Djokovic Holds Slim Chance to Overtake Nadal for No. 1 Ranking at Rome, Will He Even Play?
by Sean Randall | May 9th, 2011, 1:38 am

Could Novak Djokovic be the top seed at the French Open? It’s possible. According to the ATP, Novak Djokovic has a chance to overtake Rafael Nadal for No. 1 ranking at the end of the Rome Tennis Masters.

I call it “slim” because for it to happen Djokovic must win the Rome title and hope Nadal loses before the semifinals.

“If I keep winning I’ll get closer but I’m trying not to think about that,” Djokovic said.

While I think Djokovic certainly could win Rome, I just don’t see Nadal going out before Saturday.

“If I lose No. 1 it’s not the end of the world,” Nadal said. “If I lose it I will be No. 2 and I’ll be very happy.

“I’m just happy to go out on court and have the feeling that I’m competitive and I still have this feeling, but at the moment I haven’t been able to beat him but I’ll try to work and beat him [next time]. The good things will come and you’ve got to be patient.”

And with Djokovic winning today over Nadal I have to wonder what the Serb has to gain by playing Rome. Sure, the No. 1 ranking is there but odds are Nadal will get to the semifinals, even though he may have to go through Bellucci, Kohlschreiber and Ferrer to do it.

What’s the best thing that can happen for Novak if he wins Rome? Getting to No. 1 if the scenario above unfolds would be a great achievement but it’s a long shot. So realistically then is it the ranking points? Even more confidence? More money? And if he were to win think of the added pressure he would face of being the favorite in Paris (I think if he beat Nadal again in Rome you would have to make Djokovic then the fav for Paris).

Djokovic’s worst case scenario in Rome (aside from injury) is that he gets crushed by Rafa in the final. Much the momentum he had accrued would be gone and his confidence would take a hit going into Paris. Plus, maybe he has a long match here or there and fatigue from all the tennis he’s played this year starts to set in.

So my gut says Djokovic won’t risk exhaustion, injury, etc., by either skipping the tournament or withdrawing midway (remember, he had his knee wrapped this weekend and he did tweak his ankle/knee/leg a few times I saw) to save himself for the bigger prize in Paris. If he wins the French (the real goal) the No. 1 ranking should come with it. Talk about a great way to finally get to No. 1!

On the subject of rankings, this is the first week in the history of the pro rankings that no American is in either the ATP or WTA Top 10. Tennis-wise things are tough in the USA.

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68 Comments for Djokovic Holds Slim Chance to Overtake Nadal for No. 1 Ranking at Rome, Will He Even Play?

scineram Says:

We know that you have run away, chickened out, thus are insecure, Sean, but don’t project it to these professionals.

kriket Says:

“Crushed by Rafa”? I don’t think so. He might lose (I personally wouldn’t bet on it), but I don’t see him being crushed. It just doesn’t happen anymore. And you Doubting Thomases of TX just need to open your eyes and see it.

Michael Says:

I have never seen Rafa so much overpowered and outplayed on clay as much he was against Djokovic in Madrid yesterday. In most of the rallies, he was second best not able to compete effectively with the pace and variety of Djokovic range of shots from the back court. Ofcourse, the close scoreline does not know tell the full story. Infact the contest was uneven with Djokovic having the full measure of Rafa on Clay. I do not know how this will affect Rafa’s confidence. But being a fighter as Rafa is, I expect to come out with all guns blazing at Rome Masters where I see him doing well even against Djokovic. But, honestly I prefer both Nadal and Djokovic to skip Rome to reserve their best for the real test in the red dirt of Paris.

Michael Says:

With the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry gathering steam sidestepping the rivalry of Federer-Nadal, things look rather ominous for the likes of Federer, Murray, Soderling et al. Now, they have to counter not one, but two real Champions namely Djokovic and Nadal. Things are looking rather heavy and the dream of Federer winning another grand slam will remain a tall order. One hopes Federer rises to the occasion to disprove his critics. If he does that, I will he very happy.

