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Tennis: Nadal returns to No 1, Williams through in China

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Rafael Nadal will return to number one in the world rankings after his semi-final opponent Tomas Berdych retired injured at the China Open Saturday, capping an astonishing comeback for the 13-time Grand Slam champion.

The Spaniard needed to make the final in Beijing to edge ahead of Novak Djokovic in the new rankings, which will be announced by the ATP on Monday.

Nadal, who last topped the rankings in July 2011, has enjoyed a remarkable season, returning from injury to dominate the hardcourt tournaments.

He will overtake defending China Open champion Djokovic at the top, even if the Serb overcomes France's Richard Gasquet in his semi-final later Saturday and retains the title on Sunday.

Nadal told reporters after the match that returning to top spot had capped "a great year, one of the best years of my career without any doubt".

"Sure is special be back to the top position of the ranking after more than a half year without playing tennis," he added.

"I felt during all the season very excited every time I go on court."

Djokovic is currently on his 101st week as the top-ranked player.

Berdych pulled out of his semi-final after receiving treatment for an injury with Nadal leading 4-2 in the first set.

Nadal had broken the Czech's serve in the fifth game after the pair appeared to be matching each other competitively in the early stages.

The world number five told reporters after the match that he suffered a back injury when he reached for a shot.

"I don't know actually what happened," he said.

"Just the pain was there. That's it. I mean, before I didn't feel anything. I was completely fine. I just had no problem at all. Nothing."

Berdych then praised Nadal's achievement on reclaiming the top spot.

"With Rafa, well, just all the credit. It is really incredibly well done in the whole short time that he has become a number one again," he said.

"That's really an achievement for an athlete like him."

Nadal was sidelined for the second half of last year with a knee injury and is unbeaten since he crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round in June.

He has twice finished the season as the top ranked player, more recently in 2010, and the first time in 2008, after he edged into the top position by winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 27-year-old, tipped to eclipse Roger Federer's record of 17 Grand Slam titles, has won 10 ATP World Tour titles in 2013.

In Saturday's women's semi-finals, world number one Serena Williams powered through her match with Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-2.

The American 32-year-old pulled up injured after appearing uncomfortable in the fourth game of the third set, clutching her back as she walked off court with medical officials.

But the brief pause did not result in Williams losing her momentum, as she ruthlessly finished off the third seed in convincing style, breaking serve in the next game before closing in on victory.

The top seed in Beijing said she had not picked up any serious injuries during the match.

"My back was a little tight from playing a lot so I was just trying to release it," she said.

"Its been a little tight all week and it just spasmed a bit out there today."

Williams will face eighth seed Jelena Jankovic in the final after the Serb defeated Czech Petra Kvitova following an early scare.

Jankovic lost the first set on a tie-break, but the world number 11 dominated the following sets, losing only two games to crush Kvitova 6-7 (7/9), 6-1, 6-1.

The finals will take place on Sunday.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131005/tennis-nadal-returns-no-1-williams-through-china