Rafael Nadal clinches year-end number one ranking for fifth time
Nadal with his famous trophy bite with the year-end number one trophy/Photo; Peter Staples

Rafael Nadal has secured the year-end number one ranking for a fifth time following Roger Federer's defeat of Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Spaniard, still alive in London for his first title at the year-end championships, replaced the Serb at the top of the rankings on November 4th.

Nadal finishes top of the rankings for fifth time

Nadal regained the top spot on the strength of a 52-7 record, claiming four of the biggest titles in 2019: he took his 12th title at the French Open over Dominic Thiem in four sets and his fourth U.S. Open in a five-set thriller over Daniil Medvedev. He also took home two Masters 1000 titles, knocking off Djokovic in Rome and repeating in Canada, where he thrashed Medvedev with the loss of just three games to defend a hard court title for the first time in his career.

Nadal ytook home his 12th French Open title in June/Photo: Peter Staples
Nadal took home his 12th French Open title in June/Photo: Peter Staples

At 33 years old, Nadal is the oldest player to finish as year-end number one since the rankings were introduced in 1973. He had previously finished on top of the rankings in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2017. Other records the Spaniard set were becoming the first player to hold, lose and regain the year-end number one ranking on four occasions, the first player to finish number one five times in non-consecutive years and the 11-year gap between his first year-end No. 1 season (2008) and his last (2019) is also a record.

Kermode, Nadal speak on Spaniard's acheivement

Outgoing ATP World Tour Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode said "Rafa has had another incredible season and fully deserves this accolade for a remarkable fifth time in his career. Since the inception of the ATP Rankings in 1973, only 17 players can lay claim to finishing year-end number one - it;s unquestionably one of the toughest achievements in all sport. On behalf of ATP, many congratulations to Rafa and his team."

Upon receiving the trophy following his victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Nadal said "this trophy is an achievement for all year round, so personally today I can't thank you all enough for all the support for this match [today] and all the time I have been playing here in London.

"I would like to thank, because it's something I really feel from the bottom of my heart, all the fans, all around the world, who give me the support every single week that I am playing. It's very difficult to describe the feeling when you are on court, when you walk on and you feel the support and the love from that many people. So just thank you very much everybody, all around."

In this banner year at 33, the Spaniard is very appreciative of what he's accomplished: "I am super happy. Honestly, after all the things that I went through in my career, in terms of injury, I never thought that at the age of 33 and a half, I would have this trophy in my hands again. So it's something really, really emotional for me. A lot of work [goes on] in the shadows to be where we are today.

The SPaniard is still in contention for his first ATP Finals championship/Photo: Martin Cole
The Spaniard is still in contention for his first ATP Finals championship/Photo: Martin Cole

"And without my family, who are here next to me, this would be impossible. I just want to say thank you very, very much everyone for the support. To all the fans and to all the ATP staff, we have a great tour. All the workers make us feel great every single week, all around the world, so many thank to all the people who work for the ATP and make the players and the fans enjoy a great tour."

​​​​​He also paid tribute to Kermode, stating "thanks Chris for everything. It's a real honor to receive this trophy from you. So many thanks for all the things you did well for our sport, Chris."