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Rafael Nadal closing in on return to No 1 ranking

Victory in the Monteal Masters means the Spaniard is closing in on Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic ahead of the US Open

Six months after some observers wondered whether he would ever play again, Rafael Nadal is on course to regain his position at the top of the world rankings. The 27-year-old Spaniard, who moved back to No 3 in the world order yesterday following his stunning victory over Milos Raonic in the final of the Montreal Masters, is breathing down the neck of Andy Murray at No 2 and will soon be within touching distance of Novak Djokovic, the No 1.

Nadal’s progress up the rankings is remarkable considering that he had not played for seven months when he returned from a knee injury in February. Since then he has won eight of the 11 tournaments he has played, his only defeats coming against Horacio Zeballos in the final in Vina del Mar, against Djokovic in the final at Monte Carlo and against Steve Darcis in the first round at Wimbledon.

With 7,860 ranking points to his name, Nadal is just 750 behind Murray and 3,540 adrift of Djokovic. While his rivals will be defending big points totals in the weeks and months ahead, every point that Nadal makes between now and early February will add to his tally as he was off the court throughout that period last year. With 1,000 points awarded to Masters Series champions and 2,000 points given to Grand Slam title winners, the situation could change rapidly.

Although it is more likely to happen at the end of the year or after the Australian Open in January, Nadal could return to No 1 in just a month’s time. For example Nadal would overhaul Djokovic if he won the US Open, which starts in 13 days’ time, and reached the semi-finals at this week’s Cincinnati Masters if the Serb did not go beyond the quarter-finals of either tournament.

Nadal needed less than an hour to overcome Raonic in Montreal and claim the 25th Masters Series title of his career. “To win here, I had to be playing my top level,” the Spaniard said afterwards. “I’m very happy the way that I played almost every match in this tournament. It’s very important for me, this title.”

Britain’s Colin Fleming moved up to a career-high No 22 in the world doubles rankings following his run in partnership with Murray to the Montreal doubles final. With Murray placed at No 99, there are now seven British men ranked in the world’s top 100 in doubles.