Rafael Nadal ATP Ranking Top Spot Saved By Novak Djokovic Injury

NadalRafael Nadal’s ATP Ranking top spot has been saved by Novak Djokovic’s wrist injury. The world no 1 was close to being pushed off the top by his in-form rival. The wrist injury to his main rival could not have come at a better time for Nadal as he enters the Clay season.

The Clay season is Nadal’s favorite, and most profitable part of the season when it comes to ranking points. The eight time Roland Garros Champion is arguably the best clay court player in history and, even in seasons when his form on other surfaces has been questionable, he has always managed to walk away with a haul of big clay court titles.

Novak Djokovic is no slouch on the red stuff either. In 2011 it was Djokovic who inflicted rare defeats in ATP 1000 finals in Madrid and Rome on Nadal. And while a victory at Roland Garros has eluded him, Djokovic had the better of Nadal for a set and a half in the final in 2012. The rain saved Nadal that day. Then, in 2013, Djokovic led Nadal by a break in the fifth set before nerves got the better of him.

This season Djokovic admitted he had put too much pressure on himself when it came to Roland Garros in previous seasons. This year, he said, he was going to be more relaxed about it. He will have plenty of time to sit back with his wrist injury. While it is reported he will be back in time for Madrid, nothing is confirmed.

Meanwhile, Nadal can do anything but relax. For a man who had spent more than 100 weeks at the top of the rankings, staying there, with all its prestige, will be something he will be desperate to do. The look of  pain on his face as he accepted his runner-up trophy this season in Melbourne shows just how much Nadal does not like coming second best. And nothing less than that attitude could be expected of such a great champion.

However, Nadal is not having it all his way this clay season. A rare defeat to David Ferrer last week in Monte Carlo sent out the message that Nadal, who has failed to win a title about ATP 500 level this season, was even more vulnerable than had been thought. To put it in perspective, Nadal has won Monte Carlo eight times and was last year’s runner up to Djokovic. A formidable record. And he had only lost once to Ferrer on clay, back in 2004.

Yesterday, in Barcelona, a tournament he has won eight times also, Nadal struggled to get through to the third round, beating compatriot Albert Ramos 7-5, 6-4 in close to two hours.  Ramos pushed Nadal all the way and only faltered when serving to stay in the second set, dropping his serve to love. Nadal’s 40th consecutive win in his home tournament was anything but encouraging for himself or his fans.

With Nadal struggling so much on his most prolific surface, the idea of Djokovic overtaking him in the ATP rankings, and even beating him in Roland Garros was not far-fetched. But with Djokovic on the sidelines, unable to practice, the Serb’s confidence will be a little shaky when he returns and he may not leave from where he left off, winning titles in Miami and Indian Wells and enjoying a 16 match winning streak before Federer beat him in the Monte Carlo semi-finals.

How Nadal takes advantage of his opponent’s absence to defend his points and his tournament wins will be interesting to see. More interesting will be if any other players can take advantage of an out of sorts Nadal. But with the pressure of an in-form Djokovic chasing him now out-of-the-way, Nadal has some breathing space to get his head together and try to find the form that has earned him the ATP top spot for the last 29 weeks, a run he, no doubt, would like to see continue for a while longer.

Commentary by Christian Deverille


4 Responses to "Rafael Nadal ATP Ranking Top Spot Saved By Novak Djokovic Injury"

  1. Nadal Hornets   April 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Its a bad sign for Djokovic that even in 2013 he still wasn’t good enough to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, after Nadal was clearly struggling physically during the clay season after the 7 month layoff. Djokovic won Monte Carlo, and still could not win the big one. Nadal really has a strangehold over Roland Garros, and when challenged he really steps it up with 22 winners in the 5th set of the 2013 SF vs Djokovic. Whereas Djokovic has lost to Federer twice this season, and therefore has a lot more than Nadal to worry about. And Wawrinka is in the mix too, but I find it hard to believe that Nadal will let Wawrinka spoil this party. The Roland Garros semi-finals will be more fun than ever, if Djokovic can make it that far.

    • Christian Deverille   April 24, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      Nadal Hornets- We all know how much of a mental hurdle it is for Djokovic to beat Nadal on Clay. Only 1 person has managed to beat Nadal over 5 sets at Roland Garros. Djokovic though has proved he can get past his mental blocks though. Take a look at his 2011 season. Few people saw that coming.

      I think this year’s Roland Garros, if we get Nadal versus Federer and Djokovic versus Wawrinka, could be so much fun. And I personally cannot wait.

      I also think Djokovic will get that far, too. But it might be more of a struggle than was anticipated before the wrist injury.

  2. pop tarvish   April 23, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    ridiculous article – depends which way you look at it. Djokovic could have been lucky when Rafa was off the tour with injury for 7 months. Djokovic might also have been the lucky one at the 2012 RG (and was in my opinion the lucky one) because of the rain – I have never considered tennis an all weather sport, with soaked courts & balls?? So I think you might say that Djokovic was lucky to have got that set off Rafa BECAUSE of the rain. Djokovics current vigour as an athlete may also stem from the fact that it took him so long to find his top form, unlike Nadal who has been a constant top player almost from the very start of his career.
    Also, if Djokovic might have had an advantage to win RG this year it might to some degree have to do with the fact that Nadal has to bear the load of achieving the unachievable every single year……to be writing history with so many of his wins, is a tough burden to carry……the expectation on him must be unbearable!
    Djokovic has been an in-form player for the last three years, but he has still not won RG – this is hardly because Nadal has been ‘lucky’….

    Djokovic’s favourite surface is hard court and Rafa has beaten him on that too (including beating him in 2 US Opens), so the fact that Djokovic should have beaten Rafa on clay (only 3 times), is really not that remarkable, is it??! In fact it’s a lousy stat considering the number of times they have played on clay….

    It just depends on which way you look at it!!

    • Christian Deverille   April 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Pop Tarvish- I agree with you about it coming down to whatever way you look at it.

      Yes, Djokovic did get lucky at Roland Garros 2012 when the rain made the balls heavier and the balls bounced lower. He was also unlucky that play was suspended. You need some degree of luck when competing against Nadal atr Roland Garros!

      But I do feel that things were looking great for Djokovic before the wrist injury this season. He was gaining momentum and valuable points and Nadal has rarely looked so vulnerable as he does right now.

      And I can see your point about expectation on Nadal being unbearable. He has done amazingly well to win 8 French Opens. However, I do believe Djokovic, who has won all 3 Clay ATP 1000 titles, beating Nadal in the finals no less, will have his day at Roland Garros. He is too good on the surface not to get at least 1 title, and he does have it in him to beat Nadal on the red stuff, as much as Nadal has it in him to beat Djokovic on his preferred surface.

      And I think this could have been Djokovic’s year.

      While it is arguable just how much it is about luck, Nadal’s chances of winning the French Open and keeping his lead in the ATP rankings are certainly helped somewhat by Djokovic’s injury.

      However, as you said, it depends how you look at it.


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