Rafael Nadal, absent from this week's ATP Rolex Shanghai Masters, is safe at No. 1—for now. But three players—Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro—all have a shot at ending this week at No. 2 in the tour rankings.
Current ATP No. 2 Federer won this Masters 1000 tournament last year, so he is defending 1,000 ranking points. Combined with Djokovic's summer surge, hanging onto his current position won’t be easy.
Federer needs to reach the final just to have a chance of remaining at No. 2; if Djokovic reaches the third round, the Swiss needs to win the title to have a chance of keeping it. Additionally, if Djokovic reaches the final, Federer has no chance of staying where he is—even if the Swiss beats him in the final.
Meanwhile, Djokovic—the current world No. 3—has the best shot at leaving Shanghai at No. 2, given that he has zero points to defend this week. He didn’t play after Wimbledon last year, due to injury. The Serb just needs to reach the final to secure a return to No.2.
How is Djokovic in this position after such a poor start to the season? Well, he has won the last two Grand Slam titles and 22 of his last 23 matches.
“The last three months have been terrific,” Djokovic said ahead of his first match in Shanghai. “Back in February this year I had surgery, and I had six wins and six losses a few months after that, and I just wasn’t playing that well. I was still trying to coordinate the body and the mind, and everything that was happening post-operation. I had to alternate the serve. I had to figure out all of these things.
“If you told me four or five months ago that I’d be in this position, fighting for year-end No.1, having two Slams and the Cincinnati win—I mean, it would be amazing to sign off on that right away.”
Federer and Djokovic are joined in the battle for No. 2 by del Potro, who has the most difficult path to No. 2. Del Potro not only needs to win the title, but he also needs Djokovic to lose before the semifinals. The Serb has never lost before the semifinals here in seven career appearances.
Should Del Potro pull it off, he’ll break up a longstanding monopoly on the Top 2. No one outside of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray has been ranked inside the Top 2 for more than 13 years. The last player to be in the Top 2 besides the quartet was Lleyton Hewitt, the week of July 18 to 24, 2005.
Nadal bumped the Australian out on July 25, 2005, and the monopoly began.