February 2, 2020. The last time that Novak Djokovic was not at the top of the ATP rankings.
Djokovic has held the top position for the last 80 weeks and seen his record of overall time spent as world No 1 stretch to 334 weeks, moving well clear of Roger Federer (310 weeks) and Pete Sampras (286 weeks).
But could Djokovic’s time at the summit soon be coming to an end? And who will displace him? Djokovic currently holds a healthy lead of nearly 2,000 points over second-placed Daniil Medvedev, with Stefanos Tsitsipas a further 1,800 points back in third. Rafael Nadal is fourth in the rankings, around 4,400 points behind Djokovic, and Alexander Zverev is close behind in fifth.
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With a Masters event being played at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati this week and the US Open coming up at the end of the month there are plenty of ranking points on offer. A Masters event gives 1,000 points to the winner and 600 points to the runner-up while a Grand Slam winner gets 2,000 points and the runner-up 1,200 points.
Djokovic is set to lose 1,000 points from his ranking this week as he isn’t defending his title at the Western & Southern Open. That will give Medvedev the chance to make up ground. The Russian won in Toronto last week and could move less than 500 points behind Djokovic if he lifts the title in Cincinnati. Tsitsipas, who is second in the ATP Race To Turin behind Djokovic, can also close on the world No 1 if he makes the final this week.
ATP Singles Rankings before Cincinnati
  • 1. Novak Djokovic - 12,113 points
  • 2. Daniil Medvedev - 10,120 points
  • 3. Stefanos Tsitsipas - 8,350 points
  • 4. Rafael Nadal - 7,815 points
  • 5. Alexander Zverev - 7,263 points
Tsitsipas recently moved up to No 3 in the world after recording a tour-leading 45 victories this season and, ahead of playing in Cincinnati, made clear his ambitions to climb even higher.

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“No 3 is a number that is very significant and it holds a big importance,” he said. “You don't get many exciting moments like this in your career. I saw it come out, and I felt overwhelmed by it. It was a great feeling. It adds some value to yourself for the efforts that you have put in to get there.
“It kind of pushes me so much to sustain that, to want to go the extra mile in the next tournaments, and that was my initial goal from the beginning of the year, to make it into the top three. Now the second phase of that goal is to remain there. The rankings are there for a reason. They signify something important. I think that the very next step would be the No 1 spot, which I hope I can get to one day.”
Tsitsipas’ form dipped after making the French Open final as he was beaten in the first round at Wimbledon and then lost early in Hamburg and at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, he showed encouraging signs last week as he made the semi-finals in Toronto, losing to Reilly Opelka in three sets.
“I want to get to the stage of a tournament where I'm able to get a lot of points,” he added. “I am aiming for the big points. I know that most of the big points are semi-finals onwards. That's where you get the most amount of points, and I want to be aiming for that.”
If Tsitsipas is to get to world No 1 soon he will not only need to maintain strong form for the rest of the year but will also need some help from Djokovic and Medvedev to close the gap.
The more likely challenger right now appears to be Medvedev, especially if he has a good run at the Western & Southern Open and US Open. However, while he can make up ground on Djokovic this week, things could go the other way at the US Open, where Medvedev is defending 1,200 points after making the final in 2019 and Djokovic is defending just 180. The world No 1 was docked all his ranking points from the 2020 US Open after being disqualified in the fourth round for hitting the ball towards a line judge. That means he has the chance to add a lot of points to his ranking if he has a deep run in New York this year.
If Djokovic comes out of the final Grand Slam of the year with a healthy advantage it might be tough to prevent him becoming the first person to secure the year-end No 1 ranking for a seventh time. However, there are still points to play for – and potentially questions over how much more Djokovic will play in 2021 if he wins or loses in New York.
There are two Masters events remaining this year in Paris and Indian Wells, with the latter rescheduled from earlier this year. The Shanghai Masters has been cancelled but there are also the ATP Finals in Turin, which carry 1,500 points for the winner. Medvedev most of all needs a strong finish to the season as he is defending points from winning Shanghai in 2019, and Paris and the ATP Finals last year.
If Medvedev did get to No 1 he would be the first player outside the Big Three to reach the summit since Andy Murray in 2017. And Murray, who is now ranked outside the top 100 after surgery, thinks the Russian will be the one to eventually displace Djokovic.

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“Of the current ones Medvedev would be the guy I would expect to get there first,” he told the ATP after winning his opening match at the Western & Southern Open. “I think maybe he will need to be a little bit more consistent on the clay to get there, but I think he’s got a good chance.”
Medvedev, who lost to Djokovic in straight sets in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year, is aware of the difficulty of the challenge.
“To become the No 1 with Djokovic it’s not easy because he’s winning almost all the matches and all the Grand Slams. So you need to beat him in the final. Maybe if I would have beaten him (in Australian Open), I would be much closer. But he beat me, so that’s the reality.
“I just want to try to play my best tennis. You know, if you win two Grand Slams in a year and two Masters, you’re going to be No 1. That’s what you need to try to aim for, and so of course I want to be No 1, but, yeah, I need to win big tournaments and big titles for this. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Both Medvedev and Tsitsipas may be helped in their quest to become world No 1 by Djokovic cutting down his schedule and prioritising Grand Slams. However, how long will it be before either can take their place at the top of the rankings?
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