Nadal crowned number one finally

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Majorcan Rafael Nadal wrestles top spot from Roger Federer after three years of being number two.

4 August 2008

MADRID - At last, the coup de grâce.

Capping an amazing run of 32 straight victories and five consecutive tournament wins, Rafael Nadal has achieved the seemingly unachievable by wrestling the number one spot from the despairing grip of Roger Federer.

That the Majorcan has to wait until the ATP rankings computer rubber stamps his ascendancy on 18 August - and that his first game as number one in-waiting ended in defeat - will do little to remove the gloss that Nadal has been applying to his status since he dismantled Federer in Paris in June's French Open final.

The denouement arrived on Friday, a 7-6, 6-1 victory over Nicolas Lapentti guaranteeing Nadal's investment as number one and making him the second-youngest player after Lleyton Hewitt to reach the sport's zenith.

On Saturday, he was reminded that there remain serious pretenders to the throne. Federer will be back for more and Novak Djokovic, the 6-1, 7-5 victor over Nadal in the semi-final of the Cincinnati Masters, is arguably the best hard-court player of them all right now.

Indeed, Nadal has had to pay as much heed to the Serb's challenge for the number-two spot as he has on deposing Federer. Twice during 2007, Nadal has been a lost game away from being the world's number three. Twice he has been mathematically within reach of number one.

With fewer points to defend than Federer and Djokovic at the US Open, Nadal's tenure should last longer than Spain's two previous incumbents, Carlos Moyà (1999, two weeks), and Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003, eight weeks), but the irresistible form of Djokovic will require the Spaniard to be at his best for the rest of the season. Federer, meanwhile, will be determined to retain his one remaining Grand Slam title.

"Rafa deserves all the credit, because the first thing he had to do was defend his number-two position against Djokovic," said Federer last week. "Since then, he has been on an amazing winning streak."

A three-way end-of-season joust is inevitable. It remains to be seen who will be left standing but for now, deservedly, Nadal reigns.

[El Pais / R. Train / Expatica]

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