Nadal has been in the top 10 ever since April 2005, but on Monday he fell to 13th in the rankings after injury forced him to miss Indian Wells.
Unable to defend the 600 points from Indian Wells resulted in Nadal dropping four places to 13th in the rankings, ending his record 912-week stay inside the top 10, which began when current number one Carlos Alcaraz was not even two years old.
The 36-year-old’s run came to an end on the same day that teenage compatriot Alcaraz reclaimed his number one spot from Novak Djokovic after beating Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s Indian Wells final.
Nadal is yet to recover from the hip injury that has hampered him since his Australian Open exit to Mackenzie McDonald in January.
Though the 22-time grand slam winner could return to the top 10 once he is back in action, it will not be in the next month as he has also withdrawn from the Miami Masters.
The latest ATP rankings saw Djokovic drop to second place, while Medvedev moved from sixth to fifth, Felix Auger-Aliassime leapt from 10th to sixth, Hubert Hurkacz nudged into the top 10 as he moved up two places to ninth, while Taylor Fritz dropped from fifth to 10th.
World number four Casper Ruud, who lost to Nadal in the Roland Garros final last year, said he would not be shocked to see the 36-year-old lift the French Open trophy once again.
“It wouldn’t surprise me because he’ll probably use these weeks and these months, as he’s preparing for exactly Roland Garros,” Ruud told Eurosport as part of the Ruud Talk series.
“It doesn’t matter if he loses in Monte Carlo or Rome or Madrid. The only thing that’s probably on his mind these days is just to be fit, be healthy and be ready for Roland Garros.”
Last year, tennis lost two of its greats when Serena Williams and Roger Federer bowed out of the sport but Nadal and rival Djokovic are still soldiering on.
Djokovic, who turns 36 in May, has shown few signs of slowing down and drew level with Nadal on 22 Grand Slams by winning the Australian Open.
“For the whole tennis world, it would be nice to see one last showdown at Roland Garros,” former US Open champion Dominic Thiem said, adding that Djokovic would be the favourite to win the remaining Grand Slams this year.
“The only tournament is Roland Garros: if Rafa is fit there, it’s exactly the opposite. He’s the man to beat when he won the tournament 14 times, it’s crazy.”
1 Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)
2 Novak Djokovic (SRB)
3 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRC)
4 Casper Ruud (NOR)
5 Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
6 Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
7 Andrey Rublev (RUS)
8 Holger Rune (DNK)
9 Hubert Hurkacz (POL)
10 Taylor Fritz (USA)