At 31 years of age, Rafael Nadal has another reason to celebrate as he is set to surpass Andy Murray in the ranking next Monday when Cincinnati points will be added to the current status. It may not be the way people expected him to clinch the summit but once Roger Federer decided to skip Western&Southern Open due to a back injury, Nadal was automatically handed the No. 1 seat. As he's trying to build some momentum on the North American cement, he could use this apparently easier draw in Cincinnati to score several wins in a row. Just to put those wheels in motion for the biggest challenge that lies ahead, 2017 US Open and his chance to capture a second Grand Slam in 2017.

Nadal with a tough opening match against Richard Gasquet

2013 Cincinnati champion, Rafael Nadal entered the tournament as the first seed leading the upper half of the main draw. He will start his campaign in Ohio by facing Richard Gasquet, a 31-year-old French player. In head to head stats, Nadal has some impressive numbers winning all their previous 14 meetings. But, it's been almost two years since their last clash ( last eight stages in 2015 Basel ATP 500). Last week, Gasquet came so close to defeating Alexander Zverev in Canada at Rogers Cup.

He had several match points but failed to convert any of it. If he gets past Gasquet, Nadal may face Gilles Muller, the same guy that reduced him to silence at Wimbledon. En route to his second Cincinnati final, he could face Kevin Anderson, Nick Kyrgios, Tsonga or David Goffin in the quarterfinals while the semis may bring Sam Querrey as the second quarter of the draw seems to lack high-profile names. Querrey also ousted Nadal earlier this season in the final of Acapulco ATP 500 event in Mexico.

2017 US Open and the possibility of a 16th Grand Slam

If it wasn't for Alexander Zverev, the whole scene would have ended under Federer and Nadal sharing business. But, as the young German is gathering momentum with those two ATP titles in a row, the fatigue may also come in as a part of the equation. So far, the 20-year-old has failed when it came to Grand Slam events. Nadal could seize this upcoming opportunity to make it even with Federer in 2017; two Majors each. A deeper run in New York would also consolidate his future-to-be- No.

1 seat. If Federer won't be fully committed for the closing stages of the season, Nadal could reach another milestone; winning of the ATP Finals. As weird as it may look, he has never put that title under his belt.

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