Roger Federer has all but ensured Rafael Nadal will finish the year at world No.1 after withdrawing from this week’s Paris Masters.
The Swiss had just won his eighth title on home soil at the ATP Swiss Indoors in Basel, before immediately withdrawing from the year’s final Masters event citing a back injury.
The victory came in a three-set final against the surging Juan Martin del Potro, with Federer ultimately prevailing 6-7(5) 6-4 6-3.
Federer was still in with a shot of catching the Spaniard at No.1, with the Basel title closing the gap by 500 points to a still-wide 1,460 points.
Yet by pulling out of Paris, Federer ensures that Nadal will lock up the year-end No.1 ranking; Nadal just needs to win his first match.
After a first-round bye, that match will be against either Mischa Zverev or Hyeon Chung in the second round.
Federer has throughout 2017 played a deliberately light schedule; including Basel, he has contested just 11 tournaments.
He skipped the entire claycourt season to ensure he was fit and fresh for the grasscourt swing – traditionally his most productive portion of the season.
It was a decision vindicated when he won his second Grand Slam title of the year – and 19th overall – at Wimbledon in July.
And he made no secret of the fact Paris was only a proposed tournament on his schedule, explaining that he would choose Basel over Paris if he decided he couldn’t play both, all with the purpose of being 100 per cent ready for a tilt at another ATP Finals trophy.
“I’m hoping to play (in Paris), but there’s also a good possibility that I won’t. It depends on how I feel,” he warned during his winning week in Basel. “We’ll see what happens, health is always more important at this stage of my career.”
Nadal, too, has been listening to his body of late.
Despite playing a heavier schedule than Federer – 16 tournaments, for six titles – Nadal skipped all grasscourt tune-ups before Wimbledon and pulled out of last week’s Basel event to rest his inflamed knees.
He’ll resume duties this week in Paris amid a decimated field.