Nadal vs Schwartzman US Open tennis live streaming, preview and predictions
Will Rafael Nadal maintain an unbeaten record against Diego Schwartzman when they clash in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters on Saturday?
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Nadal vs Schwartzman is live from Rome on Saturday 19 September, 8.30pm local/7.30pm BST
After six months out of competition, Rafael Nadal has dropped just six games in his first two matches at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia – can Diego Schwartzman make him work harder?
Argentina’s Schwartzman has shaken off poor form to reach the quarterfinals in Rome for the second straight year, but unless he can find a way to beat Nadal for the first time in ten attempts, he will be unable to repeat last year’s semifinal showing.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
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Nadal vs Schwartzman: Head-to-head
Rafael Nadal leads the head-to-head with Diego Schwartzman 9-0, and has won 22 of the 24 sets they have played.
Nadal vs Schwartzman: Preview
Rafael Nadal’s performances at the Rome Masters so far have made six months away from competition look like six days. The nine-time champion has lost just six games in his first two matches, and if a 6-1, 6-1 trouncing of recent US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta could be explained by the younger Spaniard’s fatigue after his run in New York and having to make a brutally quick transition to a different surface, a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Dusan Lajovic proved that Nadal’s form is no illusion.
True, Lajovic has not been a difficult opponent for Nadal in the past, but the Serb was a runner-up at the Monte-Carlo Masters last May and truthfully he did play a lot better than the scoreline suggested against Nadal. In the first set, he was broken immediately but broke straight back for 1-1, and at 1-2, fended off six break points in a nine-deuce game before finally succumbing and being broken again. He would not win another game in that set and fell behind 1-4 in the second, but retrieved one of the breaks to valiantly pull himself back almost level before Nadal broke him one last time to love to close out the win in 91 minutes.
Nadal hit an absurdly good return winner off his forehand wing – off a very good serve, too – at a crucial moment in that lengthy 1-2 game, but his forehand was firing throughout, and his backhand was almost as good. Indeed, it was difficult to fault Nadal’s performance at all, and not just in the context of having been out of competition for six months.
With the French Open just over a week away, of course, there is no time to waste, but it’s still impressive that Nadal has been able to find his form so quickly and he is now one match away from a twelfth Rome Masters semifinal.
Diego Schwartzman made his first Rome Masters semifinal in 2019, beating Kei Nishikori to do so before losing to Novak Djokovic in three sets. A three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, including at the French Open in 2018 when he lost to Nadal in four, Schwartzman had a solid start to the year with an Australian Open fourth-round finish and an ATP Tour final in Cordoba, but hasn’t looked very good since the restart, going 1-2 in the USA before losing to qualifier Laslo Djere in the Kitzbuhel quarterfinals last week.
To be honest, Schwartzman’s form in Rome this week hasn’t been convincing either, and he’s benefited from a good draw: After a first-round bye, he beat John Millman 6-4, 7-6(1) before battling past big-serving Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Nadal’s head-to-head against Schwartzman speaks for itself: 9-0, and 22 of 24 sets won against the Argentine, who is an exceptional mover and defender but can only ever threaten Nadal by pushing himself to a level of aggression he’s unable to sustain. The only value you will find in this one is in backing Schwartzman to be able to push the scoreline past 6-3, 6-4, or in backing Nadal to win 6-2, 6-2 or more one-sidedly. I know which one looks more likely.
Nadal vs Schwartzman: Prediction
Rafael Nadal aims to continue his triumphant return to action as he faces Dusan Lajovic in the last 16 of the Rome Masters on Friday.
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Nadal vs Lajovic is live from Rome on Friday 18 September, 7pm local/6pm BST
Despite a 200-day absence from competition, Rafael Nadal picked up where he left off before the shutdown when he returned to action in Rome on Wednesday, beating US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 6-1.
Next up for the nine-time champion at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia is last year’s surprise Monte-Carlo Masters finalist Dusan Lajovic, who has never taken a set from Nadal.
Read on for our preview, predictions and live streaming information.
How to watch Nadal vs Lajovic live
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Nadal vs Lajovic: Head-to-head
Rafael Nadal leads the head-to-head with Dusan Lajovic 2-0, and 6-0 in sets. They played on clay at the French Open in 2014 and at the US Open in 2017.
Nadal has won five of the six sets they played by either a 6-2 or 6-1 scoreline.
