Maintaining his status as the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player will be easy should Rafael Nadal continue to perform the way he did in his opening round win over compatriot David Ferrer.
After coming out in the first round-robin match a bit sluggish, Nadal figured out his serve quickly enough to beat Ferrer in straight sets Tuesday in London’s O2 Arena (6-3,6-2). Playing alongside Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomáš Berdych in Group A, it’s expected that Nadal will end up facing Novak Djokovic in the finals next Monday. Djokovic is paired with Roger Federer, Juan Martin del Potro and Richard Gasquet in Group B.
After a disappointing injury-plagued and potentially career-threatening 2012, where he won only four singles titles and earned just $4,997,448 in prize money (his lowest since 2007), Nadal came back stronger than expected in 2013. On the year, Nadal has brought in over $11 million in prize money — winning 10 titles thanks to a 71-6 overall singles win-loss record on the year.
Winning the final event on the 2013 season would ensure Nadal the number-one spot throughout the winter heading into the 2014 season. After a disappointing exit at the Paris Master’s semifinal’s last week, a loss to Ferrer, Nadal looked much more concentrated and invested in finishing 2013 on top with his win Tuesday.
With matchups against sixth-ranked Berdych and seventh-ranked Wawrinka guaranteed, and a possible showdown against Djokovic, it won’t be easy. But there hasn’t been anyone near the level Nadal is on this year and it’d be surprising if even Djokovic can slow the Spaniard at this point.