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Nadal Will Return To No. 1 By Reaching Beijing Final

Beijing, China

Nadal© Getty ImagesNadal has reached his 13th final from 14 tournaments in 2013

Rafael Nadal will become No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday after reaching the China Open final.

Nadal will contest his 13th championship match of a remarkable season after World No. 5 Tomas Berdych retired at 2-4 in the first set in their Beijing semi-final on Saturday with a back injury.

Since returning from seven-month absence due to a left knee injury in February, Nadal has compiled a 65-3 match record on the season. He has won 10 titles from 12 finals, including the Roland Garros (d. Ferrer) and US Open (d. Djokovic) crowns plus five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies.

"[This is] a great year, one of the best years of my career without any doubt," sad Nadal. "[It] sure is special be back to the top position of the rankings after more than a half year without playing tennis."

He said he was prouder of the hard work and results that earned him the No. 1 ranking, rather than the number itself. "At the end, it's just a number... What [makes] me happy is [everything] I did to be back where I am today." 

The left-handed Nadal extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head over Berdych to 16-3. He has now won his last 15 clashes against Czech. 

The 27-year-old Spaniard has had two stints at the summit of men’s professional tennis for a total of 102 weeks. Nadal first became No. 1 on 18 August 2008 for a period of 46 weeks. He regained top spot from Roger Federer on 7 June 2010 and added 56 weeks to his tally until relinquishing No. 1 to Novak Djokovic on 4 July 2011.

By reaching the final, Nadal is one win away from claiming his first China Open title since 2005. The Mallorcan extended his current winning streak to 21 matches. It's the sixth season in his career than Nadal has posted 20 or more consecutive victories.

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Nadal will attempt to retain the year-end No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2010 and the third time overall (also ’08). "[It] will be a great finish [to] the season if I am able to finish the season [at] the No. 1 spot.  For that, I am sure I need to win more matches if I want to be there," said the Spaniard.

If he manages the feat, he'll become the first player to finish as year-end No. 1 three years after losing the ranking. Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer both recaptured the year-end top spot in 1989 and 2009 respectively, after a gap of two years. 

"If I am able to be No. 1 at the end of the season, then, that's an important achievement because I will be the best of the year... That's something that really motivates me," said Nadal.

He wished Berdych a speedy recovery, ahead of next week's Shanghai Rolex Masters.

"I barely can sit, I [can] barely can stand up [or] walk," said Berdych, who described the injury as new. The Czech No. 1 said he tweaked his back while running for a backhand slice. 

Berdych voiced his respect for Nadal. "It's really incredibly well done in how short [a] time he [became] No. 1 again after [his] comeback... That's really an achievement."

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