x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Staying atop rankings mountain harder than the climb

Novak Djokovic defended world No 1 spot while Rafael Nadal climbed the tennis rankings mountain and their roles could be reversed next year, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Rafael Nadal, pictured, supplanted Novak Djokovic atop the rankings after he advanced to the final of the China Open on Saturday. Mark Ralston / AFP
Rafael Nadal, pictured, supplanted Novak Djokovic atop the rankings after he advanced to the final of the China Open on Saturday. Mark Ralston / AFP

How important is the world No 1 ranking? If you believe Rafael Nadal “it’s just a number”.

Early last week, Novak Djokovic, who had spent the past 48 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings before he was replaced by Nadal on Monday, said he did not “think too much about it”, but then changed his opinion after being deposed.

“It’s obvious being No 1 at this time, especially this era, is an ultimate goal and challenge for anybody,” Djokovic said on Saturday. “He’s going to be No 1 for Monday, but the season is still not over. As long as there is a chance, I will fight.”

True to his word, an inspired Djokovic beat Nadal 6-3, 6-4 in the China Open final on Sunday to end a run of three consecutive defeats to the Spaniard. But does that mean he will be back at the top of the rankings anytime soon?

It is a difficult task, as Djokovic himself conceded: “Rafa hasn’t played in this period over the last year, so he has only to gain points and I have many points to defend.”

Last year, Djokovic had won the Shanghai Masters and ATP World Tour Finals, which means he needs to defend 2,500 points at these two tournaments alone and 10 points from the Paris Masters in 2013. On the other hand, if Nadal wins just one match at Shanghai, he will take his tally to 11,250.

The roles will be switched for next year though as Nadal defends the points from his 10-and-counting tournament wins. Djokovic, then, will be taking aim.

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