PARIS - Rafa Nadal believes he can finish the year as world number one after dropping to fifth in the rankings on Monday, changing places with David Ferrer, the man he beat to win the French Open for a record-extending eighth time.
Due to the ATP's 12-month rolling ranking system that awards no points for defending a title, Nadal had nothing to gain for reclaiming the Roland Garros crown he won last year.
The 12-times grand slam champion, however, now has almost nothing to lose until the end of the season after a knee injury side-lined him for the last five months of 2012.
"There are still six months ahead of us," Nadal told reporters.
"I could be number one again if I continue at that level and if I'm not injured. But this is not 100 percent sure."
After last year's French Open, Nadal reached the quarter-final in Halle and the second round at Wimbledon before injury ended his 2012 campaign.
This means he has just 90 points to defend until the end of the season.
"To be number one in this era, you need to play during the whole season, I need to keep winning a lot of points if I want to have any chance to be number one at the end of the season." he said.
Nadal heads to Wimbledon in search of a third title, but having decided to skip this year's Halle tournament, his preparation for the grasscourt grand slam will be far from ideal.
"I don't play a tournament before Wimbledon so that's not the ideal situation before a grand slam like Wimbledon, which is on grass and with conditions that are very different.
"But if you can make it a few rounds, then the situation changes."
Nadal came to Roland Garros with doubts hanging over his knee and his ability to win yet another title, but came through the gruelling fortnight unscathed.
"Today I was able to compete with 100 percent, so that's fantastic," he said after beating Ferrer on Sunday.
"It's true that in Barcelona my feeling was very negative about my knee. So I am still going week by week, day by day. I will take a look after here."
As well as being injury free, the Spaniard says that he is now more relaxed - a potentially deadly combination for his opponents.
"I am taking everything a little bit more relaxed," he said. "Before I wanted to practice every day a lot to be 100 percent sure that I am ready, but that's not possible anymore.