Cindy_Brady Says:

Oh boy,

Rome is slower red clay than Madrid is. Much more like the French Open conditions. Slower red clay perfectly suits Nadal’s game. Rallies will be longer and Djokovic’s shots will be less penetrating allowing for Nadal to wear down Djokovic.

I agree with Sean. I’ll bet Novak pulls out of Rome, claiming fatigue and focuses on the French Open. Beating a healthy Nadal at the French Open in a best of 5 contest will take everything he’s got. Even getting to the finals, which he has never done, is going to drain him.

Playing Rome really does not favor Djokovic’s chances of winning the French. He already has the confidence, but rest and a fresh pair of legs going into the French will only boast his chances.

tfouto Says:

i dont see any reason to Djoko to skip Rome unless he has a knee issue. I know he had knee wrapped, but it might be more of a precaution.
Djoko ended the game fresher and with more stamina then Nadal. I think the week between Rome and French Open is enough to rest…

For that reason, Nadal should skip Rome too, unless he wants to keep the no. 1. But let’s face it, sooner or later he will lose it to Djoko.

So to me, more then being fresh to FO its the knee that’s the key for Djokovic to Rome or not…

Nims Says:

I think Novak would play Rome as it would be an ideal preparation for FO, not Madrid. Rome would give a correct measure of how his clay game is going to click. Even if he loses to Nadal, he can take positive out of it and come up with a winning strategy against him. Most likely the strategy he used in Madrid may not work against Nadal in Rome. But as mentioned above, I do not think Nadal will wear down the current Novak unless he is injured. He made a smart decision of skipping Monte Carlo, no need to skip Rome now.

Dory Says:

Novak is the fresher of the two whereas Nadal comes playing MC, Barcelona and Madrid so even if he’s King, he should be tired physically and mentally (last year he skipped Barcelona – wise decision). I agree two weeks of rest after Rome would have been ideal but Novak should certainly play Rome properly. Doesn’t matter if he loses but he can see how his game fares on slow clay.

Americans in ATP Top 10 is not a reality because they just learn the serve these days and turn pro instead of developing a proper game.

stu Says:

I had not realized that:

Djokovic is 355 points away from qualifying for the year-end WTF, and could qualify during the Rome Masters.

Dahveed is #3 on the ATP race for the year.

Murray, despite those early losses, is still doing pretty well in the race!

Lulu Iberica Says:

With conditions at Rome being so similar to those at the French, I don’t think Novak should skip it unless he’s injured or especially fatigued, which he doesn’t seem to be. Furthermore, if Rafa can beat him, it would be close, not a blowout, and I think Rafa has much more to lose confidence-wise than Djoker.

Cherry Says:

I am a Nadal fan and I am hoping that he retains his No. 1 ranking! I am also hoping he gets another rematch with Djokovic in Rome.

Nina Says:

Stu said: Djokovic is 355 points away from qualifying for the year-end WTF, and could qualify during the Rome Masters.

That says it all really about the phenomenal year Nole is having. I don’t mind this time if he loses early in Rome. He said very clearly that his goal is to peak for the slams, specially Wimbledon, his favorite tournament.

stu Says:

I agree, Nole should definitely play Rome, but try to conserve energy for the French when possible.
Having said that, these cautionary measures and what-if scenarios seem silly in retrospect, when new Nole wins almost effortlessly and as if he has forgotten to lose. Everything from now on is just a bonus, I’ll sit back and enjoy.

Ben Pronin Says:

Also, it would probably be better for Djokovic to have his streak snapped in Rome, rather than going into the French with a pretty outrageous amount of pressure. If his goal is to emulate McEnroe, hopefully it’s not to the point where he gets his streak snapped in similar fashion (McEnroe’s 42 straight wins ended with his loss to Lendl in the famous French Open Choke-job).

JF Says:

I wonder has Nadal feels mentally having lost to Djoko 3 consecutive times in finals nonetheless!!

stu Says:

^^ Apart from that one, I don’t think any of the other 30+ streaks ended at a Slam. Hard to imagine a player, playing with enough confidence to be on a winning streak, allowing himself to be beaten over 5 sets. Won’t happen to Nole at FO (if he wins Rome), except probably against Rafa.

