Sunday, August 28, 2011
Here we are. We have finally arrived to the lights of New York City! We have had a change in the leadership at the top of the men's rankings since we began the year and the women remain steady at the top. But at the end of this fortnight, we could see some dramatic changes in both top tens.
Mr. Two Losses the Entire Year - Novak Djokovic - could lose in the first round of the US Open and No. 2 Rafael Nadal could not catch him, a familiar story for the top man pretty much the past few years. Unlike Djokovic, Nadal could slip in the rankings if he falls in the quarterfinals and current No. 3 Roger Federer reclaims the title. Some pundits believe Federer has it in him to win the title again, but his draw is definitely tough.
We are more likely to see some dramatic changes in the No. 5 through No. 10 positions. For starters, who knows how well No. 6 Robin Soderling will perform after missing time with a wrist injury? He’s defending quarterfinal points and could have a tough tournament with a likely drop to at least No. 7, if not No. 10. How is that possible you ask? There are four men behind him with nothing to lose and everything to gain: David Ferrer (5) is only defending 180 points, Gael Monfils (7) 360 points, Mardy Fish (8) 180 points, Tomas Berdych (9) 10 points and Nicolas Almagro (10) 90 points. Each one of those guys can reach as high as No. 5.
Without a Grand Slam title and with early exits of late, Caroline Wozniaki still has a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot somehow and could skip Flushing Meadows and remain No. 1. Last year's finalist Vera Zvonareva still has work to do to keep her No. 2 spot among the women. And, sadly for our favorite (well, my favorite), the defending champ Kim Clijsters will likely fall to No. 9 at the end of the tournament.
But the fun for the women comes from the No. 4 through No. 7 positions – Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and Li Na, respectively. Lately, Sharapova has shown she deserves to be on the short list of contenders here in New York; with 280 points to defend she has the potential to leap as high as No. 2 because of the points Zvonareva has to defend. Likewise, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli are adding more points this week in New Haven which will likely bring all three of them within 800 points of each other coming into their first matches. And aside from Schiavone's quarterfinal points, the women No. 4 through No. 9 don't have many points to defend at all.
With the race so close, there is only one certainty as this tournament begins: be prepared for some New York magic.
About Richard: A life-long tennis fan, Richard offers thoughts on rankings for both the ATP and WTA. He runs a tennis blog, The Let Tennis, and is the author of two books, including his latest, Anything is Possible. You can visit his website at http://richarddedor.com.
[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images]