LONDON — Despite all of his success this year, Rafael Nadal still hasn’t sewn up the year-end No. 1 ranking. At this stage in his career, though, that hardly even matters anymore.
After coming back from a career-threatening knee injury to capture 10 titles this year — including two Grand Slams — Nadal has already exceeded almost everyone’s expectations in 2013. He also overtook Novak Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking last month, although the Serb has a chance to win it back this week at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals.
Regardless of what happens in London, Nadal will consider the year a massive success.
“I’ve already finished the year as the World No. 1 [before],” said Nadal, who finished on top in 2008 and 2010. “If it happens again, it will be perfect, but the story of my season is not the No. 1 spot. The story is that I was able to come back, to win and to be competitive again in a short spell of time.”
Since returning from a left knee injury that sidelined him for seven months, the 27-year-old Spaniard has reached the final of 13 of the 15 tournaments he’s this season, winning the French Open and U.S. Open along the way.
He needs to win just two matches in London to clinch the No. 1 spot while Djokovic must win the tournament to have a chance.
“I had a sensational season and I would not [trade] all the emotions I went through [for] being the No. 1,” Nadal said ahead of his first round robin match against fellow Spaniard David Ferrer on Tuesday.
The London tournament, which brings together the eight best players of the season, is the only major title still missing from Nadal’s collection of trophies.
Nadal qualified for the event for the ninth straight year but his best result in the event is a runner-up finish in 2010.
Drinking a milk-shake and smiling at the start of his news conference, Nadal’s mood darkened when he was asked about his failure to win the indoor tournament.
But Nadal, widely considered the best clay-court player in the history of the game, doesn’t expect to see the event played on another surface before the end of his career.
“I say it for the next generation and because it would be interesting for the fans,” he said. “This is a great place to play, I have never been to a tournament with a better atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean the ATP can’t be a little bit more fair with the players.”