Cindy_Brady Says:

Posted by Ben Pronin

“McEnroe’s 42 straight wins ended with his loss to Lendl in the famous French Open Choke-job).”

Ben, I remember that match and I don’t believe McEnroe chocked as much as Lendl stepped up his clay court game. Lendl was miss firing in the 1st and 2nd sets making many unforced errors allowing McEnroe to dominate with serve and volley. In the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, Lendl cleaned up his game and his superior groundstrokes took over. Not to mention he started to read McEnroes lefty serve and bludgeon it.

MeEnroe didn’t lose that one. Lendl won it.

skeezerweezer Says:

^Interesting stuff. Amazing Fed has 4 winning streaks of 25 or more, holding the current Era record at 41. Novak and Rafa have one winning streak. Looks like Novak could beat Feds streak of 41 at FO, assuming he wins Rome, no?

Ben Pronin Says:

I love how Federer had 3 20+ streaks in 2005. I personally still think Federer’s 2006 was the single greatest season but if Djokovic comes into the US Open Series holding one of the next 2 slams and only 2 losses, I’ll wager he surpasses Federer’s 06.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Ben- the amazing thing about that is that if he DOES win one of the next two slams, he really couldn’t have more than 2 or 3 losses by the US hardcourt season. Wow.

jane Says:

Ben “I personally still think Federer’s 2006 was the single greatest season.” Yep amazing. That year Fed won 11 tournaments and the year end championships; JMac’s 1984 season was perhaps just as amazing: he won 13 tournaments and the year end champtionships, but he didn’t play AO (many didn’t back then as we know) or too much clay. But perhaps Martina Navratilova’s 1983 season was the most amazing of all – she lost one match all year. ONE! There was an article about Mac’s streak back in April, when Nole’s streak was beginning to catch notice.

jane Says:

And yes, it’s also astonishing how Fed, Borg, Lendl appear on there multiple times!

Nina Says:

Fed’s records are amazing one must concede. :)

Fritz Says:

Sincere congarts to Novak and all his fans at this site (btw, the best tennis site on the planet). Well done, clean and thoroughly deserved victory. I expected a 50-50 match, but this was far from it, more like 75-25 in Novak’s favour.

Anyone knows how the Rome trophy looks like? It has to be prettier than that golden toilet brush they gave in Madrid. I have high hopes for Italian design…

Fritz Says:

How about a minute of silence for Andy Roddick’s tennis career.

He’ll make a great commentator for one of the American TV networks. I’d love to see him paired with Gilbert commenting at the next year US Open.

stu Says:

Tignor’s article from 2008 – Nole’s come a long, long way!

“Djokovic was no longer climbing and improving, but at the same time he hadn’t gained that king of the hill aura that comes with being No. 1 and champion of the French Open and Wimbledon.

Hence the final in Cincinnati, where Djokovic, struggling with his forehand against Andy Murray, seemed to play both to win and lose at the same time. Hence the Olympic semifinals, where he made the most embarrassing error imaginable (or unimaginable)—chunking a sitter overhead 5 feet wide—when he was down match point to Nadal, ending his chances for a gold medal for the next four years. Hence the rising frustration when he couldn’t blow out lower-ranked players, the tendency to throw caution to the wind at crucial moments, the injury issues that seemed designed to alleviate the mental burdens of competition. I had once written that Djokovic was, above all else, “good at winning,” that his biggest advantage was that, when it mattered, he simply didn’t miss. I wasn’t sure anymore: When it mattered most these days, he no longer tightened up his game. His risked everything.”

I think it’s safe to say he’s back.

Fritz Says:

I just noticed something in his name; could be kind of an advice:

T(ignor) his opinions!

