Roger Federer's comeback at the Qatar Open was brought to a halt in the quarterfinals by eventual champion Nikoloz Basilashvili. But Federer didn't sound too bothered by the loss; in his post-match press conference, the Swiss stressed that his main goal right now is to play as much as he can.
Many expect Roger Federer to start going consistently deep in tournaments by the second half of the year, after he has regained full match fitness. But some of his peers think otherwise, as evidenced by a recent ATP asking players for their year-end top 10 predictions.
As many as eight ATP stars were asked which 10 players they thought would be at the top of the rankings by the end of 2021, and in what order. While a few of them made some offbeat picks, not a single player picked Roger Federer - not even at the No. 10 position.
Grigor Dimitrov was quick to suggest that the fast-rising Jannik Sinner could make his top 10 debut in 2021. Reilly Opelka and Felix Auger-Aliassime made particularly interesting picks, tipping Hubert Hurkacz and Alex de Minaur respectively to be ranked in 2021's year-end Top 10.
While the 8-10 spots in the ATP rankings are fairly tough to predict, the players were unanimous in the picks they made for the 1-7 spots. All of the featured players agreed that the top seven would be Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev - in that order.
The players who were featured in the segment were: Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, David Goffin, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Mackenzie McDonald and Lloyd Harris.
Why Roger Federer is fairly likely to finish the 2021 season inside the top 10
Roger Federer's ranking would ordinarily have been in jeopardy under normal ATP guidelines. But the new COVID-affected rankings will likely ensure that the Swiss maestro stays put in the top 10, unless one or more players gain a mountain of new points at multiple events.
Even though Federer has played just one tournament in the last 13 months, he will be able to retain 50% of the points he earned in the middle of 2019 - his most prolific period by far.
In other words, Roger Federer is a prime candidate to finish the 2021 season inside the Top 10.
The eight players in the ATP exercise were probably looking more at current form than the rankings system. And Federer certainly doesn't fare well in that aspect, having been AWOL from the tour for over a year and looking distinctly rusty in his comeback tournament last week.
But mathematically speaking, Roger Federer's chances of falling out of the top 10 by the end of 2021 are not very high. The Swiss has finished inside the top 10 year-end rankings a whopping 18 times in his illustrious career, and 2021 will likely be the 19th.