Skip to main content

ANALYSIS: Is Rafael Nadal the favourite to be world number one after the US Open?

ANALYSIS: It's most likely going to be Daniil Medvedev v Rafael Nadal in the fight to be world number one after the US Open, and it appears the Spaniard has the advantage.
Rafael Nadal with 2019 US Open

It's fair to say that the ATP rankings look a little bit upside down right now following a Wimbledon without points, but could it be to the advantage of Rafael Nadal?

When you are talking about the rankings at the moment, the elephant in the room is Novak Djokovic. We all know it so let's get it out of the way immediately. The Serbian is sat at number seven and he is likely to drop even further by the end of the US Open.

Even his greatest detractor would have to say he has been unlucky, though. Him not being allowed to play the Australian Open was controversial, but even if you believe the 2,000 points he lost there were ultimately his own fault, the same can't be said for Wimbledon.

Djokovic became the first ever man to lose ranking points for winning a Grand Slam this week, and it was a lot of them too - another 2,000 to be exact.

However, even considering the rather unique rankings situation that Djokovic currently finds himself in, there is no injustice about Rafael Nadal finding himself in a very strong position going into the US hardcourt swing.

Nadal has won two Grand Slams this year, and so it is only natural he is challenging for the world number one spot.

With Djokovic out of the picture there for now and Alexander Zverev injured, possibly for the rest of the year, it looks like a straight shootout between Daniil Medvedev and Rafael Nadal for the top spot as we head towards the end of the season.

Medvedev in charge, but vulnerable

Daniil Medvedev US Open trophy

One by-product of Djokovic likely being unable to play for ranking points at three of the four Grand Slams this season is a sense that Daniil Medvedev is a bit of an unworthy incumbent of the world number one spot right now.

That may be the perception many have, and he has definitely benefitted from the Djokovic situation, but Medvedev has a Grand Slam title and a Grand Slam final in his points right now. He is a genuine, bona fide world number one without question.

Medvedev currently has a lead of more than 1,600 points on Nadal, but that could change quickly because he is heading into his most vulnerable stage of the season.

RELATED: ANALYSIS: Is Rafael Nadal a much better grass court player than he gets credit for?

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Last year, Medvedev played three tournaments on the US hardcourt swing and he did very well in all of them. He won the US Open, won the Canadian Open and reached the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters.

Those three tournaments account for 3,360 ranking points - that is a hefty 43% of his current ATP-leading total. To put it another way, Medvedev has to do as well as he did last year in those three tournaments just to not lose any ranking points.

Medvedev could decide to cover his bases a little by playing Washington, but ultimately he looks more likely to come out of the US Open series with fewer points than he has now than more.

Big opportunity for Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal at Citi Open

While Medvedev heads to the US knowing he has little opportunity to add ranking points, Nadal has a bit of a clean slate.

Injury restricted him to just two matches in the US Open series last year, both coming in Washington and accounting for just 45 points in his current ranking.

That means that any success he has in Cincinnati, Canada and New York will be additional points, not defended.

Of course, the big obstacle for Nadal is injury and much will depend on how quickly he can recover from the abdominal injury that knocked him out of Wimbledon.

The opportunity, though, is significant. If, for example, Nadal were to reach the final of the US Open and the semi-finals of either Cincinnati or the Canadian Open, he would add roughly 1,500 points to his ranking. It would then just need Medvedev to underperform a little against his corresponding 2021 results for him to be overtaken by Nadal.

It really is that tight, despite Medvedev currently looking like he has a significant lead.

Please follow Tennisbuzz on Twitter and Instagram, and you can like us on Facebook by clicking here.

For more exclusive content from Tennisbuzz, including news, features, trivia, promotions and more, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below or via our home page.

Why not test your tennis knowledge by tackling one of our fiendish quizzes too?