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Alcaraz is world No 1, but battle for the throne will remain open until November

Carlos Alcaraz is the new world No 1. And while he doesn’t have many points to defend until the end of the year, there are still several players who can prevent him from finishing the season on top of the rankings. Here is an update on the situation

Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud Tennis – U.S. Open – Flushing Meadows, New York, United States – September 11, 2022 Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz celebrates after winning the men’s final against Norway’s Casper Ruud (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

The last Grand Slam of the 2022 season came to a close on Sunday in New York, crowning a brand new winner, Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard did double duty by becoming the youngest world No. 1 in history at just 19 years old.

With 6,740 points in the ATP rankings, Alcaraz is now 890 points ahead of his closest challenger, Casper Ruud, and 930 points ahead of third-placed Rafael Nadal, who was the favourite to become the world No 1 again before losing to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open.

The ATP ranking as of September 12, 2022

  • Alcaraz: 6790
  • Ruud: 5850
  • Nadal: 5810
  • Medvedev: 5065
  • Zverev: 5040
  • Tsitsipas: 4810
  • Djokovic: 3570

Can the 19-year-old stay on top until the ATP Finals in Turin, which takes place November 13-20, 2022? With a lead of less than 2,000 points over the next five players in the ATP rankings, Carlos Alcaraz is in for a busy autumn if he wants to finish the year in first place.

On paper, there are five players who can challenge him for the top spot: Casper Ruud, Rafael Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Novak Djokovic seems to have to settle for a fight for a return to the Top 5.

It’s too early to identify trends. There are 15 tournaments left to play, including the Turin Masters (1500 points to the winner), the Paris Masters 1000, four ATP 500s (Tokyo and Nur-Sultan first week of October, Basel and Vienna second week of October). A very successful and active player would have 3000 to 3500 points to take, much more than the gap between Alcaraz (1st) and Tsitsipas (6th).

Among the Top 7, however, Alcaraz is the player with the third-fewest ATP points to defend at the end of the season, the first being Rafael Nadal with zero points and the second Stefanos Tsitsipas with 235 points. If he takes his first Grand Slam title and continues to perform well, the Spaniard has a golden opportunity to finish the year as the world’s number one player for the first time in his career.

To follow this end-of-season soap opera, we give you an update on the ATP rankings leading up to the Masters in Turin.

Alcaraz has fewer points to defend than runner-up Ruud

  • Ranking on September 12, 2022: 1st – 6740 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 1st – 6460 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 280 points

In 2021, Carlos Alcaraz played only four tournaments after the US Open, where he reached the quarter-finals, a first for him in Grand Slam. The Spaniard had not had a great end of season, with only a first round in Indian Wells (shifted to October last year), a semi-final in Vienna followed by a round of 16 at the Rolex Paris Masters. A title at the NextGen Masters was impressive – but did not earn him any points.

So Alcaraz has only 280 points to defend (270 because he will lose his 10 points from Indian Wells on October 17, 2022) before the Finals in Turin, where he is already one of the first two qualifiers with his compatriot Rafael Nadal.

His schedule is unknown at this time. With almost 24 hours on court at the US Open, and the consequences of his newfound fame to be cushioned, rest will undoubtedly be the priority in the coming weeks.

Ruud may get a second chance

  • Ranking as of September 12, 2022: 2nd – 5850 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 3rd – 4885 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 1010 points

After a US Open 2021 that he exited in the second round, Casper Ruud had a great end to the season with a round of 16 in Indian Wells, a win in San Diego, a semifinal in Vienna and the Masters in Turin and a quarter at the Rolex Paris Masters. Putting aside the Masters tournament, the Norwegian has 610 points to defend at the end of 2022, including 180 from his title in San Diego, which starts in just one week. Not defending it would drop him to third place.

Ruud, the new world No 2, the best ranking of his career, is only 890 points behind the boss of the circuit, Carlos Alcaraz. He is, on paper, the best placed to dislodge him from his throne before the end of the season, provided he performs as well or better than in 2021 in indoor.

Nadal must perform in Paris and Turin to have any hope of becoming world No 1 – if he plays at all

  • Ranking as of September 12, 2022: 3rd – 5810 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 2nd – 5810 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 0 points

In 2021, Rafael Nadal played only two matches from June to December. A win and a loss in Washington in August, before withdrawing for the rest of the season due to a persistent pain in his left foot. The Spaniard, beaten in the round of 16 of the US Open by Frances Tiafoe, has no points to defend until the end of the year 2022.

