Nadal delight as he reclaims top spot in world rankings
Rafael Nadal has been playing down the importance of the No 1 ranking all year, saying that titles are what motivates him.
However, his body language betrayed a different story when he beat Stan Wawrinka to clinch his place at the top of the pile this Christmas at the ATP Barclays World Tour Finals in the O2 Arena in London.
For the majority of this tense, two-hour tussle, Nadal was uncharacteristically tentative.
He was simply looping the ball back, rather than whirling his racket with his usual piratical elan.
But he still battled through to a 7-6 7-6 victory, which he then celebrated with abandon.
"This is one of the best things that I've done in my career – coming back to the No 1 (position) after three seasons," said Nadal, who also finished top of the standings at the end of 2008 and 2010.
"That's very difficult in our sport, and after a very important injury."
Nadal also became the first man to secure a berth in Sunday's semi-finals.
Perhaps yesterday's performance was not of top quality, but the pressures were intense, with not only the No 1 spot at stake, but also millions of dollars in bonuses.
Wawrinka should really have taken advantage, but then he has something of a mental block against Nadal.
When he came into the interview room, Wawrinka was still seething at the many opportunities that got away from him – as well as the on-court coaching that Nadal received from his uncle, Toni.
The umpire, Cedric Mourier, handed out a code violation in the first set, but did not follow it up with the second that would have meant a point penalty.
"We all know, players and umpire, that Toni is always trying to help Rafa. That's normal,'' Wawrinka said.
"But when it's too much, it's too much. Before every point, he was trying to coach him." (© Daily Telegraph, London)