There is a similar one with Roddick that involves splitting his last name at the right spot, but I’ll let you figure it out. And, besides, I respect this site too much to do it here.

skeezerweezer Says:


“Anyone knows how the Rome trophy looks like? It has to be prettier than that golden toilet brush they gave in Madrid. I have high hopes for Italian design…”

Haha I was going to say something a lot more dirty but I am going to be a gentleman.

BTW agreed Roddick when done will make a great commentator, me thinks he will bring no b@llS@hit to the talk and some funny wit as well…

Kimberly Says:

Del port out of Roland garros

Kimberly Says:

I keant del potro silly autocorrect!

Kimberly Says:

According to doubtful but bleacher report says out. Abdominal tear. Going to hold a press conference on wedesday.

Fritz Says:

We get it Kimberly – you KEANT Del Potro ;-)

Kimmi Says:

oh s**it! he was stsring to play well too. when did he get this injury? it was a hip last week. bad luck delpo. that is what happens when they come back after a long lay off..body not used to all the rigors of the tour.

Kimmi Says:


Kimmi Says:

i am not bored of djokovic winning everything yet. my wish is for djokovic to beat rafa again on clay this year :)

skeezerweezer Says:

That ( Delpo injury ) is a major bummer….:(

First Serve Tennis Says:

What a great upset with Novak Djokovic’s beating NADAL First Serve Tennis

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Same thing happened to Rafa when he came back from his Big Off, torn abdominal- which DelPotro got the benefit of in destroying him at USO. Karma, baby.

jane Says:

I don’t get how (or when) he got the ab injury, but Delpo is clearly injury prone. Add ab, to hip, wrist and back. Poor Delpo.:( He had the right idea to play lots of smaller events to increase his ranking, but I guess the risk that comes with it is re-injury, or in his case, new injuries. Hopefully he will be able to play RG in the end.

Kimmi Says:

well, delpo could be prone to injury but he is not as bad at la monf who cant seem to play two tournaments in a row.

what about nishikori?

tsonga and simon seem to be doing ok at the moment. touch wood!

Kimberly Says:

RAFA WHO???????

HEAT UP 3-1, YEAH BABY!!!!!!!!!!!

skeezerweezer Says:

Being a tall guy myself, physically you have more disadvanteges than you think. Sure it is great to be tall with serving and all that, but lower center of gravity overall is a great benefit, although on the extreme other side, who wants to be Rochus? Golfers like this are less prone to injuries also. Delpo, I hope, will see this and have to work extra hard in the gym to help prevent the body type. Even very young Milos is already having back issues, not to mention Monfils with his stuff. I know others, no matter what height, are prone to injuries but it is a scientific fact the work in the gym with weights and such lowers the risk. Ya just can’t think lots of matches is how you get in shape. Match shape, yes, in tennis shape, nada. Go Delpo!

jane Says:

True skeeze, re: tallness, but surely Delpo has done a lot of gym work. But yeah, I think these tall guys will be more prone, including Milos. La Monf must be partly doomed due to his acrobatics on court sometimes, don’t know. Tsonga and Delpo hammer the ball, so maybe it is related to that too? Or maybe it is just genetics to a degree. I think flexibility is key. Not carrying extra weight or extra height – easier to deal with the first as opposed to the last, ha ha. Anyhow, it would be nice to see Delpo back at it soon. Was so looking forward to the Rafa clash.

Kimberly Says:

Kaiser is 6’3 I think the ideal height for mens tennis today. Tall enough to give younall the advantages serving, jumping but not inhibit movement or cause injury.

Any taller and I think your movement and coordination is inhibited. Maybe not though, look at Lebron James and he’s like 6’8, but thats not tennis, so different type of athleticism.

Murray and djokovic are both 6’3 and Nadal is 6’1 and I think fed is 6’2

Soderling I believe is 6’4, but he doesn’t move as well as the four above although he is much stronger.

Raonic, del portro, karlovic, isner, cilic too tall IMO.

