Men’s tennis could soon have a new world No 1.
Novak Djokovic has held the spot for over two years, moving beyond Roger Federer for the most all-time weeks spent at the top. However, Djokovic’s absence from the Australian Open, where he was the defending champion, has opened the door for a new No 1.
Daniil Medvedev has the chance to overtake Djokovic at the top of the rankings by the end of the month.
HOW CAN MEDVEDEV BECOME WORLD NO 1?
Medvedev’s destiny is in his hands.
After missing the Rotterdam Open last week, the Australian Open runner-up is set to return to action in Acapulco on February 21. Djokovic is also set to compete that week in Dubai, where he does not need to be vaccinated to play.
If Medvedev wins the tournament in Mexico he will become world No 1, regardless of what Djokovic does in Dubai.
The field for the ATP 500 in Acapulco looks strong. Defending champion Alexander Zverev is expected to play along with world No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas and potentially Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal, although he has not committed to his schedule after Melbourne.
Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner are on the entry list for Dubai along with Djokovic.
WHAT IF MEDVEDEV DOESN’T WIN ACAPULCO?
Even if Medvedev doesn’t lift the title in Mexico he could still become world No 1.
Djokovic will need to better Medvedev’s result to avoid slipping from the top of the rankings. So Medvedev will become No 1 if he reaches the Acapulco final and Djokovic does not win the Dubai title, or if Medvedev makes the semi-finals and Djokovic does not reach the final, or if Medvedev makes the quarter-finals and Djokovic doesn’t reach the semi-finals.
If Medvedev matches or betters Djokovic’s performance in Dubai he will take top spot from him.
WHAT HAS MEDVEDEV SAID ABOUT BECOMING WORLD NO 1?
If Medvedev becomes world No 1 he would be the third Russian man to do so after Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1999) and Marat Safin (2000-01).
The last player outside of the ‘Big Four’ to reach world No 1 was Andy Roddick back in February 2004.
Medvedev would also be the 27th man to hold the top spot since the rankings were introduced.
Medvedev was not drawn too much into talking about his opportunity to take top spot in Melbourne, except for saying: “I think the higher you climb the rankings, the further you want to go.
“I have been No 2 for quite a long time. I have been playing pretty well. Of course, yeah, I want to, you know, become No 1, win 25 Slams, or something like this.”
Those comments came after Medvedev’s four-set win over Nick Kyrgios, who said he thinks the Russian is the best in the world right now.
“I think if you asked everyone on tour, I think that he would be, I think they would probably vote him the best player in the world at the moment.
“[It’s] his consistency. Every game he doesn’t drop his level, he shows up every game, plays – I think no matter what the score is or how much pressure he’s under he never kind of gets flustered. He just has so much belief in his game.”
Meanwhile, John McEnroe said on Eurosport that he thinks it is “ludicrous” to suggest that Djokovic is no longer the best player in the world after winning three of the four Grand Slams last year.
“Let me put it in a little perspective, it’s a long year,” McEnroe said. “I think what really matters when you become No 1 – and it’s still a great honour whenever it happens – it’s who’s No 1 at the end of the year.
“The final rankings before, when all four majors are played, when all the tournaments have been played, this is the very beginning of the year and it’s still an amazing accomplishment.
“And because of the unfortunate fact that he didn’t play here, he’s losing all the points he got that he won from the Australian Open. So that’s just why that happens.”
CAN ANYONE ELSE GET TO NO 1?
Zverev had a chance in Melbourne, but he was surprisingly beaten in straight sets in the fourth round by Denis Shapovalov.
The current world No 3 has plenty of points to defend over the next few months. He is defending champion in Acapulco and Madrid, which is an ATP 1000, and he made the semi-finals of the French Open last year.
However, he could make up some ground in March as he only made the quarter-finals of Indian Wells and second round in Miami last year.
Zverev has admitted that the pressure of trying to the top of the rankings affected him at the Australian Open.
“There was too much pressure in Australia, too much talking on the potential of being No 1,” he said recently. “It was in my head and I didn’t handle it well. It’s how it is.”
World No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas is currently 3,700 poitns behind Djokovic and 700 behind Zverev.