Rafael Nadal (Player Profile) is into his first BNP Paribas semi-final in four years and following his amazing comeback season on the tour this year, becoming the first player to win six Masters titles in a season out be a monumental way to close out the regular season and set the tone for the Barclays ATP World Tour Final.
When evaluating his performance, the World No. 1 admits that his forehand down the line is not only a reason for his success against Gasquet, but a significant shot that has allowed him to be in a strong position to finish the season with the No. 1 Ranking.
“That shot [has] given me a lot of points during the whole season,” he told reporters at the Paris Masters “I need to play that shot very often to play well on these kinds of surfaces.”
This transition was not an organic one. Nadal admits that his knee injury forced him to return to the game with a vastly more aggressive approach, particularly on hard courts where he has to work harder than his favourite clay courts.
“The [knee] injury that I had probably makes me play more aggressive than before and that helped me a lot to play better on hard. But nothing really changed a lot. Just small things that [gave] me a lot of success.”
Prior to his impressive run in Paris this year, Rafa was coming off back-to-back tournament losses: the Beijing Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic and the Shanghai Masters where he lost in the semi-final to Juan Martin Del Potro. He still holds the top spot in the rankings but it is certainly razor close between Djokovic and himself. The next couple of weeks will be vital for Nadal to ensure he ends the year as World No. 1.