Federer pulls out, Nadal set to stay top

Roger Federer sharing pizza with ball kids after defeating Juan Martin del Potro to take the Basel Open for the eighth time. His withdrawal from this week's Paris Masters means Rafael Nadal should finish the year as world No. 1 for the fourth time.
Roger Federer sharing pizza with ball kids after defeating Juan Martin del Potro to take the Basel Open for the eighth time. His withdrawal from this week's Paris Masters means Rafael Nadal should finish the year as world No. 1 for the fourth time.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • A hoped-for fight to the finish for the No. 1 ranking at next month's ATP World Tour Finals will likely be a coronation for Rafael Nadal, who is virtually guaranteed to end 2017 top of the pile.

Roger Federer's eighth Swiss Indoors title on Sunday reduced the Spaniard's lead to 1,460 points, but his subsequent withdrawal from this week's Paris Masters means Nadal is poised to finish top for the fourth time in his career.

With 1,500 points available in London for taking the title after winning all three round-robin matches, the 31-year-old needs to win just one round in Paris to put himself out of reach of the 19-time Grand Slam champion.

It is a far cry from last season, when the top ranking was decided in the last match of the year at London's O2 Arena, when Andy Murray beat Novak Djokovic to seal it.

"My body is asking for a break," 36-year-old Federer, who beat Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in Basel to claim his 95th career title, said of his decision to give up the chase of Nadal.

"Basel takes a lot out of me emotionally. I had five matches in six days. I feel sorry and sad for Paris.

"I'd like to be fully fit for London (the World Tour Finals) and for 2018.

"I did think about the ranking, but I'm so far back in the points race that it was almost out of the question."

Nadal, who shared this year's Grand Slam titles with Federer, winning a 10th French Open and third US Open title while the Swiss took the Australian and Wimbledon crowns, starts his Paris campaign against young South Korean Chung Hyeong, who beat German serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev.

Federer has finished the year as No. 1 five times, one fewer than record-holder Pete Sampras.

The home favourite at the Basel event fought back from a set down to defeat del Potro 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3 in the 21/2-hour final to take his season record to 49-4.

The title took him clear above Ivan Lendl into second on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors' mark of 109.

It was his first success against the Argentinian in a Basel final, after the South American beat him in both 2012 and 2013.

"It's unbelievable how well Roger is playing," said del Potro. "I hope to be in such shape when I'm his age. But I doubt I will be."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Federer pulls out, Nadal set to stay top'. Print Edition | Subscribe