Is Roger Federer pulling a fast one by adding this week’s Rotterdam event to his schedule in order to get the No. 1 ranking and be the oldest player to hold it since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973?
That’s the question, and the answer…of course he is.
Federer and Rafael Nadal, the current No. 1, were originally slated to resume tournament play in two weeks at ATP 500s in Dubai and Acapulco, respectively.
That would have given Nadal a chance to fend off Federer by possibly getting enough points in Acapulco to preserve his top position.
But there could be an irony here because if Nadal doesn’t reach the semifinals in Acapulco (he’s defending 300 points as runner-up), or doesn’t play at all, Federer would ascend to No. 1 regardless of how he did in Rotterdam (first opponent no. 116 Ruben Bemelmens on Wednesday) or Dubai in two weeks.
But if he somehow he failed to get to No. 1 in the next four weeks, Federer would likely have been stymied until the clay court season because he won both Indian Wells and Miami a year ago and would have a hard time gaining ground at those two events because he has (1000+1000) 2000 points to defend while Nadal only has (90+600) 690.
A second question is does Federer deserve the No. 1 ranking and the record for being the oldest player at 36 years, six months to hold the top spot, eclipsing Andre Agassi’s 33 years, four months in 2003?
The answer is… of course he does.
Since the beginning of 2017, Federer has won three of the five (three of the four he entered) Grand Slams while Nadal has won two of five. Over that period Federer’s match record is 59-5 while Nadal’s is 71-12, and he has won eight titles to six for his Spanish rival.
At the moment, the ATP Ranking points look like this:
- Rafael Nadal – 9,760
- Roger Federer – 9,605
That’s a difference of 155 points and Federer would get 180 points if he wins three rounds in Rotterdam and makes the semifinals. Potentially his quarter-final could be against his countryman Stan Wawrinka, which would add some spice to the accomplishment of getting the No. 1 ranking should he succeed.
Even if Federer doesn’t get to No. 1 between now and the end of the Indian Wells-Miami ‘Sunshine Double’ at the beginning of April, the clay court season would present another opportunity.
A year ago he didn’t play any clay-court events and therefore got zero points in the April-May-June period. Nadal, on the other hand, won four titles – Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Roland Garros – accumulating, with a quarter-final in Rome, a grand total of 4,680 points.
If Nadal didn’t play well over the same period this year – or if he was unfit and couldn’t play – Federer stands a good chance of ascending to No. 1 at that time.
It seems very unlikely Federer will play any clay events this year. Two years ago, following his post-Australian Open arthroscopic, left-knee surgery, he felt something odd in his knee playing on clay and wound up pulling out of the 2016 French Open. Last year he skipped clay entirely and had a sensational rest of the season and start to 2017. Why would he risk clay again, especially because it gives him a nice break to be with his family and an opportunity to prepare for his most important time of the year – Wimbledon and the grass-court events leading into it?
On the subject of favourite tournaments, if the total amount of points Federer and Nadal have earned on their best surfaces – Federer grass and Nadal clay – are subtracted from their totals, here’s what their respective ATP rankings would be over the past 12 months:
- Federer – 7,105
- Nadal – 5,080
And their points on the most neutral of surfaces – hard courts:
- Federer – 7,105
- Nadal – 4,900
Nadal’s accomplishments should not be diminished. He had tremendous pressure to perform on clay last year and he did so by winning four big tournaments and reaching the quarter-finals in Rome – going a remarkable 24-1. Then winning the US Open (and Beijing), on a surface he has long complained about, was huge for him.
But it still feels like Federer has outdone him – particularly when the Swiss’ 4-0 head-to-head record in 2017 is factored into the equation.
If Federer reaches No. 1, it would mean the total number of weeks in his career he had been atop the ATP rankings would be 303, which has a nice ring to it.
And that’s the equivalent of very close to six years.
UKRAINE FOR CANADA IN APRIL
As a result of a draw on Tuesday morning at International Tennis Federation headquarters in London, it was determined Canada will host Ukraine for its Fed Cup World Group II play-off round on April 21-22.
