Immovable Nadal digs deep to seal No.1 ranking

Wed Nov 6, 2013 5:24pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - The year dawned with a cloud hanging over Rafael Nadal's career but will end with him on top of the world after a win over Stanislas Wawrinka at the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday that illustrated why he is in the pantheon of tennis greats.

He has certainly played better during a sensational season that began in February after a seven-month injury layoff, but the way he soaked up everything the Swiss could muster to complete a 7-6(5) 7-6(6) victory on Wednesday underlined Nadal's almost fanatical refusal to be beaten.

Wawrinka walked off the cavernous showcourt wondering how he is yet to take a set off Nadal in 12 meetings, but it would be a harsh judge who criticized the world No.8 for failing to convert the fleeting chance that came and went in the second-set tiebreak.

He was within a whisker of taking a high-caliber opener too, but Nadal, as he has in winning 74 matches in a spectacular season of almost total dominance on all surfaces, proved armor-plated in defense and ruthless when invited to attack.

Nadal arrived in London for the glitzy season-ender needing two wins to fend off Novak Djokovic in his bid to end a year as world No.1 for the third time in his career.

After dismantling compatriot David Ferrer on Tuesday, he was stretched to the limit by Wawrinka in his second Group A match, digging deep to notch up another milestone.

By winning in straight sets he also assured himself of a place in the semi-finals here, and few would bet against the 13-times grand slam champion going on to claim the only significant title still missing from his CV.

Nadal also finished 2008 and 2010 as world No.1 but this time his achievement seems more impressive considering where he was in February.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his men's singles tennis match against Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett