Roger Federer’s #1 Ranking

20:24 Tue 08 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:14 28 Jan 2009
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Given the results of the Wimbledon final and the Roland Garros final, it’s hard to argue that Nadal isn’t the best tennis player in the world at the moment. However, he’s not ranked as the number one player in the world—that’s still Federer.

The ATP Rankings measure the best player over the past twelve months, by tallying results from the four Slams, the nine Masters Series tournaments, the best five results from other eligible tournaments. Slam wins are worth the most, 1000 points. Federer therefore still has the points from last year’s US Open win—while Nadal went out in the round of 16 there, giving Federer an 850-point lead from that tournament alone.

Federer’s current points lead over Nadal is 545 points going into the start of the hard court season—which Federer has traditionally dominated. Now, with the gap between the two so small, even if you assume that Federer will win the US Open (and he’s still who I’d bet on), you have to think that Nadal might well make the final, or at least the semi-finals, cutting the points lead from Flushing Meadows significantly. Nadal will drop the 250 points from Stuttgart, which he’s skipping, but even so it’s clear that the run-up to the US Open is going to be incredibly important for the two of them as they tussle for the number one spot.

In some respects Federer is at a disadvantage, because he’s defending more points—he won Cincinnati and was a finalist in Toronto last year, a total of 850 points. Nadal loses the points from Stuttgart, but is only defending 450 from Cincinnati and Toronto. So effectively, if you throw out those points entirely, Federer is at 5750 going into those, whereas Nadal is 5355—a lead of only 395. A bad result for either of them at either of those tournaments could determine the ranking, and it’s certainly the case that the US Open will be incredibly important ranking-wise.

Incidentally, while it’s clearly a hugely important moment, especially for Nadal, I don’t think that the Wimbledon loss represents the end of the Federer era. I still think Federer is the favorite for Wimbledon next year, for example. I don’t think that the loss to Nadal represents any display of vulnerability for Federer in real terms, either—I can’t imagine any other player watching that match and thinking “I could do that” regarding Nadal’s performance.

If Federer loses the number one ranking, that will be the end of an era (he’s been number one for a record 232 weeks), although perhaps less so if he somehow loses it while winning the US Open and the Tennis Master’s Cup. In my mind, though, the Federer era, the truly dominant part of it, will only be over when he fails to get to at least the semifinals of a Grand Slam—he’s been to the last seventeen of them. That seventeen (and counting) is a record, and furthermore, during that streak, while winnning ten of the Slams, he has also only ever lost to the eventual winner, which is quite ridiculous. That level of consistent world-class tennis is unparalleled, and only when that fades will Federer really no longer be in the prime of his career.

Oh, and: Novak who?

2 Responses to “Roger Federer’s #1 Ranking”

  1. Niall Says:

    Contrarian view: the humiliating loss in the French coupled with Roger’s inability to raise his game at the critical moment means the era has already ended. Is there any precedent for that happening at such a level before?

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Well, if you think it’s ended, you must think he won’t win any more Slams? Or won’t contend? If not, then what happens if he keeps winning 2-3 Slams/year after this year, will that be a different Federer era?

    As for precedent, there’s not much precedent for Federer or Nadal, in a lot of ways, and none for the combination of the two. They’ve been #1 and #2, as a pair, longer than any prior 1/2 pair in history. If Federer keeps his #1 ranking throughout this year, I think it’s hard to argue that his time has passed… again, I personally think that it won’t have passed until he fails to make a Grand Slam semi-final, and even then he might still recover.

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