Rafael Nadal, 31, is set to end the year as the world No. 1. Doing so, he put himself in this position for the fourth tie throughout his career. Moreover, he is the oldest player to cap the year's end summit in the Open Era. It's been an extraordinary season for the Spaniard who won two Grand Slam titles too. The compartment where the improvements were most obvious was the outdoor hard, especially the last chunk of it.

A perfect run in New York backed with another title in Beijing, and a runner-up status in Shanghai have shown a better delivery on a surface that caused him a lot of troubles in the past.

An extended schedule indeed, the stretch on hard took its toll with Nadal starting to use some support tape for his right knee. It's a common fact that tennis players are exposed to knee issues (tendinitis) if they pursued an extended schedule on hard surfaces.

Rafael Nadal was injury-free for the most part of the year

Rafael Nadal has now bagged 77 official matches this season. If he plays the Nitto Atp Finals in London, the Round Robin matches alone will cap the 80 appearances milestone. Shanghai was the place where the issues started this time. Up until there, he was doing very well. An injury-free mechanism put him in a perfect position. It was nice to see him competing without a trace of concern regarding his health but now the fairytale might be just over.

Delivering a press conference to announce his withdr\wal from Paris Masters, Rafael Nadal made it clear that he puts things in perspective, a long-term strategy being the main goal. At Paris-Bercy he did just enough to ensure his No. 1 seat at the end of the year. With Roger Federer off the table, he had an easy task ahead.

Nitto ATP Finals is under scrutiny

The ATP Finals is the biggest men's tennis event where Rafael Nadal is yet to prevail. Played on an indoor hard fast surface, Nadal hasn't been able to unveil the winning recipe yet. With the world No. 1 spot on his bag, he might even consider skipping it to focus on the upcoming 2018 Australian Open.

Moreover, if his right knee is still not fully recovered, a run at the O2 Arena in London would do nothing but to add unnecessary risks.

Nadal is in the best possible spot and right now all that he needs is a clear vision of how he sees himself doing for the next few years. It would be a shame to not have Nadal competing at the Nitto ATP Finals, but it's a price most people would want to pay in order to have him on the field for the years to come.