Federer Loses Number One Ranking to Nadal

17:31 Mon 18 Aug 2008. Updated: 17:56 28 Jan 2009
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Roger Federer is no longer the world number one. Rafael Nadal took the number one ranking today after being in the number two spot for longer than anyone else in history. Nadal’s ascension was guaranteed at least two weeks ago, thanks to poor recent results from Federer, some quirks in the ranking system, and Nadal’s continued fantastic form.

Federer was the world number one for longer, consecutively, than anyone before him: 237 weeks, from 2 Feb 2004 until 17 Aug 2008. The previous men’s record was 160 (Jimmy Connors), more than a year shorter than Federer. Steffi Graf had a record of 186 consecutive weeks at number one, just under a year shorter than Federer.

The numbers sound dry, but really, being the world number one for more than four straight years, without ever dropping into the second spot, is a truly unbelievable achievement. The consistency required is just ridiculous, and my suspicion is that it will be quite some time before anyone comes near that record.

It’s also notable that despite the fact that Federer’s form has definitely dropped, in order to take the number one ranking Nadal had to win the French and Wimbledon and after that outperform Federer in the run-up to the US Open—which he certainly has done, and has now added a singles gold Olympic medal to his trophies (something Federer has never done). At this stage, Federer cannot regain the number one ranking by winning the US Open, no matter how Nadal does, and it’s looking extremely unlikely for Federer to be number one at the end of the year.

Federer’s fade has been quite rapid. Since losing the epic Wimbledon final to Nadal, he hasn’t won any tournaments, hasn’t gotten to the final of any tournament, and has lost to some people that he’s never lost to before, such as James Blake, who beat him in straight sets (!) at the Olympics.

I expect him to make a serious effort at the US Open, of course. His Grand Slam record is ridiculously good, but I think there’s a chance the at Flushing Meadows another of his amazing record-setting runs might stop: that of reaching the semi-final of seventeen straight Grand Slam events. (Also, during that streak he’s never lost at a Grand Slam except to the eventual winner.)

Of course, he might well make the final there, and set up another fantastic matchup between himself and Nadal—in which case I’ll definitely be watching it.

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