Nadal vs Lajovic: Preview
Playing for the first time since winning his 85th career title in Acapulco in February, Nadal took just 74 minutes and dropped only two games against an opponent who had just reached the semifinals of a Grand Slam.
To be fair, Carreno Busta was clearly exhausted from that run, which ended last Friday with the second of lengthy back-to-back five-setters; and he has never been a dangerous opponent for Nadal, having only won one set in their five previous encounters.
Nevertheless, it was a fairly ominous statement from Nadal ahead of the French Open, reminding us that no matter how little match-practice he’s had in the preceding months, he remains so formidable on this particular surface that he can render his opponent’s form (and pretty much their presence on the other side of the net) irrelevant.
Nadal faced one break point in the match, which he saved, and never really looked under much strain. He was seeded to meet Milos Raonic in the third round, but instead the man trying to stop him from making the quarterfinals in Rome for the fifteenth time will be Dusan Lajovic.
Serbia’s Lajovic is best known for a surprise run to the final of the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2019, a tournament which saw Nadal somewhat shockingly lose in the semifinals to Fabio Fognini, who beat Lajovic in the final. But there was nothing fluke-y about Lajovic’s run, which saw him beat David Goffin, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev – all absolutely excellent clay-courters – to reach the final. Lajovic also beat Fognini at the French Open the same summer, and gave Alexander Zverev some serious trouble over five sets in the last 16; he was also a Madrid Masters quarterfinalist in 2018, and has beaten Juan Martin del Potro there.
Lajovic scored wins over Karen Khachanov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the course of Serbia’s run to the ATP Cup title in January and made the third round of the Australian Open, but came into Rome on a three-match post-shutdown losing streak, having gone out to Carreno Busta, Egor Gerasimov and Yannick Hanfmann in ‘Cincinnati’, New York and Kitzbuhel respectively (to be fair, Hanfmann would make the final). He had a good win over qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-4, 6-4, and beating Raonic is always impressive, although Raonic served more double faults than aces – never a good sign for the big Canadian.
Can Lajovic push Nadal? Well, he never has before. Five of the six sets they’ve played, including all three on clay, have been won 6-1 or 6-2 by Nadal. Lajovic is a better player than he used to be, so I would expect him to get a couple more games, but a dominant one-sided win by Nadal is the order of the day.
Nadal vs Lajovic: Prediction
Rafael Nadal returns to action while Novak Djokovic tries to rebound from shock US Open exit at the 2020 Rome Masters.
We break down the men’s singles draw, analyse the contenders and predict the semifinalists and champion as Djokovic, Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini lead the field at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, better known as the Rome Masters.
ATP Rome Masters Preview
The compressed and rescheduled European clay-court season gets its first big event at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, a combined Masters 1000 Series/WTA Premier-5 tournament played at the Foro Italico in Rome.
Usually a May event, this year the Rome Masters takes place from 14-21 September and is marked by the return to action of world no. 2 Rafael Nadal, looking for his tenth title in Rome as well as aiming to find his game after a six-month absence and ahead of his quest for a thirteenth French Open crown.
US Open semi/finalists Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev have pulled out, but those who made an earlier exit from New York than they wanted are in the field, including four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic, Greece’s Tsitsipas and home favourite Berrettini.
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ATP Rome Draw Analysis
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Novak Djokovic (1) vs Gael Monfils (5)
No longer unbeaten in 2020, although still yet to lose a completed match, world no. 1 Djokovic takes the court in Rome surely still reeling from his shock US Open disqualification after accidentally striking a linesperson in the throat with a ball.
Djokovic has to look to the future, however, and he has an amazing record in Rome: Although the most recent of his fourth titles came in 2015, he has reached the final three times in subsequent years and the semifinal once. With a 50-9 record at the Foro Italico, Djokovic could face Felix Auger-Aliassime, who has made two ATP Tour finals on clay, in the third round; Auger-Aliassime has a first-round clash with the in-form Filip Krajinovic to contend with, and Kyle Edmund, who has beaten Djokovic on clay once before, is also in this section.
Gael Monfils makes his return to competition as Djokovic’s projected quarterfinal opponent, but could face US Open quarterfinalist Alex de Minaur in the second round, while all eyes will be on a potential second-round clash between Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori with the winner to face Monfils or de Minaur in the third round.