Kimberly Says:

Hardest hitters IMO, del potro, soderling, joe Wilfred, berdych

jane Says:

Ike, wherever you are, we’re getting closer to meeting up in the cup finals! Canucks won, so we’re into the Western Conference finals just like your Bruins are in the East! Woo hoo! :))

Debra Says:

Aren’t the Bryans Americans? Don’t they play tennis?

Ben Pronin Says:

You don’t hear India being called a tennis power house despite producing one of the greatest doubles teams in history.

jane Says:

Just search Delpo, and all I can find is that he is uncertain about the FO due to the *hip* injury and I saw nothing on a abdominal tear. But either way, it does sound pretty bad. Here is one link:

Daniel Says:


Fed is also 6’1, like Rafa and me.:)

I used to feel lower back pain due to wrong ball toss. This always killed me, since every once and a while I have one of those matches I toss 2-3 times to serve. I miss a lot, but at least my opponent gets mad too. When you are having problems with your service, no matter how great your game is (Djoko last year), it’s just frustrating.

Cilic may very well have a back or hip problem. Safin and Guga served way behing the body and sustained this injurys, just similar to Cilic. Even Hewitt serves a little back also.

DelPo’s motion is up and front, no problems for him in this area, I hope so.

Kimberly Says:

Jane, it was sent to me by a bleacher report then I saw it on The “hip pain” Was due to an 8mm lower abdominal tear.

Nadal saidnhis at USO 09 was 3 cm, I wonder if he meant 3mm. Deploys team is quoted as saying remedy open doubtful.

Daniel Says:

Oh, and Djoko can’t be N. 1 before Roland Garros. The n. 1 seed don’t win RG this days. I think the last one was Kuerten in 2001.

Nadal and Federer have never won when they were N.1, only as n.2.

N.2 is fine right now for Djoko.:)

Kimberly Says:

Daniel, I get low back pain from dead lifts some times but tennisnactually seems to loosen it up for me!

I am 5’8 but only 112 lbs. I think for a woman that is the ideal in terms of movement speed serve, (maybe 5’9 5’10) but maybe with 10 lbs more muscle and I make errors due to lack of stregnth so I oversewing to compensate.

Kim is 5’8, azarenka 5’10, Serena, 5’10, wozniaki 5’10, nA li 5’8, oudin and Justine hen in 5’6. Not to be bitchy bit I have serious question about the veracity of some of the listed weights for the women in particular, sharp ova, wozniaki, and most glaringly Serena,

Kimberly Says:


stu Says:

Congratulations, Kimberly! I’m in Boston. Not such a great mood here :)

My ideal scenario for the remainder of the clay season would be for Rafa to win Rome. Nole’s 2011 streak would end at 35 matches (maybe a loss to good friend Murray or Simon), or better yet, to Soda in the QF.

This would mean, at the beginning of the FO with the FO points removed, Rafa would have 10470 points and Nole 11025. Then Nole would take over the #1 by beating Rafa in the final. And I would pass out in happiness.

skeezerweezer Says:

Roddick after his loss to Simon in Rome on American Tennis;

“If you still stack us up against most countries, we’re coming out ahead,” said Roddick, the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title, at the 2003 U.S. Open. “At a certain point, the only part that confuses me is how I am answering questions and that it’s my responsibility. I feel like that I’ve handled my part for more than a decade. I’ve been doing my job for a long time.”

Right on Rod man.

Not to rag on USTA, but I will. With all the fees and moneys USTA recieves ( Zillions just from recreational adult leagues and tourneys ) it’s time for THEM to accept responsiblity for US Tennis, not poor Roddick. The money is there to develop kids in the USA, no? But where does it go? On the tennis court? How about executives, administrators, etc? Too many Chiefs wanting to collect a big pay day and not enough teachers and programs to develop the young. USTA is the one who needs a to speak up and take repsonsibilty. Harsh words or some truth?

So this poster would like to know….show us the money going towards the future of US Tennis. Open the books. Oh yeah….are you for that or collecting fees that mainly go into your pocket? Just sayin….

