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Can Rafael Nadal snatch the year-end No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic? A look at all the scenarios

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
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Modified 29 Oct 2020, 01:13 IST
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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has announced that he will play only two more tournaments in the 2020 season. The Serbian star will compete in Vienna this week before winding up his year at the ATP Finals in London. But while Djokovic is the favorite to end another season as the world's top-ranked player, Rafael Nadal still has a slim chance of overtaking him.

Nadal and Djokovic were involved in a heated battle for the coveted spot last year too, in which the Spaniard prevailed eventually. To do a repeat in 2020, the Spaniard will have to play out of his skin in the remaining tournaments and hope that Djokovic stumbles quite a bit.

Novak Djokovic needs to win 2 matches in Vienna to deny Rafael Nadal any practical chance of ending 2020 as World No. 1

Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final
Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros final

The calculation is pretty straightforward now. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will play in two more tournaments each, and both will be in action during the ATP Finals. But before they travel to London for the showpiece event, they will play two different tournaments in the European indoor hardcourt swing.

The Spaniard will compete in the Paris Masters, while his Serbian rival will play in Vienna. Novak Djokovic has 11,740 ranking points right now, and Rafael Nadal is second in the list with 9,850. If we deduct their 2019 ATP Finals points, where they were both eliminated in the round robin stage, the equation comes down to 11,540 vs 9,450.

Djokovic has an advantage with respect to ATP Finals points as he won just one match in the 2019 edition (thus earning 200 points), while Nadal won two matches (for 400 points) despite not reaching the semis.

If Rafael Nadal wins the Paris Masters and beats all his opponents in London, he can reach a maximum of 11,590 points. Meanwhile, if Novak Djokovic registers just two wins at the Vienna Open, he will gain 90 points and get to 11,630 (without the ATP Finals points).

In other words, if the 2020 Australian Open winner progresses to the quarterfinals in Austria, he will seal the year-end World No. 1 spot for all practical purposes.

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Theoretically, Nadal could possibly take a wildcard into the Sofia event, which is to be played the week after Paris, and rack up 250 points by winning there. If he does that, the race for the No. 1 ranking would still be alive heading into London.

However, that is an extremely unlikely scenario - especially if the Spaniard wins Paris.

The race will become a close one if Novak Djokovic loses in the Vienna first round, for which he will get just 20 points. In the far-fetched scenario that Djokovic then loses all his matches at the ATP Finals, he would lose the No. 1 ranking to the Paris Masters winner and the unbeaten ATP Finals champion Rafael Nadal - assuming Nadal does accomplish both those feats.

It is highly unlikely that Novak Djokovic will lose his number 1 rank to Rafael Nadal this year
It is highly unlikely that Novak Djokovic will lose his number 1 rank to Rafael Nadal this year

A single defeat for Nadal in either competition would guarantee Djokovic the year-end No. 1 ranking. But even if Nadal doesn't lose a single match the rest of the year, the 17-time Grand Slam champion is likely to cement his No. 1 status in Austria this week by merely making it to the last eight.

Published 25 Oct 2020, 01:56 IST
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