Predicted semifinalist: Djokovic
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Matteo Berrettini (4) vs David Goffin (6)
Berrettini and Goffin both fell in the round of 16 in New York, so will not have had long to practice on clay. Fourth seed Berrettini will be the focus of home hopes, having made the round of 16 in Rome last year, but could have a tough second-round opener against big-serving Jan-Lennard Struff; the winner of that one is projected to face Cristian Garin, who beat Berrettini in the Munich final last year, in the third round. Garin opens against Borna Coric, a US Open quarterfinalist who might be pressed to recover enough to challenge for that one.
David Goffin could face Marin Cilic, struggling for form but always dangerous, after a first-round bye; Karen Khachanov, who plays some of his best tennis on clay, could await in the third although he has a tough opener against rising Norwegian Casper Ruud.
Predicted semifinalist: Garin
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Fabio Fognini (7) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas (3)
Fognini, who lost to a Swiss qualifier ranked outside the top 300 when he made his return to competition in Kitzbuhel, comes in on a four-match losing streak stretching back to the Australian Open. One of the finest clay-courters on the ATP, who won a Masters 1000 Series on clay in Monte Carlo in 2019, Fognini has made one quarterfinal in 13 Rome appearances. He has a book to promote, though, and his draw isn’t awful: Kevin Anderson or Ugo Humbert in the second round, Denis Shapovalov possibly in the third; Guido Pella might be the only lurking threat.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is trying to rebound from letting six match points slip against Coric at the US Open. A semifinalist in Rome last year, Tsitsipas could face Italy’s youthful rising star Jannik Sinner in the second round and Grigor Dimitrov or perhaps Miomir Kecmanovic, a finalist in Kitzbuhel this week, in the third round.
Predicted semifinalist: Tsitsipas
Projected quarterfinal by seeding: Diego Schwartzman (8) vs Rafael Nadal (2)
Argentina’s Schwartzman has been on poor form lately, 2-3 on his return to competition, so there could be some opportunity in this section; Andrey Rublev, who is 19-5 and fresh from a quarterfinal run at the US Open, could take advantage, with Dan Evans or Hubert Hurkacz – neither playing particularly well right now – his potential second-round opponents.
This quarter though is all about Rafa. Playing for the first time since winning Acapulco in February, Nadal has a 61-6 record in Rome and is on a ten-match winning streak there after winning his eighth and ninth titles at the Foro Italico in 2018-19. The physical demands of adjusting back to matches is the big question mark for Nadal, and he certainly hasn’t been given an easy opening opponent; he’ll be up against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, given a performance bye into the second round, unless Carreno Busta withdraws.
Milos Raonic – not a natural clay-courter – or Dusan Lajovic, a runner-up at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in 2019 but not playing well at the moment, could await in the third round; a very manageable draw for Nadal.
ATP Rome Masters Prediction
Djokovic d. Garin
Nadal d. Tsitsipas
Djokovic d. Nadal
The ATP Finals, set to be played behind closed doors in London in November, have confirmed its first three qualifiers.
The ATP Tour released its provisional calendar for the remainder of 2020 today, confirming that the Nitto ATP Finals is scheduled to be the last tournament of the season.
The year-end championships will be played at London’s O2 Arena from 15-22 November.
Currently, the plan is for the tournament to be played behind closed doors. But the ATP Tour ‘remains hopeful’ that fans will be permitted to attend with social distancing observed.
Pilot events were planned for the first two weeks in August in the UK, but were called off by Prime Minister Boris Johnson due to concerns about infection.
The World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre on Saturday will be the first sporting event to allow fans, followed by a programme of pilot events aimed at testing whether it is safe to reopen sporting venues. The hope is that venues will be able to reopen for fans from 1 October, as long as social distancing measures are in place.
The O2 Arena is currently closed.
ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said:
‘The fans have played such an incredible part in the success of the Nitto ATP Finals over the years and there’s no question the capacity crowds will be deeply missed this year.
‘Working within the guidelines issued by the UK Government is paramount as we look to prioritise the health and safety of the fans and everybody involved in the tournament in our efforts to deliver the event in the safest way possible.’
This is the last year that the ATP Finals will be held in London after a successful sojourn at the O2 Arena which began in 2020. The tournament moves to Turin, Italy from 2021.
While the empty, or perhaps half-empty, stands will be an unusual sight, there should be some familiar faces in attendance as the first three qualifiers were confirmed.
Usually qualification for the elite eight-player season-ending championships is determined by the accumulation of ranking points over the calendar year and tracked by the Race to London. But with the sport completely shut down for much of 2020, the ATP have revised their ranking system, with ranking points not dropping for the remainder of the season unless they are replaced with a better result. Qualification for the Nitto ATP Finals will be determined by the ATP Tour rankings on 9 November, the Monday before the tournament is due to begin.
