When Rafael Nadal earned the ultimate ranking record ahead of Jimmy Connors



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When Rafael Nadal earned the ultimate ranking record ahead of Jimmy Connors

Within a couple of days, the 20-time Major champion Rafael Nadal earned two notable accomplishments in November last year, improving his already impressive list. Rafa became the fourth player in the Open era with 1000 ATP victories following the second-round win over Feliciano Lopez at the Paris Masters.

Next Monday, Nadal added another record to incredible CV, becoming the player with most consecutive weeks in the top-10, celebrating the 790th straight week in the elite and leaving Jimmy Connors on 789! Connors and Nadal have been ranked in the elite group for over 15 years without leaving it, and Rafa extended the record for over a year despite dealing with injuries in 2021.

The 16-year-old Nadal was ranked just outside the top-200 at the beginning of 2003, playing high-level tennis that year to continue the meteoric progress through the ATP ranking list. After 19 Challenger triumphs (title in Barletta and three more finals) and the third-round appearance in Monte Carlo, Rafa cracked the top-100 in April and stayed on a steady course in the following months to secure a top-50 spot in August.

Despite a nasty injury that halted his rise in the spring of 2004, Nadal won the first ATP title in Sopot in August and helped Spain win the Davis Cup title, gathering momentum ahead of 2005.

Last November, Rafael Nadal became the player with most consecutive weeks in top-10.

That proved to be Nadal's first great season on the Tour, competing in the fourth round of the Australian Open before conquering Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco on beloved clay.

The best was yet to come for an extraordinary teenager, standing two points away from winning the Miami crown against Roger Federer and lifting the first Masters 1000 trophy in Monte Carlo a few weeks later. Hungry for more, Rafa headed to Barcelona with no rest and defeated Juan Carlos Ferrero in the best-of-five final to grab another title and additional 300 points that propelled him into the top-10 for the first time in a career.

At 18 years and ten months, Rafa became the eighth-youngest player in the mentioned group since the beginning of the ATP ranking in 1973 after Aaron Krickstein, Michael Chang, Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Andre Agassi and Andrei Medvedev.

Embracing the top-10 honor on April 25, 2005, Nadal has never left the group, counting one great or at least reliable season after another to pass Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer before he finally moved in front of the leader of the pack Jimmy Connors.

Rafa will finish the current season in the top-10 for the 17th straight year, a record that will take some beating in the future.