Top man in top spot

RAFAEL NADAL not only took his 12th Roland Garros title on Sunday, but he also took the lead in the battle for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking from Novak Djokovi. 

Nadal passed Djokovic in the ATP Race To London with 5,505 points, taking a 780-point advantage over the second-placed Serbian (4,725). 

It is the third consecutive year in which Nadal has led the Race after the season’s second Grand Slam, and he has fittingly won the title on the Parisian clay on each occasion. This sets the stage for what could be an exciting battle for the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking. 

This is the closest the Race has been between the top two players after Roland Garros since 2012, when Nadal led Djokovic by 630 points after claiming his seventh trophy in Paris. In 2017, Nadal led second-placed Roger Federer by 2,870 points and last season, he was ahead of second-placed Alexander Zverev by 1,545 points. 

Nadal is now in a strong position to make a run for his fifth year-end finish (2008, ‘10, ‘13, ‘17) atop the ATP Rankings. Nadal would join Djokovic, Federer and Jimmy Connors in a tie for the second-most times accomplishing the feat, only trailing Pete Sampras, who did it on six occasions. 

It is impressive that the 33-year-old has passed Djokovic considering last month, the Serbian took a 900-point lead in the Race by winning the Mutua Madrid Open, and Nadal had not reached a clay-court final in 2019. But the Spaniard found his rhythm, triumphing at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and then losing just two sets en route to his victory in Paris to make his move in the race for year-end No. 1. 

In Paris, Nadal produced a masterful display to take the trophy for the 12th time. The Spaniard overcame Dominic Thiem to prevail 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. 

“It is truly incredible. I cannot explain it,” said Nadal. 

He is now just two Grand Slam titles behind Roger Federer’s record 20 for most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era. Tl. 

Thiem held his ground for the first two hours of the final, even taking his first-ever set from Nadal in four meetings at Roland Garros. A majestic shotmaking display greeted fans as both competitors pushed each other to the limit. But as the match wore on, Nadal found his top gear and Thiem was unable to sustain his level. 

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