Nadal is now the third-ranked player in the world and is only 930 points behind the new leader of the circuit, Carlos Alcaraz. But the older Spaniard may not play much between now and November: “I have much more important things happening in my personal life than tennis, with the birth of my first son. It’s time for a reset. Then, go back to my professional life, go back to training, do a mini preseason to maybe finish the year in Europe with good sensations,” he declared in a press conference in New York.

To sum up, if he wants to become world No 1 again, still depending on the results of Alcaraz and other contenders, Nadal has to go far at the Rolex Paris Masters (1000 points) and the Turin Masters (1500 points by being undefeated).

Medvedev and Zverev will need to be almost flawless

  • Medvedev’s ranking as of September 12, 2022: 4th – 5065 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 5th – 3375 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 1690 points

After winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2021 by beating Novak Djokovic in the final, Daniil Medvedev had a great end to the season by playing two finals, at the Rolex Paris Masters and the ATP Finals in Turin, and a round of 16 in Indian Wells. At the end of 2022, the Russian has 690 points to defend until the Masters tournament, 410 points more than Alcaraz, who took his place as world number one.

The pressure is on Medvedev, who is both the hunter and the hunted. With many points to defend until December, the Russian can dream of regaining his throne but must not forget to look in the rearview mirror, where Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic, three players very comfortable indoors, will be lurking.

Medvedev’s schedule is set to include Metz, Astana, Vienna, Paris, and ultimately the Turin finals.

  • Zverev’s ranking on September 12, 2022: 5th – 5040 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 8th – 2700 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 2340 points

After a loss in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2021, Alexander Zverev rebounded very well and enjoyed a very good end of season. The German won the Vienna tournament and the Turin Masters, reached the semifinals of the Rolex Paris Masters and the quarter-finals in Indian Wells. He will have to defend 2340 points until the end of the 2022 season, 1040 without counting the Masters tournament.

He remains among the contenders for the throne – a quest that motivated him but also paralysed him at the beginning of the season – but he is also the player who must defend the most points at the end of the year. Zverev, who has been out of action since his terrible ankle injury at the French Open, is making his return to competition this week at the Davis Cup.

If he is the freshest of the Top 10, he is also the one who lacks the most momentum. If he wants to believe in his chances of becoming world No 1 and if he doesn’t want to finish the season outside the Top 5, the German will have to find his feet very quickly.

Tsitsipas in the running…on paper

  • Ranking on September 12, 2022: 6th – 4810 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 4th – 4630 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 235 points

Stefanos Tsitsipas had a bad end of 2021 with a loss in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells, in the round of 16 in Vienna, in the second round at the Rolex Paris Masters (by default) and a loss at the Masters in Turin before his withdrawal from the rest of the competition. The Greek therefore has only 235 points to defend until the end of 2022.

But in addition to being 1930 points behind Alcaraz, Tsitsipas has a crisis of confidence. Beaten in the first round of the US Open by Daniel Elahi Galan, ranked 94th in the world, the Greek will have to get back into the swing of things before attacking the final stretch, with a very good chance of winning given his low number of points to defend. But the world No 1 position seems to be very (too?) far away.

Djokovic is too far behind Alcaraz

  • Ranking on September 12, 2022: 7th – 3570 points
  • Ranking in the Race (points since the beginning of the year): 15th – 1970 points
  • Points to defend until the end of the season: 1600 points

After failing in his quest for the calendar Grand Slam in 2021, and being dominated in the final of the US Open 2021 by Daniil Medvedev, Novak Djokovic was able to remobilise to achieve a great end of season with a title at the Rolex Paris Masters and a semi-final at the ATP Finals in Turin. The Serb has 1600 points to defend until the end of the year 2022, 1000 without counting the Finals.

If he wants to finish the season as world No 1 for the eighth time in his career, the third consecutive time, the Serb is almost condemned to play every week to win points and will have to do at least as well in Paris and Turin. 3170 points behind Alcaraz in the ATP rankings, the mission seems almost impossible for Djokovic, who can still aim for a return to the Top 5.

The only certainty at the moment is that he is scheduled to play in Tel Aviv the week of September 26.

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