After Novak Djokovic’s excellent 2011 that saw him take three grand slams and five Masters 1000 titles, it definitely seemed like he was ready to hold the number one spot for a lengthy amount of time, possibly even years. However, with only three titles so far this year (Australian Open, Miami 1000, Toronto 1000), he has struggled to defend some of the massive total he amassed. With Rafael Nadal struggling with injury, his main competitor for the top spot had been Roger Federer. Since the emergence of his two big rivals, many felt that Federer would be unable to make a return to the position he held for 285 weeks earlier in his career. When he defeated Andy Murray at Wimbledon, he made his glorious return to number one, pulling back a 5,460 point deficit that he faced at the start of the year. With victory over Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati to take his sixth title of the year, Federer has still only been defeated just eight times this year.
Roger Federer Points: 12165
Points to defend: 3720 US Open Semi Final (720), Basel (500), Paris (1000), London WTF (1500)
Schedule (max points) : US Open (2000), Shanghai (1000), Basel (500), Paris (1000), London WTF (1500)
Having lost his last five encounters at a slam against Rafael Nadal, it will be a relief for Federer to not have to face the Spaniard here as he continues to suffer with injury. An extra 1280 points are on offer in addition to what he already has and if he makes the final as expected, at least 480 points will be added to his total and will be hoping for a favourable draw that could see Andy Murray take on Novak Djokovic in the other Semi Final. Shanghai is an extra addition to his schedule this year and takes place outdoors for the first time rather than on his favoured indoor hard courts.
After Shanghai, the rest of Federer’s season will be on his favoured indoor hard courts, where he defends titles in Basel, Paris and London. It would be a major surprise to see Federer drop any of these titles having only lost once since 2010 on the surface, against Gael Monfils in Paris 2010. In these three tournaments last year, Federer dropped just four sets in fifteen matches. While Federer is a five time winner in his home tournament of Basel, his record in Paris doesn’t stand out so much with his title last year being the only time he has appeared in the final there.
Novak Djokovic Points: 11270
Points to defend: 2560 US Open (2000), Basel (180), Paris (180), London WTF (200)
Schedule (max points) : US Open (2000), Beijing (500), Shanghai (1000), Basel (500), Paris (1000), London WTF (1500)
Djokovic’s excellent year began to fizzle out after the big US Open victory over Rafael Nadal. He failed to make the final in Basel and withdrew through injury in Paris while exiting at the Round Robin stage in the World Tour Finals. This gives him plenty of space to pick up points to pick away at Federer’s total, not to mention the two tournaments extra he is playing in the Asian swing this year and performances in these two tournaments could be decisive.
Being one of only two players to pick up multiple titles in Beijing, he will have the tournament down as a big chance to make some ground. The effect of a long season looks to be already taking its toll on Djokovic as he looked very weary in his defeat to Roger Federer in the recent Cincinnati final. It sounds odd to question Djokovic’s form given he has not failed to make a semi final on a hard court for a long time but he does look slightly more beatable than the Djokovic of 2011.
Who Will Be No.1?
As touched upon earlier, Djokovic faltered late last year and it would be a shame if it came down to who could stay fit the longest, a battle Roger Federer would most likely win as he always manages to look fresh throughout the whole season.
More likely than not, it could be all over if Djokovic fails to defend his title. A minimum drop of 800 points could see him fall over 2500 points behind if the Fed Express goes on to win the eighteenth slam of his career in New York. This would be a sufficient lead that the Swiss would be highly confident of defending even with a lesser schedule than his rival. With the three big ones so far shared between the top three, the winner of the fourth would be a well deserved number one.
While failing to win the US Open may signal the end of the chase for Djokovic, it isn’t necessary for Federer as only he can gain points. Having defeated the Serb in Cincinnati, this will give Roger the extra belief that he can win. This is something heavily needed after losing the last five meetings on outside hard courts.
Given his current lead and a Rafael Nadal-less US Open, I definitely think it is Federer’s to lose. A finals appearance should be the minimum here and the defence of his indoor points should be sufficient to hold on. Shanghai could see the pair square off in the final once more although it may be irrelevant by the time the pair meet.
Bookmakers Stan James currently rate Federer as a 6/5 outsider, believing the Swiss has around a 45% chance of retaining his spot until the end of the year.
Who do you think will be year end Number 1? Leave your comments below