Rafael Nadal has been labelled the "absolute favourite" to break a record held by rival Novak Djokovic. American tennis great John McEnroe is certain the Spaniard will finish the season as the year-end world number one after claiming wins at two of the three Grand Slams thus far.

As it stands, Nadal has a 1,010-point advantage over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the singles race. If he remains on top going into the Nitto ATP Finals, he will break Djokovic's record of being the oldest player to end the year as the world number one. The Serb currently holds it after picking up the plaudits last year at 34, while the Spaniard is currently aged 36.

Nadal has been at the top of the 2022 ATP rankings since winning the Australian Open in January. The 22-time men's singles Grand Slam champion missed several weeks early in the season due to a rib injury, and again spent time on the sidelines after Wimbledon with an abdominal strain.

Despite his injury struggles, the 36-year-old managed to maintain a high level whenever he played a full tournament. Nadal started the year with a flawless 22-0 record claiming wins in Melbourne, Acapulco and the Australian Open before losing in the final at Indian Wells. He then lifted a 14th French Open title before making the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Rafael Nadal
Too good: Rafael Nadal celebrates Thomas SAMSON/AFP

Nadal returned from injury at the Cincinnati Masters and is now preparing for the final Grand Slam of the year at Flushing Meadows. McEnroe said that he will be surprised if anyone but the Spaniard finishes as the year-end number one after being at the front since the start of the season.

"I do think he is the favourite, absolutely. I would be surprised if he doesn't [finish as world No. 1]," McEnroe told Eurosport ahead of the 2022 US Open.

Nadal could have extended his advantage in the singles race if points were awarded at Wimbledon. The ATP decided to withdraw the points after the tournament decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players. The lack of points also affected Djokovic, who dropped from the top of the world rankings to number seven despite claiming the title at SW19.

"Especially, as it turned out, it would have helped if there was points at Wimbledon for him," the American added. "But it hurt people like Novak and other players that had done well the previous year."

Nadal will be seeded second at the US Open following Alexander Zverev's withdrawal owing to the ankle injury he suffered at Roland Garros. The veteran Spaniard will also have a chance of claiming the overall ATP number one ranking if the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas do not make a deep run in the tournament.

Rafael Nadal
Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) shakes hands with Russia's Daniil Medvedev after winning the men's singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne early on January 31, 2022. William WEST/AFP