Rafael Nadal has a new title to add to his King of Clay title. He should be called the King of ATP now.
He becomes the 24th player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973) to hold the No. 1 position. The 22-year-old replaced his great rival Roger Federer of Switzerland, who had held the top spot for a record 237 consecutive weeks (since February 2, 2004).
Below, seven former World No. 1s pay tribute to the Mallorcan 'Matador'.
ROGER FEDERER: "Rafa played great to get it. That's what I expected and hoped for, many years ago when I got to No. 1, that if ever somebody were to take it away for me, he would have to play an incredible tennis schedule, win the biggest tournaments, dominate the game basically, and then like this he can take No. 1. So I think Rafa totally deserves it."
There's certainly no other player at this moment who is more suitable to succeed Federer than Nadal.
STEFAN EDBERG: "Nadal is a great player with incredible charisma and fighting spirit, who deserves the No. 1 ranking. Especially after winning one of the greatest Wimbledon final ever following the French Open win. Federer is one of the best players ever to play the game and his record of 237 weeks at No. 1 is incredible. A tribute to his sportsmanship as well!"
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: "I believe becoming No. 1 in the world is the biggest glory of an athlete. Nadal deserved to be in the No. 1 position since a few years. Federer definitely helped him to become a better player. Nadal's achievement is well deserved and I believe he has the capability to hold the No. 1 position for a long period, a feat that I'm sure he is very determined to accomplish."
It was the matches with Federer that Nadal learn to become a better player. Federer is Nadal's Guru!
ROD LAVER: "Nadal's had a terrific Wimbledon, winning a tough five setter against Roger. He is a worthy new No. 1. Federer’s consistency for three years dominating all opponents is one of the great efforts in open tennis. Hopefully Nadal can continue his winning ways through 2008. The US Open will be a huge test for both of them."
JOHN McENROE: "It makes you realize that Federer is a human being, after compiling four of the greatest years in the history of Open tennis. Nadal’s made some great improvement in the last year or so and he’s followed it up with some wins at other events [beyond clay]. He deserves it."
Are you nuts? Federer is a human being. So does Nadal. By the way Nadal has been improving every year, not just last year 'or so'.
CARLOS MOYA: "When Rafa becomes No. 1 he will totally deserve it. He's been close for three years. But until now, Federer has been playing out of this world. He's more human now, and Rafa has improved a lot. I can't say that I really helped Rafa so much - maybe a bit when I was 24 and practising with him. That motivated me; you don't want to lose to a kid. He's helped me to be a better player by his intensity in training and his desire. He knew he could ask me questions and I could answer him. I don't know what it means, but of the three guys who have been No. 1 from Spain, two are from Mallorca."
PETE SAMPRAS: "He's a great fighter and I'm impressed with him. He's had the best year and he's clearly number one. He's 22 and think about that. It's incredible what Nadal's been able to do and I think he's going to get better and better if he can."