Cindy Brady Says:

Djokovic’s streak ending in Rome.

mat4 Says:

Sorry to write about something that has been already spoken of here, but I read a lot of comments on some other sites about it, so it is a kind of answer.

There has been a lot of comments about Djokovic improved fitness, and his gluten allergy. Some posters found this highly improbable. Usually, they don`t watch closely matches, because…

1. Djokovic is still melting in heat (conf. against Almagro),

2. he still has breathing problems (compare him to Federer or Murray after some rallies, AO),

3. he has not much improved his stamina: basically, he is working extremely hard a few years already, and without the allergy, the results would have been obvious long ago;

4. the symptoms of a gluten allergy fit well in the kind of problems he had (other allergies, asthma, lose of weight…), and yes, most of the time that kind of allergy is not detected in time (my colleague at the faculty got Crohn`s disease before doctors realized she had a gluten allergy),

5. although his game has improved, all the elements were already there: he is standing closer to the baseline, just like he did before his change of racquet, the serve is the one he already had, he was already returning quite well (although he has problems with big servers because he tries to hit the ball, not to block it)… All thoses changes can be understood if we know that his new racquet is closer to the Wilson he used to play with.

I closely watch Fed`s and Djoko`s games for years, and the stories about drugs, or decline (for Fed) are unfounded. Djoko is not the first player to make a streak of more than 30 wins, or to dominate the tour. Fed did it before, and JMac, and Borg, Vilas… Does anybody remember Vilas? He was built like a bull, but nobody implied he was doped. Matches that last for 5 hours were also common 30 years ago, and tennis was a very physical game then. If Djoko is dopping, everybody is.

van orten Says:

real clay ??? what makes people think nole cannot beat nadal on a slow clay surface…he didn’t win against in madrid because of surface speed…after all djoker is not federer who needs speed to generate lots of winners…no djoker grinded nadal down like a real hard core clay courter ..and that ladies and gentleman scares not only nadal

madmax Says:

(McEnroe’s 42 straight wins ended with his loss to Lendl in the famous French Open Choke-job).


I thought the longest streak was Guilermo vilas with 46?

Lulu Iberica Says:

Kimberly, I know that Woz’s weight as listed (128 last I saw) is wrong, because I am not quite 5’4″ and weigh about 125, and I am a pretty slim person. Plus, muscle weighs more than fat and I’m pretty sure Woz has to have more muscle than me!

Kimberly Says:

sharpova 6’2 and 128, she’d be dead

jane Says:

madmax, “I thought the longest streak was Guilermo vilas with 46?” Yes in terms of at any point in the season – which that list I posted inlcudes; however, J-Mac’s is the longest winning streak in the OE *to start a season* – so Nole has mainly been compared to him, Lendl (whom Nole has now passed) and Borg (who, Nole is either next to or has passed – not sure as some sources say Borg won 33 to start, other sources say 31) as those are all “winning start-to-season” streaks. Then there are surface streaks, etc, and Rafa owns the longest ever, at I think 81 clay matches. So many different records & categories.

jane Says:

Re: streaks – here’s where Nole is at presently. Wawa has a chance to end it tomorrow; he won a set off Nole in the Rome final in 2008.

*Second best ever (in OE) to start the season:

“Djokovic’s unbeaten streak trails only John McEnroe’s 42-0 start in 1984.”

* Sixth longest straight winning streak ever (in OE, all surfaces), tied:

“Djokovic has won 35 consecutive matches since Serbia’s Davis Cup triumph in December, tying him for sixth in the Open era with Bjorn Borg (May-Aug. 1978) and Thomas Muster (April-June 1995).”

Nice company for Nole. :)


stu Says:

jane, didn’t RF also have a 35-match winning streak?

jane Says:

Oops. Yes stu. June-Nov. 2005, Fed went 35-0. So it’s a 4 way tie. didn’t mention Fed, but the list I posted the other day does.

stu Says:

6 more matches till he catches up with Roger’s longer streak? Can he? I think Soda/ Muzza/ Rafa might just get him this time…but if he wins Rome, Vilas might have something to worry about!

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