Wild Wednesday At Wimbledon Shapes No. 1 Battle
If and when the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking changes hands in coming months, Wimbledon quarter-finals day likely will be remembered as a watershed moment. And it’s now advantage Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
After a surprise five-set loss to Sam Querrey Wednesday, current No. 1 and defending champion Andy Murray finishes the tournament with 360 new points but loses the 2000 points he earned by winning last year. With a further 5,460 points to defend in 2017 after Wimbledon, it was only a matter of time until the weight of Murray’s jaw-dropping late-season success of 2016 became too much to bear. But today’s defeat at the All England Club has brought forward the day of reckoning for the man who has spent the past 36 weeks at No. 1.
Provided their current playing intentions don’t change, top spot could change hands when Murray and Nadal both play their next scheduled event at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament in Montreal. Murray will take in a slim 285-point lead over Nadal, meaning that the Spaniard has three pathways to No.1: 1) if he wins the title; 2) if he reaches the final and Murray falls before the semi-finals; or 3) Nadal reaches the semi-finals and Murray loses his opening match.
Novak Djokovic, who has spent 223 weeks (fifth most all-time) at top spot during his career, would have returned to No. 1 had he won a fourth Wimbledon title. But after retiring today with an elbow injury early in the second set against Tomas Berdych, the Serbian has lost some of the momentum he had begun to build since reaching the Rome final. The four-time year-end No. 1 has 3,740 points to defend after Wimbledon, making a return to No. 1 this season a tough task. Just 12 months ago, coming into Wimbledon holding all four Grand Slam titles, it was difficult to foresee a time when he would not be at the pinnacle of the sport.
Federer, in avenging his 2016 semi-final defeat to Milos Raonic with an impressive straight-sets win over the Canadian on Wednesday, furthered his chances of pressing for the No. 1 spot in the second half of the season. And that’s only part of the good news for the Swiss. Federer has no points to defend after Wimbledon because his 2016 season ended after the grass season.
Also on Wednesday, Marin Cilic emerged as a darkhorse contender for No. 1 by taking out Gilles Muller in five sets to reach the semi-finals. It’s mathematically possible for the 2016 Cincinnati champion to go to No. 1 after the US Open if he wins Wimbledon and sweeps the US Open Series and the US Open, but he would also need rivals like Murray and Nadal to do very poorly during that period.
Should Federer win his eighth Wimbledon title on Sunday, we will have a riveting three-way battle for World No. 1 during the US Open Series and US Open. If he does not, we’re at least guaranteed a two-man tussle between Murray and Nadal.
If Murray holds onto No. 1 through the back-to-back ATP World Tour Masters 1000 weeks in Montreal and Cincinnati, he likely will still be under pressure at the US Open. Stripping out the points earned during the 2016 US summer, Nadal will be 405-points ahead of Murray after the US Open if both players earn the same amount of points as each other this summer.
Looking longer term, Nadal and Federer currently look most likely to battle for the coveted year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking. Amazingly, the pair first finished No. 1 and No. 2 for six consecutive years between 2005-2010. The prospect of the players finishing No. 1 and No. 2 again after a seven-year break – and 12 years after they first did – would be remarkable.
The Emirates ATP Race To London, the calendar-year points race that began in January, best illustrates the massive lead the Spaniard and Swiss enjoy over their rivals. Nadal has 7,095 Race points after reaching the Wimbledon fourth round. Should Federer win the Wimbledon title, he will have 6,545 points, with Dominic Thiem a distant third with 3,345 points.
If Federer loses in the semi-finals to Berdych, he will trail Nadal by 1,830 points. Under that scenario, Cilic could win the title and move to third in the Race with 3,705 points… 3,390 points behind Nadal.