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The race for No 1: From Nadal to Tsitsipas, what the five contenders need to do at the US Open to hit the top spot
Five men can be world No 1 after the US Open – here’s how their first-round matches will influence the outcome
This year’s US Open promises to be as open as any in recent memory and there’s also a nice side story; five men could leave New York as the world No 1.
As the Race shows, Rafael Nadal is the best player of the year so far, threatening Medvedev’s position at the regular ranking.
Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings Points (as of 29 August)
|1) Rafael Nadal||5,630|
|2) Alexander Zverev||5,040*|
|3) Daniil Medvedev||4,885|
|4) Stefanos Tsitsipas||4,800|
|5) Carlos Alcaraz||4,740|
|6) Casper Ruud||4,650|
Here’s what each of them has to do as they begin their campaigns and how it might unfold. Tennis Majors will update you before every round on how the results to come will shape this top spot race.
Daniil Medvedev – Must win title to be sure of No 1
Playing Koslov (1st round)
Medvedev loses the 2,000 points he won by lifting the title last year and knows that only be repeating his victory of 12 months ago, can he be assured of retaining the No 1 ranking.
He plays Stefan Koslov in the first round. Here’s how his first-round match can influence the race for No 1.
- If Medvedev wins: he will still have a chance to keep his position. He needs to win the trophy to be sure.
- If Medvedev loses: he is sure to lose his No 1 ranking. Medvedev needed to at least reach the final (with other conditions) to have a chance of staying No 1.
A Medvedev loss would be a huge upset. The last time the Russian lost in the first round of a hard-court slam was at the US Open in 2017.
The top-seeded player has only lost two times in the First Round at the US Open in the Open Era: in 1971 John Newcombe against Jan Kodes and in 1990 Stefan Edberg versus Alexander Volkov.
Watch the match on Monday, 12:00 PM local time | The full order of play here
Rafael Nadal – firm favourite to be No 1
Playing Hijkata (1st round)
For all the possible connotations, Nadal is the man who has the best chance to be world No 1 come the end of the US Open.
Once the points from last year’s event – Nadal didn’t play in New York – are removed from the rankings, Nadal has a 590-point lead over the absent Alexander Zverev, with defending champion Medvedev a further 155 points back.
If Nadal wins the title, he’ll be No 1. That would be the first time he’s topped the rankings since February 2, 2020. The 36-year-old Spaniard, who took his Grand Slam tally to a record 22 with victories at the Australian Open and US Open, also has several other scenarios that would go in his favour – all the other contenders must at least reach the final.
Nadal begins against Rinky Hijikata of Japan. Here’s how his first-round match can influence the race for No 1.
- If Nadal wins, he will be on track to regain the No 1 spot. If he wins the title, he’ll be assured of being No 1 and others have to outdo him to have a chance. If he reaches the final, only Medvedev, by winning the title, can deny him the No 1 spot.
- If Nadal loses, which would be an enormous surprise given Hijikata is ranked No 198, then any of the other four contenders could overtake him, depending on their respective results. However, each of them must at least reach the final to overtake him.
A Nadal defeat would be an earthquake. Excluding walkovers, Rafael Nadal is the player with the most matches played (19) and matches won (19) at Grand Slam tournaments this year, with two trophies in Melbourne and Paris.
Watch the match on Tuesday, 7:00 PM local time | The full Tuesday order of play here
Stefanos Tsitsipas – must at least reach the final
Playing Galan (1st round)
Only a first US Open final would give Tsitsipas the chance to become world No 1 for the first time while if he wins the title then he’ll be assured of top spot and making history for himself and Greece.
Tsitsipas plays Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia in round one. Here’s how his first-round match can influence the race for No 1.
- If Tsitsipas wins, he keeps alive his hopes of being No 1. He must at least make the final to have a chance.
- If Tsitsipas loses, then his hopes of being No 1 will be gone. He needed to at least make the final to have a chance of being No 1.
Watch the match on Monday, 7:00 PM local time | The full order of play here
Carlos Alcaraz – must at least reach the final
Playing Baez (1st round)
Like Tsitsipas, Alcaraz must get to the final to even stand a chance of being No 1. To do that, he might have to beat Nadal – the pair are seeded to meet in the semi-finals.
But the sheer fact the teenager even has a chance is testament to his incredible season, which includes Masters 1000 wins in Miami and Madrid.
He plays talented Argentinian Sebastian Baez in the first round. Here’s how his first-round match can influence the race for No 1.
- If Alcaraz wins his first-round match, he keeps his hopes alive. He must at least make the final.
- If he loses, his chances of being No 1 are gone, for now at least. He had to make the final, at least.
Watch the match on Monday, 12:00 PM local time | The full Tuesday order of play here
Casper Ruud – Dane must at least reach the final
Playing Edmund (1st round)
Casper Ruud broke through on the Grand Slam stage at this year’s French Open, where he made the final, and it’s incredible that he has an opportunity to be world No 1.
The Dane must at least reach the final to have a chance but even if he wins the title, he could still be edged out, depending who comes through in the bottom half.
Ruud meets Britain’s Kyle Edmund, returning from injury, in the first round. Here’s how his first-round match can influence the race for No 1.
- If Ruud wins his first-round match, he keeps his hopes alive. He must at least make the final.
- If Ruud loses, his outside hopes of being No 1 will be dashed. He had to at least reach the final
Watch the match on Monday, around 1:00 am local time