However, there are three players who will definitely be among the ‘elite eight’, with the ATP Finals confirming today that Djokovic, Nadal and Thiem have become the first qualifiers.
World no. 1 Djokovic has played the ATP Finals on 19 occasions since he made his debut in 2007, and won the title five times, aiming to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles in 2020. Last year, he failed to get out of the group stage for the first time since 2011. Djokovic opened the 2020 season by going 18-0, and recently confirmed that he is playing the Western & Southern Open and US Open.
Nadal finished the 2019 season as world no. 1, but surrendered the top spot to Djokovic after the latter won the Australian Open, Nadal losing in the quarterfinals. The Spaniard has played the ATP Finals nine times since making his debut in 2006, but has never won it and in recent years has been a frequent absentee, playing three of the last six editions (and pulling out midway through one of those). In 2019 he also failed to get out of the group stages. Nadal has pulled out of the US Open, but is expected to make his return to competition during the European clay-court swing.
Austria’s Thiem only won three matches in his first three appearances at the ATP Finals, but recorded much-improved hard-court results during 2019. A season which saw him win his maiden Masters 1000 Series title on hard courts at Indian Wells finished with him beating Djokovic, Federer and defending champion Alexander Zverev to reach the final at the O2 Arena, where he lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the US Open in New York, declining to defend his title due to the global health crisis.
‘This is a decision I never wanted to take,’ world no. 2 Nadal wrote as he made his decision to withdraw from the 2020 US Open public.
The US Open will take place behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September. It forms a two-tournament ‘bubble’ with the Western & Southern Open, relocated from Cincinnati to New York for this year only and due to be played from 22-28 August.
Nadal won his third US Open title in 2019 when he defeated Daniil Medvedev in five sets in the final. But speculation has been rife for months that the Spaniard would not play at the 2020 tournament.
‘After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it.
‘We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play, I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year.’
Nadal had previously publicly committed to playing the Madrid Masters, which begins on the day of the US Open men’s final, signalling that he was prioritizing the European clay-court season over defending his US Open title.
It was officially confirmed on Tuesday that the Mutua Madrid Open had been cancelled due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain. The Rome Masters (20-27 September) and the French Open (27 September-11 October), at which Nadal is hoping to win an incredible thirteenth title, are still scheduled, with the French Open even planning to allow 60% of spectator capacity at Roland Garros.
Nadal went on:
‘All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV.
‘This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.’
Nadal is not the first player to decline to travel to the USA due to health anxieties. World no. 1 Ashleigh Barty cited ‘significant risks’ to which she declined to expose her team when she pulled out of the Grand Slam, and compatriot Nick Kyrgios followed suit, framing his withdrawal as a moral stance.
Roger Federer is also not playing the US Open, having shut down the remainder of his 2020 season down in July to prioritize a second knee operation. Among top-10 players, world no. 9 Gael Monfils also won’t be appearing in New York.
Nadal does not need to fear taking a hit in the rankings due to not playing the US Open. The ATP announced a revised rankings system a few weeks ago which means that he retains the 2,000 points he earned from winning the tournament in 2019 until the US Open is played again in 2021.
World no. 1 Novak Djokovic currently leads the men’s field, although entry for ranking players is automatic, so appearing on the player entry list does not guarantee that he will actually play.
Andy Murray has said that he hopes and intends to play the US Open, although he may need a wildcard to do so. Djokovic, Murray and world no. 37 Marin Cilic would be the only former champions in the field, with Stan Wawrinka joining Federer and Nadal on the list of players not appearing.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have all entered the Western & Southern Open, to be played the week before the US Open – but will they all turn up?
The player entry lists for the Western & Southern Open have been released a little under a month before the tournament is set to begin. But one suspects the actual player field might look a little different when the draw rolls around.
Relocated from Cincinnati to New York for one year only, the Western & Southern Open will be played from 22-28 August and form a two-tournament ‘bubble’ with the US Open, which is scheduled to begin on 31 August.
At first glance the player entry list looks extremely strong, with 16 of the men’s top 20 led by world no. 1 and 2 Djokovic and Nadal, and Serena Williams one of five WTA top-10 players and former champions due to appear.
