Nadal fighting to be competitive, not to be world number one

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Rafael Nadal is not treating the Paris Masters as a chance to fight for a place at the top of the ATP rankings.

Nadal has played only once – alongside the now-retired Roger Federer at the Laver Cup – since he was knocked out in the fourth round of the US Open by Frances Tiafoe.

The 36-year-old has won two grand slam titles in 2022, at the Australian Open and the French Open, seeing him sit one clear of Novak Djokovic when it comes to the record amount of major triumphs.

Yet it is Nadal's fellow Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, some 17 years his junior, who sat top of the world rankings ahead of the Paris Masters and the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin.

Nadal could yet end the year at the summit, but to overtake Alcaraz he would likely need a deep run at the Paris Masters – one of two ATP 1000 tournaments he is yet to win in his illustrious career – and in northern Italy.

However, Nadal, who became a father last month, says he now has a much simpler aim than becoming the best player on the planet.

"To be clear, I understand it's an interesting point because you're talking about fighting for number one, [but] I don't fight any more to be world number one," Nadal said in a press conference on Tuesday, a day ahead of his opening match against Tommy Paul in the French capital.

"I just fight to keep being competitive in every event that I play. It's something I said a long time ago, I will not fight any more to be number one.

"I did in the past. I achieved that goal a couple of times in my career and I have been very, very happy and proud about achieving that. But I am at a moment in my tennis career where I don't fight to be number one.

"I'm just excited to be here. I'm here to try my best and then accept things how they are coming. Hopefully, I will be ready, I'm going to try to be competitive. Let's see. I'm excited about it."

Having dominated the game for so long, Nadal and reigning Paris Masters champion Djokovic find themselves ranked at second and seventh by the ATP respectively.

Nadal and Djokovic are the only players in the top 10 aged over 30, with four of the other eight players aged under 25.

"My feelings are that I am proud of all the things that I was able to still be here in 2022," Nadal said, when asked what it was like to be competing against the next generation of talent.

"It's something that says that I did a lot of things well in my life, not only my tennis career. To hold the passion, to hold the love for the game and fighting spirit.

"I'm proud of that and just hope that I can enjoy the last two events of the year."

With his son not yet a month old, Nadal conceded he is missing home.

"[A] different approach to usual. It has always been difficult to leave home, to be honest," he said.

"It's quite interesting how even after two or three weeks you leave your son at home and [are] not be able to go see him. It's something quite interesting how even after only three weeks of knowing him you start missing him.

"So yeah, a new experience, all changes are difficult in his life, and you need to adapt to it."