Why Djokovic's No. 1 ATP Ranking Is Safe... For Now
Top seed Novak Djokovic may be disappointed with his quarter-final loss against Russian Daniil Medvedev on Friday at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, but one thing he doesn’t need to worry about — at least not yet — is his position at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.
That’s because, regardless of World No. 2 Rafael Nadal’s performance in the Principality the rest of the week, Djokovic will actually increase his lead on Monday. If Nadal wins a record 12th Monte-Carlo title, he will retain the 1,000 points he earned in Monaco last year. Djokovic, on the other hand, advanced one round further than he did in 2018, making the last eight, so he will add 180 points, an increase of 90 from a season ago.
In fact, Djokovic will have an opportunity to gain ground on the Spaniard throughout the clay-court season. Even if Nadal wins every tournament he plays, and Djokovic loses in the opening round of all of his events on the red dirt, the World No. 2 will not be able to catch Djokovic during the European spring clay swing. If Nadal lifts his 34th ATP Masters 1000 trophy on Sunday, he will still trail Djokovic by 2,435 points.
After Monte-Carlo last year, both Djokovic and Nadal competed at Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros. During that span, Djokovic earned 765 points and Nadal tallied 3,680 points. The Serbian is not currently scheduled to play in Barcelona this year, but he did not earn any points there in 2018, so Nadal will have to defend 2,915 more points than Djokovic through Roland Garros.
The problem for Nadal is that he doesn’t have many points to gain. Even if he goes undefeated during this clay stretch, he can only add 820 points by winning the Mutua Madrid Open, where he lost in the quarter-finals in 2018. While it may not be probable, Djokovic could potentially add 3,235 points through the clay-court Grand Slam championship if he were to win out.
“[The] French Open is the ultimate goal on clay… for sure, it's expected in a way for me to peak right at that tournament, because that's what I'm aiming for,” Djokovic said. “This is only the first tournament on clay, and it's a long season. Let's see how it goes.”
Since the Australian Open, Djokovic has missed an opportunity to increase his lead by even more due to early losses in Indian Wells, Miami and now his quarter-final defeat in Monte-Carlo. In those three tournaments, the Serbian earned only 315 points of a possible 3,000.
But Nadal will have more of a chance to chase Djokovic’s top spot once the grass season rolls along. After Roland Garros, Djokovic will have 7,990 points to defend for the rest of the season, while Nadal will only have 2,420 points. For now, though, Djokovic’s grasp on World No. 1 is secure.