Nadal Within Reach of No. 1 Ranking

July 31, 2008 08:30 AM

World No. 2 Rafael Nadal moved closer to No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings with a 6-4, 7-6(0) victory over Tommy Haas to move into the quarterfinals on Thursday night.

If Nadal wins the title on Sunday, he will break Federer's streak of 235 consecutive weeks at No. 1. The Spaniard would become the 24th player in the history of the ATP Rankings (since 1973) to hold the No. 1 position and the third Spaniard to accomplish the feat, joining Carlos Moya (1999) and Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003).

A title would give Nadal 6,730 points to Federer's 6,680 next Monday. If Nadal reaches the final, he will become No. 1 on Aug. 11. With a semifinal here, Nadal will become No. 1 on Aug. 18. The only way Nadal can't become No. 1 in the next three weeks is IF he loses in the quarterfinals here and Federer wins the Olympic gold medal AND Nadal does not reach the Third Round or better at the Olympics.

But for now, Nadal will be making his second quarterfinal appearance in Cincinnati against unseeded Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador. Lapentti has beaten Spaniards David Ferrer, the No. 5 seed, and No. 10 Fernando Verdasco, in the last two rounds. The No. 89th-ranked Lapentti beat Verdasco 6-3, 7-5, to reach his first ATP Masters Series quarterfinal since Miami in 2002.

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In improving to 3-0 lifetime against Haas, Nadal broke in the opening game of the match and won the set in 50 minutes. He saved two break points in the second game.

In the second set, the 22-year-old Spaniard squandered two match points at 6-5 and double-faulted back-to-back points to lose serve for the only time in the match. He then dominated the tie-break by winning all seven points to secure his 31st match win in a row.

"Well, probably I didn't play my best match, today," said Nadal. "I had some mistakes. The movement was so-so, so I have to improve the movements if I want to play better tomorrow. I am
happy because the important thing is to win in these moments. It's very important to win matches when you didn't play your best. It was an important match for the situation."

Nadal, who has been No. 2 every week since July 25, 2005 (158 consecutive weeks), raised his match record to an ATP-best 63-7 on the season, including 29-6 on hard courts. He knows the top ranking is within reach.

"Well, right now I know I'm in a good position, not because Roger have to win everything from here, from Olympics to US Open," said the Mallorca native. "I think if I win tomorrow I going to be No. 1. If I win tomorrow, in two weeks I going to be the No. 1. So it doesn't matter if I lost in Olympics in first round and Roger win, no? So tomorrow is going to be an important match."