BEIJING (AP) — Rafael Nadal was assured of taking the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic after advancing to the final of the China Open on Saturday when Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic retired with a back injury.
The Spaniard was a break up at 4-2 in the opening set of their semifinal when Berdych retired soon after taking an injury timeout.
Djokovic, the defending champion, earned a comfortable 6-4, 6-2 victory over fifth-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet in the other semifinal.
Even if he loses to Djokovic in the final Sunday, Nadal will still sit atop the rankings.
Nadal, who improved to 27-0 on hard courts this season, will return to the top ranking for the first time since July 2011. Djokovic has been No. 1 for 101 weeks.
"The personal satisfaction is not because I am No. 1 today, it's because (of) all the work (I put in) to be where I am today," Nadal said. "I don't feel (like) a better player now than five hours ago, and I won't go to bed tonight feeling that I am the best player in the world_that's something I've never thought."
Djokovic, who is looking for his fourth title in five years at the China Open, won his match in 80 minutes to improve his record to 9-1 against Gasquet.