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How Daniil Medvedev can overtake Novak Djokovic as World No. 1 by July

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev
Namit Kumar
ANALYST
Modified 25 Mar 2021
Feature

A couple of weeks ago, Daniil Medvedev became the first player in 15 years not named Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray to be ranked among the top 2 of the world.

Medvedev reached the milestone after Nadal dropped 250 points due to his absence in Acapulco - where he won the title in 2020. The Russian then capped the feat with a title-winning run at the ATP 250 event in Marseille.

Daniil Medvedev has been excellent over the past few months, to say the least. He was on a 20-match winning streak prior to the Australian Open final, and as of now has won 24 of his last 26 professional matches.

Each of the fabled 'Big 4' has reached the top spot of the men's rankings in the recent past. In fact, these four players have monopolized the throne ever since Roger Federer first ascended to the summit back in 2004. But now, for what seems like the first time in forever, a player outside this elite group has a chance of grabbing the World No. 1 ranking.

And that player is Daniil Medvedev.

But how realistic is Medvedev's bid for the coveted top spot? Going into the clay and grass season, here's a look at what the 25-year-old needs to do to become World No. 1 by July (the earliest he can practically get there):

Daniil Medvedev could become World No. 1 without winning a Grand Slam title

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev first established himself as a member of the elite back in 2019. Medvedev had an excellent American hardcourt season that year, during which he won Washington and Cincinnati and also finished as the runner-up at Toronto and the US Open.

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The Russian has maintained his status as one of the best hardcourters on the planet ever since. However, he has failed to replicate the same form on clay or grass - a fact that could be key in his pursuit of the top spot in the world rankings.

As most fans know by now, there is a new provisional ranking system for tournaments between March and August. In this system, ATP players will either retain 50% of the points they earned in 2019 or 2020 (whenever the event last took place), or the full points they earn in 2021 - whichever is higher.

That effectively means Daniil Medvedev - who is 2,068 points away from World No. 1 Novak Djokovic right now - has the opportunity to reach the top spot without even winning a Slam.

Novak Djokovic (L) and Daniil Medvedev
Novak Djokovic (L) and Daniil Medvedev
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The last time the Russian played the Madrid Masters, the Rome Masters, the Hamburg Open and the Stuttgart Open, he exited in the first round. So theoretically, Medvedev can add up to 2,705 points in those events - in the unlikely event that he wins them all.

More pertinently though, Medvedev is playing at the Miami Masters this fortnight, where he is the title favorite. Winning the trophy in Miami will enable the 25-year-old to close the gap to Novak Djokovic by 910 points.

Daniil Medvedev also has a reasonable amount of points to earn at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where he respectively lost in the first round (defending 5 points) and third round (defending 45 points) at the last time of asking. Deep runs at both Slams will allow the World No. 2 to close the gap further, and the maximum he can earn at the two events combined is 3,950 points.

If we assume that Daniil Medvedev wins Miami, he would be 1,158 points away from the top spot. And the highest he can earn from the claycourt events and Wimbledon together is 2,705 + 3,950, i.e. 6,655 points.

It is of course highly improbable for Medvedev to sweep all these events, but he doesn't need to. In fact, he needs less than a fifth of the max points he can earn (1,158 out of 6,655), which roughly translates to the points you get for reaching the quarterfinals.

In other words, if Daniil Medvedev makes the quarterfinals of every tournament over the next couple of months, he would be able to catch Novak Djokovic by the end of Wimbledon.

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Djokovic, meanwhile, has a mammoth amount of points to defend during the same period. He won the title at the Madrid Masters, the Rome Masters and Wimbledon the last time he played those events, and also made the final at Roland Garros in 2020.

Sure, the ranking system will allow the Serb to maneuver his schedule and play without dropping more than a combined 3,600 points from the above four tournaments. But dropping any points at all is only going to play into the hands of Daniil Medvedev.

Moreover, Novak Djokovic cannot make any realistic gains in this period; he can add a maximum of 1,870 points to his tally. And the only way he can do that is if he wins Monte Carlo, Belgrade, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon (defending full points at Madrid, Rome and Wimbledon, while adding 820 points at Monte Carlo, 250 at Belgrade and 800 at Roland Garros).

That's highly unlikely even for the man that many consider to be the GOAT. If anything, it is more likely that Novak Djokovic will NOT defend one or more of the events he won last time out, by either withdrawing or losing early.

The Serb has publicly stated that Grand Slams are going to be his top priority now that he has broken the record for most weeks as World No. 1. So it is hard to imagine him killing himself to win Masters 1000 titles that he has already won numerous times before.

All things considered, Daniil Medvedev's rise to the top of the rankings is more than just an arithmetic possibility at this point. It is, in fact, a fairly likely event, assuming that the Russian does reasonably well on clay and grass this year.

If Medvedev regularly makes at least the quarterfinals of the events he plays over the next three months, he would be primed to become the World No. 1 by July. Novak Djokovic could well win Wimbledon again this year, and maybe even Roland Garros and one of the claycourt Masters, but that may not be enough to stop the Russian from reaching the top.

Published 25 Mar 2021, 01:12 IST
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