After Roger Federer won the 2018 Australian Open the ATP Tour finds itself in an interesting position. Djokovic is still not back 100% due to his elbow injury. Andy Murray is still out of competition. Stan Wawrinka is working his way back to his usual form after missing the second half of 2017. Rafael Nadal is struggling with injuries following his retirement in Australia during his match again Marin Cilic. Given that the rest of the Big 4 are out of action, Federer reclaimed the #1 ranking after winning the title in Rotterdam, but this achievement may be short-lived. Federer has to defend the Sunshine Double in at the Masters 1000s in Indian Wells and Miami which has been a daunting task for every player to win both of these titles consecutively.
Given that Federer won both titles last year, he must defend all his 2000 points. The only way the Swiss Maestro can achieve this is by remaining undefeated this year and continue to do what he has been doing. Now let’s consider the following, slow hard courts have never been Federer’s best surface but that did not stop him last year. I believe it will be a daunting task to stay at the top of the rankings until the clay court season begins where he has no points to defend. After all, he is only 400 points ahead of Nadal. If Rafa manages to find his health and his game (which usually go hand in hand for him) he has a good shot at reclaiming the No. 1 spot.
This will be an interesting year for the ATP Tour. As mentioned previously, the top 2 players in the world have tons of points to defend in different areas of the season. For Federer it was this early part of the year in Australia and he has done so wonderfully so far but we now have to see how the Masters in the USA go for him. For Nadal, he has a lot to defend in the clay court season because he won Roland Garros, Madrid, Barcelona Montecarlo, made finals of Rome last year, and won the US Open. We still do not know if Federer will play the clay court season this year. If he does choose to play some clay court events and does well, he could really make a great push for year-end No. 1.
The part that a lot of people (myself included) is to see how Djokovic, Murray, and Wawrinka get back into form and how Federer and Nadal deal with them. As a Federer fan, I do not like to admit it, but their absence did make it easier for Federer to take come back to be the dominant player on the planet. However, I truly believe it is great for tennis to have all of the superstars making their way back into the mix. We also must consider the younger players that can also cause some damage. Alex Zverev continues to improve his big game. Dominic Thiem is the second-best player on clay and has enough firepower hit through anyone on a good day, and Grigor Dimitrov is starting to become a consistent threat on all surfaces. That is what makes sports interesting after all, watching the heavyweights go at it for the biggest titles. This is probably what makes this arguably the best era in men’s tennis, we have 3 of the top 5 players of all time playing at the same time along with a few other players with dangerous games that can take anyone down on any given day.