guaranteed to fall from his perch at No. 1 with 600 points from last year’s runner-up finish in Cincinnati coming off this week. Only Nadal and Federer had a chance to overtake him.


Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Richard Gasquet of France during their match at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, USA, 16 August 2017. EPA/TANNEN MAURY

“Obviously it’s bad news for the event that Roger is not playing,” Nadal said. “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 and some tough moments, of course, but I have held the passion and the love for the game and that’s why I have the chance to be back in that position again. So I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and just trying to be ready to compete well here. That’s the most important thing for me now.”


Nadal was last No. 1 in the world in June of 2014. Murray became the top-ranked player for the first time in his career last November and maintained it at the end of the year by beating Novak Djokovic in a winner-take-all World Tour Finals title tilt.


The 2017 campaign, however, has been a much different story. While Murray and Djokovic have been derailed by physical problems, Nadal and Federer have split the three majors. Federer lifted the Australian Open trophy (over Nadal in the final), Nadal triumphed at the French Open for the 10th time, and Federer won an eighth Wimbledon.


Thus it is a race for year-end No. 1 between two of the GOATs.


“Roger and I are both having a great season,” Nadal concluded. “I think both of us are going to have the chance to be in that position until the end of the season. It depends on the results…. So let’s see. I have an opportunity [in Cincinnati] to compete well this week and I’m going to try to do it.”


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.