Novak Djokovic to return to world No.1

Published by Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic in action during his second-round victory over Joao Sousa at the Paris Masters; Getty Images
With Rafael Nadal’s Paris Masters withdrawal, Novak Djokovic will return to world No.1 – the first time in 18 years a player has gone from outside the top 20 to No.1 in a single season.

Novak Djokovic’s remarkable comeback season continued when it was confirmed he will return to world No.1 when next week’s ATP rankings are released.

His ascent was made possible when Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Paris Masters on Wednesday due to an abdominal injury.

“I started to feel something the last few days in the abdominal, especially when I was serving. The doctor says it is recommended to not play,” said Nadal, who has withdrawn from or retired during 13 of his last 14 tournaments played on hard courts.

“It has been a tough year for me. I want to avoid drastic things. The doctor says if I try to win the tournament, the abdominal will break for sure. I am not happy but I have to accept and stay positive.”

Nadal needed to perform better than Djokovic this week in Bercy to have any chance of hanging on to the top ranking.

But with Djokovic already through to the third round after beating Joao Sousa on Tuesday, Nadal’s withdrawal ahead of his second-round match against Fernando Verdasco meant Djokovic will overtake the Spaniard on Monday.

DEBATE: has Nadal or Djokovic has a better 2018?

Verdasco, meanwhile, went on to lose his match against Nadal’s replacement Malek Jaziri, a lucky loser who lost in the final round of qualifying to Robin Haase.

Wednesday was a day marred by withdrawals at the season’s final ATP Masters event.

An elbow injury saw Milos Raonic withdraw from his second-round match against Roger Federer, sending the third seed through to the last 16 where he will face No.13 seed Fabio Fognini.

Fognini was given a free passage through to the third round when Marton Fucsovics pulled out of the tournament before their match, citing a hip injury.

In matches that were actually played, every seeded player emerged triumphant.

Defending champion Jack Sock, seeded 16th, avoided a disastrous opening round loss – which would have seen his ranking tumble to around No.150 – by beating Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-3.

No.10 seed Grigor Dimitrov shook off poor form to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(1) 6-4, while Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric won battles with fellow young guns Frances Tiafoe and Daniil Medvedev respectively.

Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and John Isner all kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the ATP Finals with second-round victories.

For Djokovic, it will mark the first time in two years he tops the rankings.

After missing the last six months of 2017 and undergoing surgery in early 2018, the Serb dipped as low as No.22 in June this year.

He was ranked 21st heading into Wimbledon, where he won the title to return to the top 10, beginning his trajectory back toward the top of the rankings.

He rose to No.3 following his US Open triumph and overtook Federer at No.2 after winning in Shanghai.

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