Rafael Nadal will end 2017 as the world No. 1 ranked player after winning his opening match at the Paris Masters 7-5 6-3 against Hyeon Chung.
The Spaniard has been locked in a battle with Roger Federer to be crowned as the best player of the year but with the Swiss pulling out of the final Masters 1000 event of the season, Nadal was handed a free shot to get the job done before the ATP Finals in London.
Federer can now not catch his points total, even if he wins all his matches at the O2, and will have to settle for second place.
The 36-year-old had virtually conceded defeat having pulled out of Paris and insisted the 16-time Grand Slam champion deserved it.
‘Ever since Rafa won the US Open, I knew it was going to be very, very difficult,’ he told The Wall Street Journal.
‘I wish I could have chased [No. 1] more — my only regret is that I couldn’t have chased it more at Cincinnati and the US Open.
‘That was a pity — but Rafa played a full schedule, and he deserves it. I’m OK with that.’
It’s the fourth time Nadal has ended the season as the top dog in tennis and he’s moved level with Ivan Lendl, Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe with that total.
Most year-end world No. 1s
6 – Sampras
5 – Connors
5 – Federer
4 – McEnroe
4 – Lendl
4 – Djokovic
4 – Nadal
Only Pete Sampras (6) and Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors (5) have ended the year as world No. 1 on more occasions and Nadal finds himself in esteemed company in the all-time charts.
Nadal didn’t have it all his own way as he moved into the last-16 of Paris-Bercy – where he will face Pablo Cuevas – with Next Gen star Chung pushing him hard throughout.
But the 21-year-old ultimately came up short as Nadal ensured he would go down in the history books as the best player in 2017.
Nadal 2017 titles
If Chung was the underdog, he certainly didn’t show it in the opening exchanges of the match and he broke Nadal for a 2-1 lead.
His joy was short-lived, though, as the Spaniard came roaring back before racing to a 5-2 advantage.
But serving for the set just a game later, Chung hit back once more and levelled the match to 5-5.
Nadal held his nerve, though, saving a break point before breaking himself to take the first 7-5.
The South Korean was forced to dig deep at the start of the second, facing several break points, but kept his cool well to keep the set on serve at 2-2.
Nadal’s triumph proved to be inevitable, however, and he broke for a 5-3 lead before serving the match out to end the year as the world’s best player.