Andy Murray has spent 38 weeks as world No. 1, but unless he wins just about every big title from now through November, the Scot will lose that honor by the end of the US Open.
World No. 4-ranked Novak Djokovic will likely not play in New York and is now over a year removed from his best tennis, while world No. 5 Stan Wawrinka needs to defend his US Open title.
This season, the men’s tour has really revolved around Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Barring injuries, they will battle for the No. 1 ranking by the time the US Open comes around, and it’s almost a guarantee that one of the legendary rivals will be the year-end No. 1.
Nadal has the advantage for now. He racked up 4,500 points in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Roland Garros while Federer was taking a break. Despite his three losses to the Swiss this year, including the Australian Open final, Nadal (7,465) trails Murray (7,750) by only 285 points and leads Federer (6,545) by 920 points.
Had Nadal really wanted the No. 1 ranking as soon as possible, he could have entered Hamburg. Just making the final would have been enough to pass Murray and extend his lead over Federer. Instead, it looks like the US Open series will give Nadal the chance to squeeze in a few weeks at No. 1—if he plays well.
Federer is still a favorite for the year-end top spot thanks to his more rested legs and the faster tournament surfaces. He is not entered to play the Rogers Cup, as he often skips it to prepare for the speedier courts of Cincinnati (where he has won seven titles since 2005). Federer can conceivably gain the No. 1 ranking by August 21 if he makes deep runs in Montreal and Cincinnati (and if Murray and Nadal are ousted early).
Since 2017 has been a Federer-Nadal renaissance, maybe they will finally play against each other at the US Open. If it happens, it could very well be a deciding factor for the No. 1 ranking.
There will also be the Asia swing and indoor tennis stretch that favors Federer’s history and style of play with Beijing, Shanghai, Basel and Paris all preceding the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
“I think it’s going to be a three or four-way race, or two-way race between me and Rafa Nadal,” Federer said in the Express. “I hope it’s me and not Rafa because it means a lot to me to get back to No. 1.”
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