Nadal handed rankings boost as he and Alcaraz achieve 22-year first
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Rafael Nadal has been handed a boost in the rankings thanks to Casper Ruud, as the 36-year-old will return to world No 2 following the Norwegian’s shock defeat to Yoshihito Nishioka at the Korea Open. And it also means there will be an all-Spanish top two in the rankings, marking the first time in 22 years that the No 1 and 2 spots are occupied by two men from the same country.
Nadal, Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz were the last three men left in a race for the world No 1 ranking at the recent US Open, with the 19-year-old reaching the top spot when he won his maiden Grand Slam while Ruud moved to No 2 by making the final. But the 23-year-old has now relinquished the spot back to Nadal with his loss at the Korea Open.
Ruud was the top seed in Seoul but suffered a surprise defeat to world No 56 Nishioka in the quarter-final on Friday, with the Japanese star winning 6-2 3-6 6-2. It means that the two-time Grand Slam finalist will drop down in the rankings, allowing Nadal to return to No 2 in the world.
With Alcaraz becoming the youngest world No 1 in ATP history following his US Open victory, it means that the top two places in the rankings will be occupied by two Spaniards. The last time two countrymen sat at world No 1 and 2 came all the way back in 2000, when Americans Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were the top two players in the world.
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Nadal still has a good chance of returning to the top spot depending on how much he plays for the rest of the year, as he has no points to defend after ending his 2021 season in August with his ongoing foot injury. The 36-year-old will now be 930 ranking points behind Alcaraz when the standings update on Monday.
It is not known when the 22-time Grand Slam champion will play again given his ongoing injury struggles and personal issues. Nadal was still dealing with the effects of an abdominal tear he sustained at Wimbledon while his wife reportedly suffered health issues during her first pregnancy.
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After crashing out of the US Open in the fourth-round, he said: “I need to go back [home], fix things and I don’t know when I’m going to come back. When I feel ready mentally to compete again… I will do it.” The Spaniard then came to the Laver Cup to see off one of his biggest rivals as Roger Federer retired at the tournament, before withdrawing citing personal issues and returning home the day after he played doubles with the Swiss star.
Nadal has already qualified for the year-end ATP Finals in Turin, along with Alcaraz and Ruud, so if he returns in time for the final tournament of the season he could still be in with a shot at the world No 1 spot. The 36-year-old can also break Novak Djokovic’s previous record to become the oldest year-end No 1 in history if he rises to the top and stays there at the end of the season.
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