It will be a second meeting for the nations – Canada (Genie Bouchard and Sharon Fichman) defeated Ukraine (Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko) 3-2 in Kiev in a World Group II play-off in 2013.
Canada is playing in this year’s World Group II playoff after losing 3-0 on the weekend to Romania while Ukraine is coming off a 3-2 defeat against Australia in Canberra.
Ukraine’s top two players are no. 3 Svitolina and no. 40 Tsurenko but neither played in Australia. Instead it was 15-year-old prodigy Marta Kostyuk, who beat no. 28 Daria Gavrilova before losing to no. 16 Ashleigh Barty, as well as 25-year-old twin sisters Lyudmila and Nadiia Kichenok representing Ukraine.
The Kichenoks – Nadiia (No. 37) and Lyudmila (No. 46) in doubles – were beaten 6-3, 6-4 in the fifth and deciding doubles match by Barty and long-time partner Casey Dellacqua.
Ukraine has two more top 100 players – no. 65 Kateryna Kozlova (23) and no. 80 Kateryna Bondarenko (31) – as possible singles players.
Where Canada will play the tie is not known yet, but it is quite possible that Svitolina (and maybe Tsurenko) will not play because she will be entered in the WTA clay court Premier event in Stuttgart beginning the following week.
Kostyuk, before beating Gavrilova in Fed Cup, had won a $60,000 Challenger event in Burnie, Australia, and qualified and made it to the third round of the 2018 Australian Open – beating no. 27 Peng Shuai and no. 168 Olivia Rogowska – before losing 6-2, 6-2 to her fourth-seeded compatriot Svitolina.
Canada’s team in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, was made up of Bianca Andreescu, 17, of Mississauga, Ont., Katherine Sebov, 19, of Toronto, Carol Zhao, 22, of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Gabriela Dabrowski, 25, of Ottawa. There could be changes in that team for the World Group II play-off in April.
MILOS vs. DENIS
It’s bound to happen sometime – Canada’s No. 1 player Milos Raonic against no. 2 Denis Shapovalov.
They have played in the same tournament six times so far – 2016: Rogers Cup (Toronto), 2017: Queen’s Club, Wimbledon, Rogers Cup (Montreal) and 2018: Brisbane, Australian Open.
They are both entered in next week’s Delray Beach ATP 250 and the no. 31-ranked Raonic will be one of the eight seeds. At the moment, Shapovalov is only two places out of a seeding, so potentially the earliest they could meet is in the quarter-finals.
If Shapovalov is not seeded, then anything is possible. The closest they have come to facing each other was at the 2017 Rogers Cup – but it would have taken two Raonic wins (after a bye) and three by Shapovalov. Raonic, with an injured left wrist, lost his opening match to Adrian Mannarino while Shapovalov won four rounds and went out in the semifinals to Sascha Zverev. The next closest was 2017 Queen’s Club where they were three wins each away – Raonic losing in the opening round to Thanasi Kokkinakis and Shapovalov exiting in round two to Tomas Berdych after qualifying.
Shapovalov, ranked a career-high no. 47, is playing the 15th ATP or Grand Slam tournament of his career. Raonic has twice before faced his No. 1 Canadian rival – then it was Vasek Pospisil. He won the 2014 ATP 500 final in Washington as well as a semifinal thriller at the 2013 Rogers Cup by a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4) score.
The Delray Beach draw will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Nicole Gibbs, the 24-year-old Californian who ranks No. 118, revealed her engagement to Jack Brody in this twitter post. Gibbs graduated from Stanford University in 2014 and won the 2012 NCAA singles title while a student there.
Brody proposed at Stanford at the site of their first kiss.
GENIUS/JOKER QUIZ UPDATE
As a result of a late disqualification, the co-winners of the 2017 Genius/Joker quiz – with 18 out of 20 correct answers – are Irving Ho and Vivian Tse. Congrats.