How this year’s US Open shakes out at the end is going to be fascinating. Certainly the focus is on winning the title but what it will be is crucial for the year-end world No.1 ranking in the men’s.
Three nights before the tournament began the ATP World Tour, the governing body for men’s tennis, staged a night that will be remembered for a very long time.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary (to the day) of the computer rankings and the new ATP Heritage program, the evening brought together 14 of the 16 year-end world No.1’s (disappointing exceptions for various reasons were Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi) and all up 19 of the 25 players who were ever ranked No.1 were there. Such a gathering had never happened or been attempted before.
I was privileged to be asked to do the commentary for the live streaming of the event and it was engrossing, goose-bump stuff. Around the huge Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York were banners of the No.1’s highlighting their time in the top spot of world tennis. To achieve such a distinction is a journey; it is like reaching the summit of Mt. Everest.
The night got me thinking about who would end 2013 the year-end No.1.
“Being No. 1 at the end of the season is for sure one of the most difficult things on this sport for so many facts, because the season is long,” said Rafael Nadal. “You can have great two weeks, great week win a very important tournament, but to be No. 1 you must have a lot of great weeks during the whole year.
“To be No. 1 at the end of the season is a special thing. Just a few people had the chance to do it. Being No. 1 is important, yes. Is very important.”
The last two years Novak Djokovic has ended the year world No.1and at the start of the season most would have indicated that he possibly would have made it three in a row with challenges from Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Federer is no longer in contention and if he ends the year back in the top 5 he would be doing well.
The man who has really shaken the boat is Nadal. In January and most of February he still had not started playing after his injury lay-off but since then Nadal has been the player of the year. Even he admitted that such a position would have been beyond his thoughts.
Nine titles from eleven finals out of twelve tournaments was his tally going into the US Open and he has jumped into the No.2 ranking. He is sitting in the prime position to capture the year-end top spot.
He didn’t play the Open last year nor did he play the final two ATP Masters 1000’s or the ATP World Tour Finals. He can make up so much ground whereas Djokovic and Murray have to defend points – Djokovic winner points in Shanghai and London and finalist points from the Open, Murray winner points from the Open and finalist points in Shanghai.
“We will see after (the US Open); this tournament, will make the difference,” said Nadal. “Is true that I am having a great season and I am in a positive position, but nothing decisive having a Grand Slam and 2000 points here.
“I am in this position because I played amazing. I am trying. I gonna try. At the end, you are No. 1 or you are not No. 1. We'll see at the end of the season. If I am No. 1, it will be amazing, amazing season for me.
“If I am not No. 1, it still will be amazing season for me. This tournament gonna make a big difference. We will see what's happening here, and after here I will say not everything will be decided, but things can be more clear and completely less clear.”
So come 9th September and the end of the US Open, we are going to have a better idea of who will be year-end No.1 and what will be on the banners the next time all the world No.1’s get together for another night of celebration. Right now you’d have to say Rafa is looking pretty good.