It is the my favorite thing to talk about, especially at the slams, when so many ranking points are at stake. The race for the year end No. 1 title is heating up and it has taken another twist in the last week. The latest twist has many tennis fans wondering if we will see someone besides Novak Djokovic ranked No. 1 in the next three years or more. Even greats like Pete Sampras think Djokovic could have a stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking.
“I do [think Djokovic can remain No. 1 for years]. I was thinking about that when he won Monte Carlo. He could stay No. 1 for quite a while, five or six years in a row. Realistically, if he stays healthy, he could very well do it.”
So here is a look at each players chances of ever getting back to the No. 1 spot, or being ranked No. 1 at all in Murray's case.
Roger Federer: I doubted Federer once before and he made me look pretty dumb for it, but this time, a run at No. 1 is out of the question. In order to reach the No. 1 ranking last year, Federer didn't just play some of the best tennis of his life, but also entered into a lot of tournaments. Federer played 83 matches in 2012, which was his most since his incredible season in 2006. This year, however, Federer has a lighter schedule. When Federer announced that he would not be playing in Davis Cup, Miami, or Basel, his chances to ever return to No. 1 became very slight. Mix that with his disappointing 27-8 record (his worst start since 2001) and his chance of ever reclaiming the top rank of the sport is gone.
Andy Murray: Murray's window of opportunity came and went with five championship points against Djokovic in Shanghai. If he had won the match, he would have accumulated 5,310 points over a span of four months. That would have been the perfect base to build a ranking on. Instead, he gave away his 400 points to Djokovic, who took that momentum into London and won the year-end championships. Now Murray has to defend the 4,910 points that he did amass in that span, but wasn't able to do anything with, which means his ranking is going to be dropping soon. The bigger issue that Murray will have to address when he makes is next run for world No. 1 will be his clay court ability. This year, the Scot won a grand total of three whole matches on clay, which has always been his worst surface. Considering that his competition earned 1910 points on clay this year, just managing three wins is not going to get the job done. This was without doubt Murray's best opportunity. Djokovic isn't going to do any worse on clay any time soon, and Murray may never be able to repeat the run he had late in the summer of 2012 (the Olympics won't come around again for another four years). That was Murray's best chance, and it came and went. I don't think he will ever be the No. 1 player in the world in his career.
Rafael Nadal: Nadal is the one who actually has a legitimate shot at stopping Djokovic. Heading into Wimbledon, Nadal was ahead of Djokovic in the Race Rankings by almost 2000 points. However, that lead will be completely erased if Djokovic wins the title at Wimbledon, because of Nadal's first round loss to Steve Darcis. A lot is still up in the air in terms of determining the Spaniard's ability to perform at his highest level. It is clear that the knee is an issue still. Nadal sited the knee as his reason for skipping Miami and Halle, and the knee was clearly an issue in his loss to Darcis. Now, the question is if the knee will stop him from succeeding in the hard court season. If Djokovic wins Wimbledon, though, it may not matter how Nadal does on hard courts. Djokovic was very successful after the Olympics in 2012 and a win at Wimbledon could propel him to do the same this year, making Nadal's chances of returning to No. 1 even more difficult. As of right now, Nadal's window of opportunity begins in the Asian swing and ends after the Australian Open. If Nadal is not the world No. 1 at the conclusion of the 2014 Australian Open, he never will be again.
So what happens if none of these men ever do become the No. 1 again? Who will pass Djokovic in the rankings? He can't be No. 1 forever. I don't think Del Potro will ever be a serious contender for the No. 1 ranking. Grigor Dimitrov, Bernard Tomic, and Jerzy Janowicz all seem like they could be grand slam contenders very soon, but it will be a while before they are actually competing for the No. 1 ranking. It seems like they are the only three who can surpass Djokovic in the ranking. The only man who can stop the Serb is himself.
Can Djokovic break Federer's record for most consecutive weeks as the world No. 1 at 237? Djokovic's current streak is 35 and he just turned 26 years old. That means Djokovic would have to hold onto the No. 1 ranking until around his 30th birthday in order to break Federer's record. That shows you how incredible Federer's run was and why he is considered the GOAT. It seems like the possibilities are endless for Djokovic. Could we call him the GOAT some day?