Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal find themselves in a battle to end 2019 as the year-end number one, and both will still be confident of coming out on top.
What is the race to year-end number one?
The year-end number one is the player on the ATP Tour who earned the most ranking points throughout the season. The ranking points a player earns varies from tournament to tournament, but the player who achieves the most in the season will end the year ranked world number one. While the number of grand slam titles a player wins is considered the most important factor in the ‘GOAT Race’, the number of a times a player finishes the season as the year-end number one is also another important statistic for the players.
American great Pete Sampras achieved a record 6 year-end number one finishes during his playing days, but that record is liable to be broken within the next couple of years. While Novak Djokovic currently has 5 year-end number ones to his name, tied with Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors, Rafael Nadal is just behind his two great rivals with 4 year-end number one finishes.
Most Year-End Number Ones
Pete Sampras – 6
Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer & Jimmy Connors – 5
Rafael Nadal, John McEnroe & Ivan Lendl – 4
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Who’s leading the race right now?
As of now, Rafael Nadal leads Novak Djokovic in the race to finish the season as number one. The Spaniard has won 9,225 ranking points so far this season, compared to Djokovic’s 7,945. While Novak Djokovic is currently the world number one, Rafael Nadal will return to the top of the men’s game on Monday November 4th, regardless of results between now and then. The Spaniard will enter the ATP Finals as the top seed this season, and he’s the favourite right now to end as the year-end number one.
Current ATP Race Standings
Rafael Nadal – 9,225 Points
Novak Djokovic – 7,945 Points
How many ranking points are left up for grabs this season?
These two are both set to play in two more tournaments each this year, and they’ll both be playing at the same two events. Barring any withdrawals, they’re both set to play the Rolex Paris Masters at the end of the month, as well as the ATP Finals in November. That gives both players the opportunity to win 2,500 more ranking points this season.
Rolex Paris Masters Ranking Points
Champion – 1,000 Points
Runner-up – 600 Points
Semi-Finalist – 360 Points
Quarter-Finalist – 180 Points
Third Round – 90 Points
Second Round – 45 Points
Nitto ATP Finals Ranking Points
Champion – Up to 1,500 Points (900 Points + 200 Points per round robin win)
Runner-up – Up to 1,000 Points (400 Points + 200 Points per round robin win)
Semi-Finalist – Up to 600 Points (200 Points for each round robin win)
Round Robin Group Stage – 200 Points per round robin win
What does Rafael Nadal need to do to clinch 5th year-end number one?
Rafael Nadal is the favourite right now to end the season as the year-end number one, as he currently holds a 1,280-point lead over Novak Djokovic. In fact, Nadal can clinch the year-end number one ranking if he wins this month’s Paris Masters, and so a strong week in Paris might be all he needs to finish the year number one. There are too many possible scenarios to go through in which Nadal ends the year as number one, but what’s for certain is if Nadal wins either of the two remaining tournaments he’s scheduled to enter, he will be the year-end number one for the 5th time in his career.
However, it should be noted that Nadal has never won either of these two remaining tournaments. The Spaniard has historically had a lot of injuries to contend with at this stage of the year, and he’s never produced his best tennis indoors. Nadal’s late-season injuries have really hampered his chances at these two tournaments, and he’s only been able to play the Paris Masters in 3 of the last 9 years and the ATP Finals in 3 of the last 7 years. While he has struggled to actually play these tournaments in recent years, he does have a decent record at them when he is fit enough to compete.
Despite never winning these two events, Nadal has reached the quarter-finals or better in all six of his Paris Masters appearances. Nadal has also reached the semi-finals or better in five of his eight ATP Finals appearances, and so if he can stay injury-free, he’s without a doubt a contender at these two tournaments.
Can Novak Djokovic end 2019 as the year-end number one for a record-equalling 6th time?
The likely scenario for Novak Djokovic is that he’s going to need to win both of his remaining tournaments if he’s to finish the season at the year-end number one for the record-equalling 6th time. The Serbian ace currently finds himself trailing Nadal by 1,280 points, but with 2,500 points still to play for, Djokovic is right in contention to finish the year as number one.
Novak Djokovic is the better indoor player out of the two and he has historically finished seasons stronger than Nadal. Unlike his Spanish rival, Djokovic also has a great record in both Paris and London. The Serbian ace has won the Paris Masters 4-times in his career, while he’s won the ATP Finals 5-times. The world number one has also won both of these titles in the same season on three occasions. Since Djokovic first qualified for the ATP Finals in 2007, the Serbian ace has also won more ranking points combined at the Paris Masters and ATP Finals than Nadal in 9 of the 12 seasons. In fact, the last time Nadal gained more points combined at these two events than Djokovic, when both were fit enough to play them, was back in 2010.
However, it’s out of Djokovic’s hands right now. Even if Novak Djokovic was to win both tournaments, he wouldn’t be guaranteed the year-end number one, as Nadal could still have good runs at both events. Djokovic is also not playing at his highest level right now. The Serbian ace has failed to win back-to-back titles all season, while he’s been extremely inconsistent on hard courts this year. While he won the Australian Open on hard courts back in January, Djokovic has only won one more title on this surface since then, while he’s struggled at all of the hard court Masters events this year.
Novak Djokovic is clearly not the dominant player he once was, but if he can rediscover his best tennis during this last month of the season, he’s going to give himself a fantastic opportunity as being the year-end number one for a record-equalling 6th time.
Who will come out on top?
It’s sure to be a historical end to the season either way, but will it be Novak Djokovic who ties Pete Sampras’ record for most year-end number one finishes, or does Rafael Nadal join his two biggest rivals on 5 year-end number one finishes?
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