ATP rankings history to be made as race for year-end No 1 heats up

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal shake hands

For the first time in history, two Spanish players will top the ATP rankings when the updated numbers are released on Monday.

Casper Ruud’s defeat against Yoshihito Nishioka in the quarter-finals of the Korea Open on Friday ensured that he will be knocked off the No 2 spot by Rafael Nadel, with Carlos Alcaraz retaining his position at the top of the rankings.

It ensures that two Spaniards will top the ATP list for the first time and it will be the first occasion in more than 22 years that two players from the same nation will sit in the top two spots, with America’s Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi reaching that peak in August 2000.

Now the race is on to secure the prestigious year-end No 1 ranking, with Nadal’s fitness levels likely to be crucial in deciding what happens next.

Nadal has no points to defend in the coming weeks as he wrapped up his 2021 season early due to injury and that hands him a big advantage over Alcaraz in the race for the year-end title.

Yet a returning Alcaraz will have a chance to collect more points in upcoming events and as both men are already assured of their place in the ATP Finals in Turin, there is every chance the race for No 1 will run until the final week of the season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas became the fourth player to qualify for the 2022 Nitto ATP Finals, joining Rafael Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud in the season finale.

Yet it looks like the race for the year-end No 1 spot will be between Alcaraz and Nadal, unless Ruud puts together a stunning run of results at the end of the season.

Daniil Medvedev appears to be out of the race for the year-end title, as he has too many points to defend from the back end of last season when he reached the finals of the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals in Turin.

“Being court-side watching him is absolutely mind-blowing,” former British No 1 Annabel Croft told Tennis365.

“I never thought I’d see someone come along this quickly having seen the greatest with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

“The speed he has around the court and the power he has to turn defence into attack… his volleys are also so beautiful. His level is so high compared to everyone else and I think he is going to have an aura on the court.

“It’s so exciting for the game to have a player like this coming through who will be so popular with younger fans.

“We were waiting to see who could step in when Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were no longer at the top and players like Alcaraz look like they could be ready to do that now.”

Nadal is not back to full fitness after an abdominal strain and he is also preparing to welcome his first child into the world with wife Mary.

That new arrival may impact his time on court over the next few weeks and it may also be a factor in the world No 1 race, with Alcaraz possibly gaining ground on his legendary rival if Nadal misses key events.

Nadal is looking to be crowned as year-end world No 1 for the sixth time, which would leave him one off the record held by his great rival Novak Djokovic.