Four-time champion Rafael Nadal returns to the Mutua Madrid Open.

Race Lead In Play For Nadal In Madrid

Spaniard could overtake Roger Federer atop Emirates ATP Race To London

The last time Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal entered the month of May first and second in the Emirates ATP Race [To London] was in 2007. A decade later, the Swiss and the Spaniard are setting the pace on the ATP World Tour once again.

Having already battled for a Grand Slam championship and an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this year, Federer and Nadal are now poised to turn back the clock with a potential season-long tussle for the top spot in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

A semi-final run at this week's Mutua Madrid Open would see Nadal edge ahead of Federer, who has opted for an extended break after completing the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami. Nadal opens his campaign Wednesday against Italian Fabio Fognini.

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Federer sprinted to the top spot in January with victory at the Australian Open and has since padded his lead with Masters 1000 success at the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open presented by Itau. Now, Nadal is on the cusp of overtaking his longtime rival as he returns to his home capital.

Emirates ATP Race To London Standings (entering Madrid)

Position Player Points
1 Roger Federer 4,045
Rafael Nadal 3,735
Stan Wawrinka 1,590
4 Dominic Thiem
David Goffin 1,460

The Manacor native entered the European clay-court season with a near-2,000 point Race deficit, but following a pair of historic 10th titles at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, he has narrowed the gap to 310. And with happy hunting grounds of Rome and Roland Garros fast approaching, Nadal is eyeing a stranglehold of his own in his bid to qualify for the season finale and push for year-end World No. 1, which he last claimed in 2013.

Seeded fourth in Madrid, Nadal will be made to work to reach the semis. Should he win his opener against Fognini, who has two clay-court wins over the lefty, Nadal could face 16th seed Nick Kyrgios, with Milos Raonic potentially looming in the quarter-finals. He has history on his side, however, having reached the Madrid semi-finals in eight of the past nine years and being crowned champion in 2005, 2010, and 2013-14.

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