However, on the men’s side, entry for a Masters 1000 Series is automatic for players ranked highly enough and might not reflect who will actually turn up. For instance, world no. 19 Grigor Dimitrov is on the list, but said just a few days ago that he was highly unlikely to play the US Open due to the ongoing effects of his bout with COVID-19.
🚨 THIS IS NOT A DRILL 🚨
Our 2020 @atptour player field has arrived!
— Western & Southern Open (@CincyTennis) July 29, 2020
Nadal, the defending champion at the US Open, won the Cincinnati Masters in 2013 but there have been few indications he intends to make the trip to the USA in August: The world no. 2 has been frequently pictured practicing on clay in recent weeks and has been confirmed as entered for the Madrid Masters, which begins on the day of the US Open final. Thanks to the ATP Tour’s revised ranking system, Nadal will retain his points for winning the US Open in 2019 until the event takes place in 2021, so there is no ranking incentive for him to play.
Djokovic, who captured the Cincinnati title in 2018, has openly wondered about the wisdom of playing the US Open, but is more likely to actually play – he at least has been seen practicing on hard courts recently.
Should the world no. 1 play, he could be joined by defending champion Daniil Medvedev, who made the final of the US Open last September; world no. 3 Dominic Thiem; and worlds no. 6 and 7, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.
Players who definitely will not be at the Western & Southern Open include world no. 9 Gael Monfils, world no. 11 Fabio Fognini and world no. 17 Stan Wawrinka. It’s legitimate to take this as an indication that those men will not be playing the US Open, given that the Masters 1000 Series event is the only ATP tournament scheduled before the Grand Slam.
Drumroll please…. 🥁
Our @WTA player field is HERE!
— Western & Southern Open (@CincyTennis) July 29, 2020
On the women’s side, there are some surprising absences. While Williams’s presence is a huge boon to the tournament, she is also scheduled to play the Top Seed Open in Lexington from 10-16 August and if that goes well, she might decide not to play ‘Cincinnati’ ahead of the US Open.
It’s not surprising to see world no. 1 and 2 Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep skipping the event, as both have seemed sceptical about the prospect of travelling to the USA. It’s more surprising that neither world no. 6 Bianca Andreescu nor world no. 10 Naomi Osaka are in the entry list. Andreescu, the defending US Open champion, and Osaka, the 2018 winner, have not entered Lexington either, which means that both women – despite being based on the continent of North America – will either play the US Open without any warm-up tournaments whatsoever, or won’t be playing the US Open. In Andreescu’s case this could be an injury issue; the Canadian has barely played a match since winning the US Open in 2019 due to a knee injury. Osaka’s motives are less clear.
The Western & Southern Open field will be led by world no. 3 Karolina Pliskova and world no. 4 Sofia Kenin, the American who claimed her maiden major title in January at the Australian Open. Kiki Bertens, the 2018 Western & Southern Open champion, Belinda Bencic and Williams are the other top-10 players in the field, while defending champion Madison Keys is also scheduled to play.
Defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal and world no. 1 Novak Djokovic’s participation is uncertain while Simona Halep says she is ‘worried’.
The US Open announced in mid-June that the tournament would be going ahead despite the global COVID-19 health crisis, with state governor Andrew Cuomo giving permission for the event to be played behind closed doors. But it seems increasingly uncertain whether tennis’s biggest stars will be there.
Nadal is the defending champion, winning his fourth title in 2019 with a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev. But the Spaniard has now publicly committed to playing the Mutua Madrid Open, which begins on the day of the US Open men’s final.
Tournament director Feliciano Lopez jubilantly announced Nadal’s participation on Twitter, and it was confirmed by the man himself, who responded ‘See you in September in Madrid’:
Así es Feli. Nos vemos en septiembre en Madrid 👋🏻💪🏻👍🏻🎾
Mientras tanto que todo vaya bien! 😷 https://t.co/wMP0rKaumE
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) July 7, 2020
With the ATP Tour announcing its revised ranking system, which means players can only count points from one iteration of an event played between March 2019 and December 2020, Nadal does not need to fear taking a hit in the rankings if he does not defend his US Open title – he will keep the points earned from winning the 2019 event until the 2021 tournament is played.
A more significant factor is the French Open. The biggest events of the European clay-court season – back-to-back Masters 1000 Series events in Madrid and Rome, followed by the two-week French Open – have been rescheduled from May and will now take place in a four-week period immediately following the French Open. Nadal is unlikely to jeopardise his chances of an incredible thirteenth Roland Garros title – and a twentieth major title overall, tying Roger Federer’s – by travelling to another continent to play on hard courts.
