The 33-year-old defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in his final round-robin match but Alexander Zverev’s win against Daniil Medvedev meant he had to exit the tournament before the semi-final stage.
Nadal is now tied with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Jimmy Connors in the all-time list for most year-end finishes as world No 1. American Pete Sampras leads that list, having ended the year at the top of the rankings six times.
Nadal draws level with rivals Djokovic and Roger Federer, who have also finished the year in top spot five times, and moves one behind six-time end-of-year number one Pete Sampras.
Nadal and Djokovic have been this year’s two dominant players after winning two Majors each. Djokovic won the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Nadal cleaning up at Roland Garros and the US Open.
Federer ends the season at number three for the second year running. The Swiss, who turned 38 in August, has cut down his Tour commitments to focus on events around Grand Slams.
He reached the semi-finals of the French Open where he lost to Nadal and the last eight at Flushing Meadows where he lost in five sets to world number 20 Gregor Dimitrov.
In between he lost an epic Wimbledon final against Djokovic, the first to be decided by a tie-break in the fifth set, suggesting that he still has hopes of a 21st major title in 2020.
Dominic Thiem, who took a set off Nadal in the final of the French Open, moves up to number four after reaching the final of the ATP Finals where he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The 21-year-old Greek closes the year at number six, just behind Daniil Medvedev, after his triumph in London.
Former world number one Andy Murray began the year ranked at 240 and the prospect of retirement.
As he struggled with surgery on a hip injury and the subsequent recuperation he had slipped to 503 in September before a dramatic return to the courts, which produced a remarkable victory at the European Open in Antwerp, lifted him to a year-end 126.
This year in men’s tennis was once again dominated by the ‘Big Three’ of this generation. Since 2007, Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have together finished as the top three-ranked players at the end of the year on eight occasions.
Federer is 38-years-old, Nadal is 33, and Djokovic is 32, but all three continue to set the pace on the ATP Tour.
Here’s a table that shows the dominance that these three players have had in men’s tennis for a decade and a half:
ATP year-end rankings
|Year||No 1||No 2||No 3|
|2003||Andy Roddick||Roger Federer||Juan Carlos Ferrero|
|2004||Roger Federer||Andy Roddick||Lleyton Hewitt|
|2005||Roger Federer||Rafael Nadal||Andy Roddick|
|2006||Roger Federer||Rafael Nadal||Nikolay Davydenko|
|2007||Roger Federer||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic|
|2008||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||Novak Djokovic|
|2009||Roger Federer||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic|
|2010||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||Novak Djokovic|
|2011||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer|
|2012||Novak Djokovic||Roger Federer||Andy Murray|
|2013||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||David Ferrer|
|2014||Novak Djokovic||Roger Federer||Rafael Nadal|
|2015||Novak Djokovic||Andy Murray||Roger Federer|
|2016||Andy Murray||Novak Djokovic||Milos Raonic|
|2017||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer||Grigor Dimitrov|
|2018||Novak Djokovic||Rafael Nadal||Roger Federer|
|2019||Rafael Nadal||Novak Djokovic||Roger Federer|