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Nadal Relishes Masters 1000 Challenge, Backs Federer

Shanghai, China

Nadal© AFP/Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is chasing his sixth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown of the season.

Playing his first tournament after returning to World No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Rafael Nadal revealed it was a feat he could never have entertained while he was sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury.

The Spaniard has compiled one of the best seasons of his career since returning to the ATP World Tour in February, recording a 65-4 match record and winning 10 tour-level titles. He returned to No. 1 for the first time since July 2011 when he reached the China Open final last week in Beijing. 

“I thought that I would never have the chance to be back there,” confessed Nadal on Tuesday at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. “Being No. 1 again is special. I was confident that when I was back I would have the chance to keep competing well, keep having chances to play for important tournaments, but I never thought about being back to No. 1.

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“I am today. But that means that I am having probably one of the best seasons of my career. It’s great. It’s good news to be No. 1. But what is great news is all the season that I had until here.” 

The 27-year-old Nadal has the chance to make more history this week as he seeks to win his sixth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title of the season. After triumphing in Indian Wells (d. del Potro) in March, he won four in a row at Madrid (d. Wawrinka), Rome (d. Federer), Montreal (d. Raonic) and Cincinnati (d. Isner). The Mallorcan leads the way with 26 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns, his closest challenger being Roger Federer with 21.

“I consider the [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000s one of the toughest tournaments to play because if you are not playing well from the beginning, is very difficult to be through,” said Nadal. “From the first round you have fantastic opponents in front [of you]. Sometimes in Grand Slams you can be a little bit luckier and you can have the draw a little bit more open. In Masters 1000, that's very difficult. 

“I know in the past this part of the season was hard for me, but I am confident that I can keep playing well. I am doing the right things to be ready. Tomorrow I will start [against Alexandr Dolgopolov or Michael Russell]. I hope to be competitive and have my chance tomorrow. I'm going to go day to day as I did my whole career. I am going to try my best tomorrow.”

Nadal closed his pre-tournament press conference by voicing his support for long-time rival Federer, whom he fully expects to see alongside him at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London next month. Nadal has already secured his place in the eight-man field, along with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and David Ferrer, while Federer is seventh in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

“He’s going to go, he’s going to qualify. I am sure of that,” said Nadal. “He is not going to have a problem. Even if he doesn't have lots of points of advantage, I feel he always played well in this last part of the season. He likes to play in these tournaments. He always had the positive results. I really feel that he will do it. He's a great player and I am sure he will be there and fighting for the title.”

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