Fed­erer out as Nadal aims to seal No1 spot

The Herald (South Africa) - - SPORT -

RAFAEL Nadal will be crowned as the year-end world No 1 if he wins his first show­down at this week’s Paris Masters, af­ter Roger Fed­erer with­drew from the tour­na­ment.

The two old ri­vals have both had stun­ning sea­sons, re­turn­ing to form and fit­ness with two grand slam ti­tles each.

But Fed­erer, 36, who could have still usurped Nadal, 31, at the top of the rank­ings with ti­tles in the French cap­i­tal and at the World Tour Fi­nals in Lon­don, pulled out of the fi­nal event of the reg­u­lar sea­son to pro­tect a back prob­lem.

Fed­erer said win­ning his eighth Swiss In­doors ti­tle on Sun­day – against Juan Martin del Potro – had left him un­fit to play at the Bercy Arena.

“I am very sorry to have to pull out of the Paris Masters, but my body needs a rest af­ter Basel,” the Swiss leg­end said.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis this year and need to make sure I look af­ter my phys­i­cal well­be­ing if I want to con­tinue to com­pete at the high­est level for years to come. “I’d like to be fully fit for Lon­don and for 2018.” Top seed Nadal, who has a bye for the first round in Paris, just needs to win his open­ing sec­ond-round clash to se­cure the top ranking head­ing into next year.

The Spa­niard, who claimed his 10th French Open ti­tle and the US Open crown to take his grand slam tally to 16 ma­jor ti­tles this sea­son, will start his cam­paign against ei­ther Ger­man serve-and-volleyer Mis­cha Zverev or promis­ing South Korean Hyeon-chung.

De­spite his love of the clay of Roland Gar­ros, Nadal has never won the Paris Masters in five pre­vi­ous at­tempts at the in­door tour­na­ment.

Nadal’s best ef­fort came with a fi­nal de­feat by David Nal­ban­dian in 2007.

The Bercy hard courts will also see the fi­nal two places for the World Tour Fi­nals de­cided, with seven play­ers still hunt­ing a Lon­don ticket.

Bel­gian David Gof­fin and US Open semi­fi­nal­ist Pablo Car­reno Busta hold the sev­enth and eighth spots at present.

But Sam Quer­rey, South African Kevin An­der­son, Del Potro, Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga and Lu­cas Pouille all re­main in con­tention.

For­mer US Open cham­pion Del Potro, 29, has made a stun­ning late charge af­ter be­ing 47th in the points stand­ings only two months ago.

He reached the semis at Flush­ing Mead­ows, beat­ing Fed­erer on the way, be­fore also mak­ing the Shang­hai Masters last four and win­ning in Stock­holm ahead of his run­ner-up ef­fort in Basel.

That makes the Ar­gen­tine the form man go­ing into Paris, where he will play ei­ther Ital­ian Paolo Lorenzi or qual­i­fier Joao Sousa in round two.

French­man Pouille is also mak­ing a bid.

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