Rafael Nadal: ATP Rankings update number one special (21st August 2017)

After a great week of tennis in Cincinnati, a new champion was crowned and a familiar face returned to the top of men’s tennis, who made the moves in the ATP Rankings?

Mover of the Week

It is, of course, the man himself, Rafael Nadal, who is our Mover of the Week. He has once again ascended to the top of the ATP Rankings tree, claiming the number one spot for the first time since 2014. There were doubts after disappointing 2015 and 2016 campaigns if the great Spaniard would ever climb so high again but he has played some scintillating tennis in 2017 to prove those doubters wrong. Beginning the year in Australia, he overcame a seeding of ninth and some tough challenges from Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov to reach the final. After a five set battle with his old foe Roger Federer he was undone but his good hard court season continued as he made runs to the final in Acapulco and Miami. One sensed that he was saving himself for a return to his beloved clay.

And what a return it was. He began by running through the draw in Monte Carlo, dropping only one set. This was followed by a tenth title in Barcelona, which he won without dropping a set. He then tied Novak Djokovic’s record of 30 Masters 1000 titles in Madrid, defeating Dominic Thiem in the final. In Rome at the Italian Open Nadal fell in the quarter-finals but this did little to diminish his position as the overwhelming favourite for the Roland Garros title. It was a position he richly deserved, as he crushed all of his opponents, including Thiem and former champion Stan Wawrinka. He lost just 35 games and no sets and in doing so won ‘La Decima’. His achievements at the French Open already had him standing alone. But, to record a 10th victory at a Major is an achievement few could even dream of, let alone achieve.

His Wimbledon was a disappointment. He had looked in serious contention for a third title at the All-England Club after progressing to the second week without dropping a set. But he fell in an epic fourth round match with Gilles Muller. After coming back from two sets down, he lost the decider 15-13 in what was surely a bitter pill to swallow. But with Andy Murray’s injury wracked quarter-final loss, and Novak Djokovic’s confirmation that his year was over, Nadal was getting closer to the number one spot. Murray’s absence in Montreal and Cincinnati confirmed that the number one position would be vacated. That left it a straight race between Federer and Nadal. The Spaniard could have claimed it in Canada but was upset early by Denis Shapovalov. It ended up falling into his hands when Federer withdrew from Cincinnati.

A slightly anticlimactic way to claim the number one spot. But with Federer hot on his heels, Nadal will face a real battle to hold onto it for the rest of the year. And with Djokovic and Murray to return, Nadal will have to be at his very best to ensure anything other than a very short reign.

Loser of the Week

Injury and illness may be the causes of his fall from grace, but Murray is the Loser of the Week all the same. It was perhaps fitting, if hugely disappointing, that he could only watch powerless as his number one ranking was taken from him. He worked hard to claim the top spot from the ailing Djokovic before the close of the 2016 season, winning titles in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris. A win over Djokovic in London to win a first ATP World Tour finals put the seal on his great end to the year. But 2017 turned out to be a far cry from the year he was hoping for.

A fourth round defeat to Zverev in Melbourne turned out to be not an aberration but rather a sign of things to come for the Briton. The title in Dubai was the lone bright spot in a hard court swing that saw him defeated by Vasek Pospisil in his first match in Indian Wells. He then missed Miami through injury before heading to the European clay. This saw little improvement as he fell to Ramos Vinolas from 5-2 up in the decider in Monte Carlo and was dismissed in the Barcelona semi-finals by Thiem. A run to the semi-finals in Roland Garros was impressive, where he was stopped by a rampant Wawrinka, but proved to be a false dawn.

He began his grass court season at Queen’s Club, where he was defeated by Jordan Thompson of Australia. It was clear from that match that he was hampered by an injury, and it was confirmed that Murray was struggling with a hip problem. He went to Wimbledon all the same and managed to fight through the first four rounds. But in the quarter-finals, the power and accuracy of Sam Querrey laid bare the severity of Murray’s injury as he lost in five sets. By the fourth and fifth sets, the Scot was barely moving as he won just two games. This defeat made withdrawals from Montreal and Cincinnati almost inevitable as he tried to recover his fitness in time for the US Open. With those withdrawals, the loss of his number one ranking was confirmed.

What more we will see of Murray in 2017 is unclear as is whether he will reclaim the number one spot. He is a fine player, but with Federer and Nadal playing near their best, and an injury free Djokovic to return, it is hard to see it happening for Murray. But he has surprised us all before, so perhaps it is too soon to rule him out.

Honourable mentions

Bulgaria’s Dimitrov had easily the best week of his tennis life in Ohio as he stormed to the Cincinnati Masters title. He didn’t drop a set all week and played some great matches. He displayed superb mental strength to defeat John Isner, taking a second set tie break 12-10. This was followed by one of the best matches of his career against Nick Kyrgios in the final. He handled everything the Australian threw at him and returned most of it with interest. His defence was terrific, and his offence looked as potent as it ever has. The win might just give him the confidence to mount a serious bid for the US Open, where has never previously been past the fourth round.

It also sees him return to the top 10, at world number 9. With Djokovic, Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori all confirmed absentees for the remainder of 2017, Dimitrov has a great chance of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals. He’s in sixth place in the Race to London and that position could yet improve.

Finalist Kyrgios also had a fine week. Though he came up short in the end, he can be proud of his efforts. He also displayed admirable mental discipline and showed fine examples of sportsmanship throughout the week. His embrace with Dimitrov at the end of the final was particularly warm. His performances also saw him rise to 18th in the rankings, within striking distance of his career high ranking of 13. David Ferrer’s run to the semi-finals also saw a welcome return to the top 25 for the Spaniard. He has long been one of the tour’s finest competitors and belongs at the top of the game. Isner, who reached the semi-finals, rose five places to become the world number 14 and American number one.

  1. Rafael Nadal, 7645 points, moves up one place
  2. Andy Murray, 7150 points, drops down one place
  3. Roger Federer, 7145 points, no change
  4. Stan Wawrinka, 5690 points, no change
  5. Novak Djokovic, 5325 points, no change
  6. Alexander Zverev, 4470 points, moves up one place
  7. Marin Cilic, 4155 points, drops down one place
  8. Dominic Thiem, 4030 points, drops down one place
  9. Grigor Dimitrov, 3710 points, moves up two places
  10. Kei Nishikori, 3195 points, drops down one place
  11. Milos Raonic, 2870 points, drops down one place
  12. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 2690 points, no change
  13. David Goffin, 2525 points, no change
  14. John Isner, 2425 points, moves up five places
  15. Roberto Bautista Agut, 2390, drops down one place
  16. Pablo Carreno Busta, 2385 points, moves up one place
  17. Jack Sock, 2345 points, drops down one place
  18. Nick Kyrgios, 2325 points, moves up five places
  19. Tomas Berdych, 2310 points, drops down four places
  20. Lucas Pouille, 2210 points, drops down two places
  21. Sam Querrey, 2095 points, drops down one place
  22. Gael Monfils, 1915 points, drops down one place
  23. Gilles Muller, 1885 points, drops down one place
  24. Albert Ramos Vinolas, 1815, no change
  25. David Ferrer, 1695 points, moves up six places

Who was your Mover of the Week? Let us know in the comments below!

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