Forget The Queen’s Gambit, we could be watching tennis’ King’s Gambit unfold in 2021, CRAIG GABRIEL writes.
Whenever Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer are in a tournament, the vast majority of people bank on one of them winning the title.
But maybe the time has arrived when attention swings to others.
Of the last four big events in 2020, three were won by players not named Djokovic, Nadal or Federer, and with that there has been movement in the world rankings.
Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev are the front runners, and these are the guys who could displace the current top two – Djokovic and Nadal.
Sure, it will be hard to do but it is absolutely possible.
Djokovic will equal Federer’s record of 310 weeks at No.1.
The Serb will achieve that on March 1. He cannot be stopped in that chase.
However, Nadal could throw a spanner in the works and delay Djokovic from breaking the Federer record a week later.
That record is one of two aspirational quests for Djokovic – the other is outdoing Federer and Nadal for most majors. They sit on 20 and Djokovic is on 17.
Nadal can add 2640 points between now and March 8 and with that it is conceivable he could frustrate Djokovic and delay him getting the record, which ‘Nole’ wouldn’t be thrilled about.
Nadal will continue his record of 800-plus weeks in the top 10, which is something no other player has achieved.
That is a record Djokovic is not likely to break; right now he is not even in the top five.
For the record, the top five for weeks in the top 10 are: Nadal (800 and counting), Jimmy Connors (789), Federer (734), Ivan Lendl (619), Pete Sampras (565).
And then it will get interesting, as Thiem could find out that it is his time to surge ahead.
That will see Djokovic fighting a battle to hold on to No.1 on a second front.
Thiem will be dropping the 1000 points from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells that he earned by beating Federer to win the 2019 title.
Remember the tournament was cancelled in 2020 and there was a lot of rejigging with how the ranking points would work.
The Austrian then sees opportunities open up for himself to reach world No.1, starting with the European clay-court season.
It will be based on his own results as well as those around him – Djokovic, Nadal and No.4 Medvedev, who could very well make a play for No.2 and thwart Novak and Rafa.
Adding to the moves, an inactive Federer might drop out of the top 10 – although he does have about two and a half times the points of Gael Monfils, who is ranked 11.
Never mind The Queen’s Gambit, we could be watching The King’s Gambit unfold in 2021.
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