Nadal and Federer: two legends, one throne
Both on duty in Montreal this week, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are very much the centre of attention as the hard court season gets under way. The winners of seven of the eight major titles to be decided so far this year, including the first three Grand Slam events, the ageless duo will also be vying for the world No1 ranking as of this week.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: the story goes on. As the 2017 season continues on its unlikely way, the two are gearing up for the US Open with the world No1 ranking in their sights. Though not necessarily a prime objective for either player, the summit of the ATP Rankings will be theirs to claim in the final half of the season, following Andy Murray’s gradual decline since the start of his injury problems in March and the decisions by Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka to end their seasons early.
With 5,460 points to defend between now and the end of the season, including 960 at the US Open, Murray, who will be absent from this week’s Masters 1000 in Montreal, has 70.452% of his current tally of 7,750 points to protect between now and the ATP Finals in London. It is an impossible task for the Scot, whose reign is set to end.
Nadal with his mind on other things...
After basking in the glory of a tenth French Open title, Nadal arrives in Quebec as the master of his own destiny. Should he reach the semi-finals in Montreal, he will reclaim the No1 slot for the first time since July 2014, regardless of what Federer does. Despite his Australian Open and Wimbledon wins, the Swiss still finds himself 920 points adrift of the Spaniard and 1,205 of Murray, which is too much of a gap for him to make up straightaway. If Nadal does indeed complete his climb back to the top, it will be rich reward for his consistency.
He is reluctant to contemplate the prospect, however. “I’m not thinking about it right now,” he said. After all, Nadal knows himself well, having failed to enjoy a successful end to a season since 2013, a year that began with him missing the Australian Open. Playing a leading role from January to November is his other major challenge this year, something he has not managed since 2011, when he was 25. To do so again at the age of 31 would only add to his legitimacy as the king of tennis. Unlike Murray, he has a mere 360 points to defend between now and the season’s conclusion, 180 of them at the US Open.
Federer, the oldest No1 in history?
While the possibility of seeing Nadal back on top in the near future is very likely, Federer also has every chance of scaling the heights in the medium term. The winner of five of the seven tournaments he has graced this season, the man from Basel lies second in the ATP Race to London, just 550 points behind the Spaniard. Simply relentless in his comeback year, he knows exactly what he needs to do. He also has the distinct advantage of having zero points to defend in the season’s final straight. In skipping the clay court season, Federer preserved his energy levels and gave himself significant room for manoeuvre. “We’ll see in the next few weeks and months if I have a better chance of getting it back,” he said after arriving in Canada.
The Swiss has gone nearly five years without being No1, since 4 November 2012 to be exact. The American hard court season and the subsequent tournaments in Asia and indoor are suited to his game, boosting his chances of a return to the summit. And should he get there, he will become the oldest world No1 in the history of the ATP Rankings, surpassing Andre Agassi, who was 33 years and 131 days old when he last had the honour, in 2003.
Though it is advantage Nadal at the moment, it could easily be advantage Federer by the year’s end. If the two do indeed end up swapping the No1 ranking, it will be the first time they have done so since that glorious period between 2008 and 2010, when their legendary rivalry was at its height. The trip back in time could not be more improbable, and all that remains now is for 2017 to offer up one last twist as these two kings of the game vie for one throne. It promises to be quite a battle.