Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders what happens if Daniil Medvedev sets a new career-high ranking in a week.
Welcome to the new era of men’s tennis.
If current No. 3 Daniil Medvedev can merely make the final at this week’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, if he can simply win four matches in the Netherlands then the Russian will be our new World No. 2.
That’s right. When Rafael Nadal announced that he was withdrawing from this same event, he lost his grip on the No. 2 ranking he has held for so long and so many days and weeks and months. When he withdrew from the event, he relinquished control of the ranking.
Already just 115 points behind the Spaniard, Medvedev can overcome him this week with a strong showing. His road to the Rotterdam final includes an opener against Dusan Lajovic and then likely matches against Borna Coric, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev.
It’s by no means a sure thing but for a man who’s just made the second Grand Slam final of his career, where he lost his first match after 20 straight wins, then tricky is just another day at the office.
Why is this a big deal?
If he manages this, then Medvedev will have maybe helped usher in a new era of the ATP, one that maybe isn’t quite as reliant on the Big Three.
Because if Medvedev makes the Rotterdam final, then he will have accomplished the impossible. By making the final (or better) and grabbing the 300 ranking points that come with it, then the 25-year-old would be the new No. 2 player on the ATP Ranking.
But why is this such a big deal? You see, he would be the first man to get there outside of the Big Four of Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray (remember him? LOL we love you Andy!), the first man to get there since Lleyton Hewitt. The Australian Hewitt, just as an FYI and for context, is a 40-year-old man who retired in 2016, is set to make the International Tennis Hall Of Fame and was last ranked No. 2 on July 18, 2005.
In other words, men’s tennis would have a brand new prince for the first time in 16 years, an eternity in any sport let alone one that’s as demanding and unforgiving as tennis.
Accomplishing this would further boost Medvedev’s standing in men’s tennis as the one player best positioned to overtake the best of the best. Because if gets to No. 2, then he would have literally overtaken two of the sport’s big three, with only Djokovic standing between him and complete immortality. The top of the mountain would be well within reach and view.
What makes the Russian special?
Medvedev is so dangerous because he has a versatile game and can beat his opponents in a variety of ways. It’s seemingly never been as true as it is now. If Medvedev keeps progressing like he has, he’ll likely grab a handful of Grand Slam titles and probably be the ATP next No. 1 player in the world—but first he needs to get to No. 2.
That said, we could very well be writing this for no reason. The Russian could very well crash out of Rotterdam, succumbing to the pressure or poor play (or both) and never come closer again of reaching No. 2. We could jinx him, is what we’re saying. (God, we hope we’re not.)
Medvedev is so close
But the fact remains that he’s right there, nipping at Nadal’s heels, and that there is absolutely nothing that the Spaniard can do because he’s not in Rotterdam. Surely Nadal would love nothing more than to compete in the Netherlands and defend what’s his to preserve his grip on No. 2, but sadly he’s injured.
We swear, dear Toni Nadal, that we would never dare the validity of this back injury, no sir. Especially not when this same injury wasn’t too overwhelming to prevent Nadal from coming to one set of making the Australian Open semifinals a few days ago.
No, again, questioning the validity of this injury would be absolutely beneath us and that’s completely not what we’re doing here.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG