BEIJING, China, October 5 – Rafael Nadal said Saturday his greatest achievement was recovering from injury to return to top-level competition after he capped an astonishing comeback to storm back to the top of the world rankings in Beijing.
The world number two only needed to make the final at the China Open to edge ahead of incumbent Novak Djokovic in the rankings, which will be announced following the tournament.
The remarkable achievement comes after Nadal was out of action for the second half of last year with a knee injury.
After achieving his goal when Czech Tomas Berdych pulled out of their semi-final match injured, a philosophical Nadal said being “healthy” gave him more satisfaction than being the best.
“The personal satisfaction is not because I am number one today, it’s because all the work that I had, to be where I am today,” said the Spaniard.
“What makes me happy, and I repeat it hundreds of times, is to feel myself competitive every time when I go to a tennis tournament, feel that I can win and lose against everybody. And be healthy. Without health, nothing is possible.”
Nadal looked back to his darkest moments on the sidelines in 2012 and said his determination to recover this season gave him the most satisfaction.
“Here we were with the situation that I came back to the number one today,” he said.
“That’s important. But in the end, it’s just a number. What made me happy is all what I did to be back where I am today more than be what I am today.”
Nadal missed the opening few weeks of competition in 2013 with a stomach virus.
He is unbeaten since he crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round in June and has won 10 ATP World Tour titles during the season.
When he faces either Novak Djokovic or Richard Gasquet to battle for the China Open title on Sunday, it will be his 13th final of 14 tournaments that he has competed in this year.
The 27-year-old has won 13 Grand Slams in his career, only four short of Roger Federer’s record of 17.