Rafael Nadal didn’t just with his fifth French Open a week ago Sunday, but he also seriously damaged the odds his chief rival Roger Federer gets the No. 1 ranking back this summer.
What makes it that much more vital – and in a way cruel – is that Federer is now stuck just one week shy of Pete Sampras all-time record for weeks at No. 1 at 286. One week!
Nadal only leads Federer by 220 points, but the reality of the gap is much different than it appears. So is the No. 1 ranking for Federer out of reach? For the short term: yes.
The problem for Federer is worst case, at least for Wimbledon. Federer has to defend a maximum 2,000 points from his 2009 Wimbledon title while Nadal can only pick up points as the Spaniard missed out on grass’s biggest event last summer.
So even by winning Wimbledon Federer will likely lose ranking points slip further behind to Nadal. And should Nadal win Wimbledon and Federer fall early, he could make it nearly impossible for Federer to overtake him this year provided the lefty stays healthy.
Also this summer Federer has to defend a Cincinnati title (1,000 points) and the US Open finals which is another 1,200. So in short, the Swiss has 4,200 ranking points to account for between now and mid-September. And that’s a lot.
That’s enough points that should Federer fail to defend any of them he would fall to No. 8 or lower in the rankings.
Chances are, however, Federer will still put up good numbers this summer, although the he’ll be under pressure as a healthy Nadal and the aging process are both against him. Federer turns 29 in August and if he doesn’t get back to No. 1 this year he’ll be immediately under pressure at the start of 2011 in Australia where perhaps with a healthy and hungry Juan Martin Del Potro will back in the equation along with the usual cast of characters.
The good news for Federer fans is that if Federer wins Wimbledon he’ll be right back in the chase (how often does a player wins TWO slams and not finish No. 1?). As long he Roger collects a US Masters title and a reaches the US Open he’ll be in position to make a run at Nadal in the fall indoor season. But if Nadal does well at Wimbledon and then wins the US Open, Rafa’s going to get that No. 1 spot.
So for me, I know the numbers don’t work out exactly this way but between Federer and Nadal, the player who gets a Slam this summer (Wimbledon or US Open) will finish No. 1. If they each get a Slam then I give the edge to Rafa. If neither wins then edge to Rafa. In the last two cases Federer will not get back to No. 1 this year.
And that said, with Roger short just one week from Pete’s record, it sure makes this summer and the rest of year that much more intriguing and really what makes this topic even worthy of a post.
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