Djokovic can gain points by playing the US Open, after retiring in the fourth round against Stan Wawrinka in 2019. But the Serb has sounded sceptical about the possibility of playing the US Open, and this week told Serbian media that he still didn’t know whether or not he would play in New York – but definitely intended to play Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros.
In the same interview with my colleague Vojin Veličković #Novak said: I still don’t know whether I will play at the US Open. I certainly won’t play Washington, Cincinnati is planned. Participation in Garros is safe for now, and Madrid and Rome are also planned.
— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) July 8, 2020
Dominic Thiem, the world no. 3, has also recently expressed doubts about the US Open.
The USA remains the global nation hit hardest by COVID-19, with over three million cases and more than 130,000 deaths.
Simona Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champion, said this week that she still isn’t sure whether she will play the US Open – but added that she was ‘a little bit worried’.
‘I have no idea at the moment because nobody knows what is going to happen after this month.
‘I will wait to see what is being decided, see what the other players will do.’
The US Open’s case has not been helped by a slew of positive tests among players and support staff directly linked to the Adria Tour exhibition series, organised by Djokovic himself, or the news last week that Frances Tiafoe tested positive at the first tennis event in the USA to allow spectators, although organizers have been keen to emphasize that very different – and much stricter – health and safety protocols will be in place.
The ATP Tour announced details of the revised rankings system in place for the sport’s resumption in August.
Rankings on both the ATP and WTA Tours have been frozen since tennis was shut down in mid-March 2019, leaving Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty respectively holding the top spots.
The ATP Tour is currently scheduled to resume after its long hiatus on 14 August with the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., followed by a US Open to be played behind closed doors in New York and then a four-week European clay season which will include the Masters 1000 Series events in Madrid and Rome and then French Open – all of which are usually played in May-June.
Ranking points determine which tournaments a player can enter and have a very direct relationship with earnings potential.
The ATP Tour’s plan is to shift the basis of the rankings from a rolling 52-week period to a 22-month period. All tournaments from March 2019 to December 2020 will be eligible for inclusion in a player’s ‘Best 18’ results.
A player’s ranking is comprised of points earned at the 12 mandatory events – the four Grand Slams and eight Masters 1000 Series events – and their best six results from other countable tournaments.
The key point about the revised ranking is that players who are unwilling or unable to compete at tournaments for the remainder of the 2020 season won’t lose out, because they will still be able to count the points from the 2019 edition of that tournament among their ranking total.
Tournaments obviously cannot be counted twice. This may make it even less likely that Rafael Nadal, who has expressed unease about the idea of travelling to the USA for the US Open, will defend his title in September – he won’t lose or gain any points either way.
Points earned in the remainder of 2020 will remain countable for 52 weeks, or until the tournament is played in 2021, whichever comes first. So points earned at the 2020 French Open, which will be played at the end of September, will drop off when the 2021 tournament takes place at its regular time in late May.
The ATP Tour emphasized that the revisions to the ranking system had been undertaken in consultation with the four Grand Slams and the ITF and added:
‘Should the 2021 season be impacted by Covid-19, further adjustments to Rankings will be considered.’
The ATP Race to London, which tracks the accumulation of points through the calendar year with the top eight players comprising the field for the Nitto ATP Finals in November, has been effectively cancelled for this year. Qualifiers for the season-ending championships will be determined by the revised ATP rankings as outlined above. They will therefore reflect how players performed in 2019 as well as during 2020.
One beneficiary of the revised rankings could be Djokovic. When the rankings were frozen, Djokovic had amassed 282 weeks as world no. 1, putting him third in the overall standings and just four weeks behind Pete Sampras in second place. Djokovic retired in the fourth round of the US Open and lost in the semifinals of the French Open in 2019; if he can better either result during the condensed 2020 season, he will boost his chances of remaining no. 1 and overtaking Sampras. Nadal, who won both the French and US Opens in 2019, can add no points from either.
Another beneficiary of the changes is Roger Federer. Due to surgery on his knee in February, Federer always intended to miss much of the spring hard-court season and the entire clay-court season, and shut down his season for good after a second knee surgery in July. Now he will be able to keep his points from winning the Miami Masters, Basel and Halle and reaching the Wimbledon final and French Open semifinals in 2019 until those events are played again in 2021, which should cushion the drop in the rankings he would otherwise expect to take.