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If Wimbledon is (maybe) deprived of ATP points, what if the big winner was… Daniil Medvedev?
With Wimbledon reportedly considering dropping ranking points from this year’s event, we’ve had some fun by imagining what would have happened had the 2021 grass-court season not taken place
After publicly disapproving the decision of Wimbledon and all English tournaments – following the directives of the British government – to exclude all Russian and Belarusian players because of the invasion of Ukraine, the ATP could go much further than it has done.
It could retaliate by announcing the pure and simple suppression of the ATP points delivered by all the English tournaments on grass, including the most prestigious of all, Wimbledon.
According to reports in the British press, meetings have been taking place behind the scenes in Madrid and this week in Rome, where the ATP Board is due to meet to take a decision, the verdict of which is expected very soon.
If the decision confirms the threats that have been made – and there are rumours that the ATP Player Council is pushing for this – it would have an extremely strong impact, perhaps on a par with the famous 1973 Wimbledon boycott, although that was a very different story.
What about a season on grass with no points?
Beyond the symbolic explosion that would inevitably follow, such a decision would of course also have enormous consequences on the sporting level. Although the grass-court season has been reduced to five weeks (including Wimbledon), it still weighs heavily on the current balance sheet of many players.
So, in order to “evaluate” the weight of the grass court season in the world rankings, we have had a bit of fun determining what the current hierarchy would be if the 2021 season on English grass had – for whatever reason – not delivered a single point, in other words, if it had been relegated to the status of a mere exhibition.
The situation would be completely different for the two current leaders of the ATP rankings, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev.
The biggest loser would be Matteo Berrettini, the winner at Queen’s and a finalist at Wimbledon last year, who would drop out of the top 10 and fall to around No 16 in the world. To a lesser extent, the two losing Wimbledon semi-finalists, Hubert Hurkacz and Denis Shapovalov (also a semi-finalist at Queen’s), would also pay the price: the Pole (ranked 12th in the world) would see his top 10 ranking slip considerably, and the Canadian would be on the verge of relegation from the top 20.
Djokovic and Federer, the big losers
Of course, there is also the very special case of Roger Federer: the Swiss who has been absent from the tour for almost a year due to a knee injury, is still “living” not only on his quarter-final finish at Wimbledon last year, but on half the points (ie 600) he earned from his runner-up showing in 2019, a calculation born of the suspension from the tour in 2020 due to the coronavirus and the subsequent freezing of the ranking.
In short: without these 600 points, Federer, currently ranked No 46 with 1,030 points, would only have his round of 16 at Roland Garros 2021 to look forward to, and would be outside the top 100.
But the main consequence would concern the two highest steps of the podium: the Wimbledon title holder, Novak Djokovic, would have 2,000 points fewer and would therefore not be No 1 in the world. Daniil Medvedev, who was eliminated in the round of 16 at Wimbledon (he was also a semi-finalist on the grass in Mallorca, but outside of England), would be in possession of that position at this very moment.
The Russian (irony of fate…), who is preparing to return to competition in Geneva after having missed the beginning of the clay-court season due to an inguinal hernia, has taken care – coincidence or not – not to include any English tournaments in his calendar: this year, he has planned to play in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (which is played the week after Roland-Garros) and Halle. According to our information, he will also add Majorca to his schedule. Since he has few points to defend in this period, he will have a lot to win during this grass-court season.
As a reminder, here is the current ATP top 20:
- Djokovic 8260 points
- Medvedev 7990
- Zverev 7020
- Nadal 6435
- Tsitsipas 5750
- Alcaraz 4773
- Rublev 4115
- Berrettini 3895
- Auger-Aliassime 3760
- Ruud 3760
- Norrie 3380
- Hurkacz 3130
- Sinner 3060
- Fritz 2965
- Schwartzman 2760
- Shapovalov 2671
- Opelka 2440
- Carreno Busta 2135
- Bautista Agut 1993
- Dimitrov 1830
And here are the positions of the same top 20 by removing the points on grass:
- Medvedev 7720 points (=)
- Zverev 6840
- Djokovic 6260
- Nadal 6075
- Tsitsipas 5750
- Alcaraz 4728
- Rublev 3935
- Ruud 3760
- Auger-Aliassime 3310
- Sinner 3060
- Norrie 2990
- Schwartzman 2760
- Fritz 2740
- Hurkacz 24
- Opelka 2395
- Berrettini 2195
- Carreno Busta 2125
- 1Dimitrov 1785
- Shapovalov 1771
- Bautista Agut 1633
Beyond these mathematic calculations, one wonders to what extent depriving Wimbledon of its ATP points would diminish its importance in the eyes of the players. Would the prestige of the English tournament be enough to motivate them as if nothing had happened?
Perhaps for those who are aiming for the title, because the value of a Grand Slam is obviously greater than the points. But what about the others, the runners-up or the non-grass specialists? Would they even make the trip and, if so, in what frame of mind?
So many questions remain unanswered, but questions which, no more than pressure from the ATP or the stances of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or even Andy Murray, seem likely to bend the will of the British government.
“We fully support Wimbledon’s decision,” said Nigel Huddleston, the UK’s digital, culture, media and sport minister, quoted in the British newspaper The Evening Standard. “While I understand the negative reactions of the players and the tennis authorities, I can tell you that these reactions are far outweighed by the general feeling of the population. I don’t think we can be any clearer about the fact that Russians and Belarusians are pariahs on the sporting stage, and they will be as long as Vladimir Putin behaves in this way.”
The players, on the other hand, are crying foul and discrimination. We thought we’d seen it all with the coronavirus and the cancellation of Wimbledon in 2020, but this tug-of-war could lead to a situation just as unique in the history of the sport.