Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic address battle for year-end No. 1

The world No. 1 spot is still hanging in the balance heading into the final week of the ATP season, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both fighting for supremacy.

Djokovic had been top of the ATP rankings since November 2018 until last week when he surrendered his spot to Nadal, despite winning the Paris Masters in the same week.

He can, however, wrestle back the top ranking in London and equal Pete Sampras’ all-time record of six year-end No. 1 finishes.

‘In my personal opinion it’s one of the two biggest achievements you can have as a professional competitor and tennis player – winning a Grand Slam and being No. 1 in the world at the end of the season,’ Djokovic said at the O2 on Friday afternoon.

Most year-end No. 1 finishes

6 – Sampras
5 – Federer
5 – Djokovic
5 – Connors
4 – Nadal
4 – Lendl
4 – McEnroe

‘At this stage of my career obviously in terms of goals and achievements that’s right at the top, but in order for me to be in the position to battle for that year-end No. 1 I understand that I have to be healthy and schedule well.

‘Roger [Federer] was talking about family – I don’t know how he does it with four children. I struggle with two. It’s a hell of an effort, but we all love tennis.

‘We dedicate ourselves and our lives to this sport but at the same time it has to be balanced with off-court stuff and children and family. We have to have the support of our close ones in order to have the chance to have a go for the year-end No 1.

‘So I’m really pleased to be in the position but at the same time I’m trying to understand that longevity as well is something I’m valuing even more.’

It’s not entirely in Djokovic’s hands. Should Nadal reach the final without losing a match, he is guaranteed to finish the year as the world’s best player. Djokovic needs to reach the final to have a shot of surpassing the Spaniard.

Djokovic – a runner-up in 2018 – will fancy his chances of doing exactly that having won this tournament on five separate occasions, and he has a chance to catch Federer’s record haul of six titles in 2019.

Multiple ATP Finals winners

6 – Federer
5 – Djokovic
5 – Lendl
5 – Sampras
4 – Nastase
3 – Becker
3 – McEnroe
2 – Borg
2 – Hewitt

In contrast, Nadal has never got his hands on the season-ending trophy and has typically struggled with his fitness at the back end of a long and gruelling year.

His participation still remains in doubt as he looks to recover from an abdominal injury – which forced him to withdraw from the semi-finals of the Paris Masters – but he hopes to give himself the opportunity to compete for the No. 1 spot.

Asked if he fancied his chances of finally getting his hands on the trophy, he replied: ‘First of all I have to play. It’s true I think I’ve qualified for 15 years but I don’t know how many years I’ve been able to complete the tournament.

‘I qualified more times than I had chances to compete at my 100%. At the same time, I would love to have this trophy with me but I can’t complain about all the other things I did. I’m not in a position to ask for more.

‘I want to keep achieving things, this is one of the things I didn’t make happen I want to keep producing chances, playing well. I hope I have my chances to have a good result.

‘Of course I’d love to be year-end No. 1, there’s no complaint about that. It wasn’t my personal goal because I didn’t follow that thing.

ATP Finals Groups

Group Andre Agassi

Nadal
Medvedev
Tsitsipas
Zverev

Group Bjorn Borg

Djokovic
Federer
Thiem
Berrettini

‘It’s the right moment in your career to define your personal goals. My personal goal is to try and stay here, to compete here as long as possible. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to be No. 1 – not at all. I’m not following that goal. Things I’m doing, I’m in the position I am today, fighting for it – great!

‘I’d love to be equal with Roger and with Novak with the five year-end No. 1 spot for the end of the year. It would be something fantastic for me but honestly I can’t complain. I need to be focused with my real goal. The goal is to put me in a position to play 100%. If that happens my goals will be very different.’

The pair have shared the four Grand Slams between them this year, with Djokovic winning the Australian Open – where he beat Nadal in the final – and Wimbledon, while Nadal has picked up a 12th French Open title as well as the US Open.

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