Roger Federer currently holds a good number of records in terms of career tennis achievements. He has the most Slams. He has won the most year-end championships. He is one of 4 players in the Open Era (and 7 all-time) to have won a career Grand Slam. His streak of consecutive Grand Slam semifinals will probably never be equaled. His talent and consistency since he matured and started playing as a top player has been absolutely astounding.
But there is one record that Federer has not yet managed to break. He is one week shy of Pete Sampras’s record for career weeks at World #1 (he is also one year shy of Sampras’s 6 year-end #1s). Sampras spent 286 weeks as the top player in the world, while Federer sits right behind him at 285. Federer has stated that one of his goals is to reach World #1 again. So here’s the important logistical question: How can he do it?
Honestly, he’s off to a very good start. Since the US Open, he has earned 3410 ranking points. No other player is even close to that. Djokovic has 2500, Murray has 2400, and Nadal is sitting well back with only 1880 points since then. So it would seem that Federer’s best goal to take over World #1 would be after the US Open around 7 months from now.
The problem is that we are about to enter the meat of both Nadal’s and Djokovic’s schedule. Nadal used to basically have a guaranteed at least 4000 points on clay (there are three Masters tournaments and Roland Garros, even though Rafa only one all 3 Masters events once). Of course, that changed last year when Djokovic swept every clay tournament that he played. Still, that’s a lot of points up for grabs and it does not bode so well for Federer gaining ground on these guys.
But first things first, there are 2000 points up for grabs in March and April at Indian Wells and Miami. Now, these have historically not been Federer’s best tournaments, but he will need good showings if he wants to keep his dream of World #1 alive. He needs every point that he can get at Masters tournaments and Slams because Djokovic is in the part of the season where he did not lose a match for 5 months last year. Now, even if he can’t repeat that it can be expected that Djokovic will earn a lot of points these next few months.
Federer really needs a few things to break his way in the coming months. Any time that Djokovic or Nadal can be upset is great for him, obviously. But aside from counting on shocking upsets (or injuries), Federer really needs Nadal and Djokovic (and Murray, if possible) to start splitting points. Federer will never get to World #1 if Djokovic wins everything. He needs Murray or himself or take out Djokovic in the semifinals of some tournaments. Djokovic has 1000 points coming off the board in each of the next 4 Masters tournaments. Of course, Djokovic is scheduled to play Monte Carlo this year (he didn’t last year), so that’s a chance for 1000 extra points. That means that Djokovic’s point totals could be close to 11,000 by May if he fails to defend his titles. Nadal also has 600 points to defend in each of these tournaments and can only actually gain points by winning titles. If the World #1′s point total is around 11,000 then Federer can aim to take that around Wimbledon.
The real problem for Federer is that because Djokovic won both Wimbledon and the US Open, Fed’s best chance to get back on top with be after the US Open. Before Wimbledon he has no real chance, unless Djokovic starts losing in the first few rounds of these Masters events. Those 4000 points that Djokovic got from those two tournaments alone (plus 1600 more for Cincinnati and Canada) are just too much of an advantage for Federer to catch up right now. He needs to use these next few months until Wimbledon to stay within striking distance. But if he wants to really take World #1 again, he is going to need to make his move during those months from Wimbledon until the US Open when Djokovic once again has a ton of points to defend in a short period of time. If he doesn’t get it by the US Open though, Shanghai (which Federer skipped last year) will be his last real chance for a while because after that Federer has very little room to gain points.
The simple breakdown, though, is that Federer needs to hit around 11,000 points to have a real chance. He has 3410 since the US Open. There are basically 13,750 potential points (ignoring smaller tournaments and assuming Fed plays Monte Carlo) remaining until the US Open this year, made up of 3 Slams, 7 Masters tournaments, and the Olympics. If Federer can win one Slam, it will make things much easier for him. But if he can’t, then he can still reach the target of 11,000 points with 1 Slam final, 2 Slam semis, an Olympic gold, 2 Masters titles, 2 Masters finals, and 3 Masters semifinals. This wouldn’t be an easy task for anyone, even Federer, but it’s what he’ll need to get back to #1.
Now, those are just estimations. Obviously, other ways will add up to that number of points. But that is a basic layout. Now, he will also play a few 500 and 250 tournaments (maybe), and any points earned there will slightly decrease the need for those big points in the Masters and Slams. Of course, this all assumes that Djokovic or Nadal (whoever’s number 1) will fall to around that 11,000 threshold. Because if one player wins everything again and the World #1 stays at 12,000 points and above, then not even Federer has a chance to take that ranking.
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