Rafael Nadal managed to win 7-5 6-3 against a persistent Hyeon Chung of South Korea in the second round of the Paris Masters, which also ensured that he would finish as year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. Nadal will face Uruguay's world number 36 Pablo Cuevas in the last 16 in Paris.
Nadal will become the oldest player to finish as year-end No. 1 and also the first season-ending No. 1 over the age of 30 since the ATP Rankings were established in 1973. This is his fourth time finishing atop the Rankings, adding to 2008, 2010 and 2013.
Though Roger Federer pulling out of the tournament played a huge role in the Spaniard’s position, his South Korean opponent made sure Nadal didn’t get it easy. Chung was leading 4-2 after initial breaks were exchanged before Nadal rallied from a 0-40 deficit to break his lead.
The youngster then pulled one back to level points at 5-5 with Nadal serving for the set in the ninth game. Experience won the battle over grit as Nadal opened up a 0-40 lead on Chung’s serve in the 12th game, eventually clinching it with a forehand winner as the match ticked into the hour mark.
The second set was less competitive. After Chung managed to fend off four break points in the fourth game, the Spaniard finally edged past him in the ninth with a break, before sealing off a victory in one hour and 49 minutes.
Nadal was in ninth place when he started the year, and after French Open and US open victories, now sees himself 1,460 points clear of Swiss world number two Roger Federer in the world rankings. It looked unlikely for someone who had to pull out from the French Open last year, then miss Wimbledon with a wrist injury and eventually end his season as early as in October.
"It was impossible for me to think about when you are coming back from a tough time, without playing tennis and with so many injuries," said Nadal.
Nadal will face Uruguay's world number 36 Pablo Cuevas in the last 16 as he aims to win his 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown this week, and third of the season after winning in Monte-Carlo and Madrid.
In other games, French world number 15 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost in the second round to Julien Benneteau 2-6 7-6 6-2, while US Open runner-up Kevin Anderson's run came to an end as he was ousted by Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 5-7 6-4 7-5.
Belgian ace David Goffin won 6-2 2-6 6-3 against Romania’s Adrian Mannarino and now is just a match away from sealing his place into the season finale. He plays Benneteau next in the pre-quarters. Juan Martin Del Potro beat Portugal's Joao Sousa 6-2 6-2 and will play Netherland’s Robin Haase next.