Djokovic can re­gain No. 1 rank­ing in Paris

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Sports - BY CHRISTO­PHER CLAREY

Ranked No. 22 in June, No­vak Djokovic has an ex­cel­lent chance to be back at No. 1 by Novem­ber.

No man has made it to the top from so far back in the same sea­son since the ATP rank­ings be­gan in 1973, and Djokovic has put him­self on the brink by re­cov­er­ing his pre­ci­sion, his swag­ger and his long­time coach and men­tor Mar­ian Va­jda.

Djokovic was an un­forced-er­ror ma­chine as re­cently as March, los­ing in his open­ing round in In­dian Wells, Cal­i­for­nia, and in Mi­ami. But he is an un­stop­pable force now. Af­ter re­hir­ing Va­jda in April and bounc­ing back from a de­mor­al­iz­ing quar­ter­fi­nal de­feat at the French Open to out­sider Marco Cecchi­nato, Djo- kovic has tri­umphed at Wim­ble­don, the Cincin­nati Mas­ters, the U.S. Open and the Shang­hai Mas­ters.

He has stead­ied his base­line game, shored up his serve and won 18 straight of­fi­cial sin­gles matches and 27 of his past 28. He has won 26 straight of­fi­cial sets, with only two of those re­quir­ing a tiebreaker.

It has been an­other in­tim­i­dat­ing run for an elas­tic man who once made such dom­i­nance seem like any­thing but a stretch. Now, he is well within reach of the top rank­ing again at the Paris Mas­ters. Rafael Nadal still holds the top spot by lit­tle more than 200 points and has not played since re­tir­ing against Juan Martín del Potro in the semi­fi­nals of the U.S. Open.

One thou­sand points will go to the cham­pion in

Paris, and Djokovic does not have a sin­gle point to de­fend for the rest of the sea­son, which, if he stays healthy, will also in­clude the World Tour Fi­nals in Lon­don in mid-Novem­ber.

Un­less Nadal re­turns in very rare form in­doors in what has tra­di­tion­ally been his weak­est phase of the sea­son, Djokovic will be the year-end No. 1, just as he was in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.

“It’s amaz­ing in two ways,” said Paul An­na­cone, for­mer coach of Roger Fed­erer and Pete Sam­pras. “It’s amaz­ing to be that good and let it drop and amaz­ing to come back in the way that No­vak has come back.”

Djokovic is 31, which was once twi­light time for ten­nis stars, but no longer: Seven of this week’s Top 10 are in their 30s. Sam­pras was 31 when he emerged from a funk to win his 14th and fi­nal Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tle at the 2002 U.S. Open. He never played an­other of­fi­cial match, an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment the next year.

Be­fore win­ning the 2002 Open, Sam­pras ex­pe­ri­enced one of the most hu­mil­i­at­ing set­backs of his ca­reer, fall­ing to Ge­orge Bastl, a lucky loser from Switzer­land, in the sec­ond round of Wim­ble­don.

“I al­ways felt and still feel that you can’t take away great­ness,” Anna- cone said. “In other words, you’re not all of a sud­den not great any­more. But what hap­pens, I’ve seen, is that you can’t sus­tain it for long pe­ri­ods of time, so when I talked to Pete af­ter he lost to Ge­orge Bastl, I knew he could win an­other ma­jor. That’s what he wanted, not No. 1 but an­other ma­jor.”

But, he added, “that was one ma­jor. What No­vak has done by win­ning two ma­jors and dom­i­nat­ing the sec­ond half of the year has been an­other level in terms of con­sis­tency.”

Djokovic had no vic­to­ries over Top 10 play­ers in the first five months of 2018. He has nine since June, de­feat­ing Fed­erer, Nadal, Del Potro and Alexan­der Zverev, and beat­ing Kevin An­der­son twice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.