The China Open draw is out, and the first opponent in Rafael Nadal’s way on his quest for World No. 1 (one of several paths, that is) is Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo. In his quarter are Tommy Haas, Philipp Kohlschreiber (whom he could meet in the next round), Tommy Robredo, and Lleyton Hewitt, setting up the possibility of a Rafa – Tommy (Haas/Robredo) quarter final. In his half are John Isner, Grigor Dimitrov, and Tomas Berdych. The other side of the draw has Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Fernando Verdasco and Mikhail Youzhny in the top half, and David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet in the bottom half.
Rafa is looking to add a second Beijing victory to his career wins, after winning there in 2005, and, in the process, tying his 2005 record of most overall ATP/Grand Slam titles in a season (11). More importantly, Rafa will automatically be No. 1 if Djokovic does not reach the semifinals, regardless of Rafa’s own outcome at the tournament. Alternatively, regardless of Djokovic’s results (win or loss), Rafa will be #1 if he reaches the final.
Rafa may be No. 1 if he reaches the semi-finals, according to some accounts.* The odds are stacked well in Rafa’s favor, since he has no points to defend, and Djokovic is the defending champion at Beijing and at the next tournament in Shanghai.
We wish Rafa all the best and are counting the days until our champ is back at World Number 1!
Edited: Confirmed with ATP: Rafa needs to reach the final.
*Rafa will have fulfilled ATP’s 4 – 500 ATP pt mandatory tournaments per year requirement (including one after the US Open) by entering this tournament, and counting the Monte Carlo Masters as one of the four, the other two being Barcelona and Acapulco. Therefore, his points from Vina Del Mar, where he lost in the final, can be counted towards his total points going into the tournament, adding an additional 150 points to his current total, to fulfill the best of 6 match requirement. (Thank you to our friends at RogererFedererFans.com for the info.) There seems to be some contention about this claim, however, and further clarification may be needed. Stay tuned.