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Rafa Presses Novak For No. 1 in Beijing

Beijing, China

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal can guarantee his return to World No. 1 by reaching the Beijing final.

Rafael Nadal refused to be drawn on his chances of regaining No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings with a strong performance this week at the China Open.

“I don't know what I need to do to become No. 1, but the only way I can do it is playing my best,” said 2005 titlist Nadal, ahead of the start of the ATP World Tour 500 tournament in Beijing on Sunday. 

For Novak Djokovic to have a chance to extend his stay at No. 1, he must win the Beijing title for a fourth time and retain 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points. Anything less, and Nadal will once again reach the summit of men’s professional tennis. Nadal can also control his own No. 1 fate. By reaching the final, he is guaranteed to overtake Djokovic.

Addtionally, in the Emirates ATP Race To London, which is an indicator of who will end the season as the year-end No. 1, Nadal has a massive lead over Djokovic, leaving the Serb facing one of his biggest challenges ever to finish No. 1 for a third straight season. Nadal currently has 11,015 points to Djokovic's 8,110.

“[It] will be very tough to become No. 1,” said Nadal. “But if I am still playing the same way that I have the past couple of months, I hope to have my chance here or in the next few weeks.

“This year, even if I started a little bit later [in early February], I am completing a great season. I'm playing one of the best seasons of my career. That's why I'm in a good position in the Rankings and I had great successes in the important tournaments.”

Djokovic, the 2011-12 year-end No. 1, admitted on Saturday, “As long as there is a chance, I will fight for that top spot. 

“But, again, with no doubt [Nadal] has had the best results this year. This year, he's been the best player in the world. I have been having ups and downs throughout this year. But still it was quite a good season for me. But it's not over.”

Nadal has compiled a 61-3 record this season. He was last No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 3 July 2011. 

So what has made the difference this year?

Nadal insists, “The serve helps a little bit. It's true that I served well in important points. [But] what makes a difference is [that] I'm playing more aggressively, with very good rhythm in my legs and I am able to play with the right concentration most of the time. That makes me solid on my serve.” 

Nadal is competing in Beijing for the first time since 2009 and the third time overall. Five years ago, he won the Olympic gold medal in the city.

Djokovic 11,120 11,120 10,920 10,800 10,710 10,665 10,620
Nadal 10,860 11,360 11,160 11,040 11,010 11,010 11,010

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