When you open up the ATP rankings you’ll see a certain Spaniard at the very top of the list. For many years this would have been a certain Rafael Nadal but right now it’s none other than his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz. In one sense, after a stunning last 18 months–including a maiden Grand Slam in New York, as well as a handful of Masters titles–it’s perhaps well deserved, but when you look at it in reality, there’s no way he should be holding that top spot.
Going into Wimbledon, the 20-year-old will not only be the best player in the world according to the ATP but also the top seed, the first time in over 20 years it hasn’t been occupied by either Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, or Andy Murray, which is absolutely crazy to think about.
Novak Djokovic Deserves the #1 Ranking
But here’s the problem, despite all his success, he’s not the best player in the world, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. There’s four Grand Slams in tennis, the pinnacle of the sport and guess what, Novak Djokovic currently holds three of them, having won Wimbledon last year and then easing his way to Grand Slams #22 in Melbourne and a record-breaking #23 in in Paris earlier this month. How can the best player in the world currently have one Grand Slam on his ranking whilst the second-best player has three? Also, the biggest event outside of these Grand Slams is also the ATP Finals, in which the best eight players in the world compete; no prizes for guessing who won that as well.
Which only makes matters even worse because the fact we’re even in this situation has a few different factors, and all that are somewhat laughable. The first obviously being Wimbledon’s shameful and stupid decision to ban Russians and Belarussians from competing last year. Following on from that, the ATP, WTA, and ITF all stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points. (This makes sense. How can you award ranking points for an event if some athletes are barred from competing just because of where they’re born.) For the fourth Wimbledon in a row, of course, the Serbian superstar went onto win it. In 2022, though, he gained a whopping 0 points (in fact he lost the 2000 points he was defending from the previous year), the exact same as me and you–who didn’t even play the event.
With those 2000 ranking points the current 36-year-old should have received he would be 1750 points ahead of the the man 16 years his junior in the rankings. That’s a Masters win, 500 title, and 250 trophy ahead, not a small difference at all. Now, you might just be thinking that Novak Djokovic isn’t the best player in the world ranking wise because of Wimbledon, but it only gets worse.
Carlos Alcaraz’s Grand Slam came at the US Open last year, and whilst he did beat likes of Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud en route to the title, both current Top 10 players as of right now, you can’t help but feel the door was opened because he didn’t have to face Novak Djokovic. Of course, it’s not his fault he didn’t, but it’s not as if Djokovic was in the event and didn’t make it far enough to play the talented Spaniard. He didn’t even withdraw, either. Instead he wasn’t even allowed to enter the United States due to their COVID vaccination rules.
For all we know, even if the two played over there maybe Alcaraz would have won, but given Djokovic’s nine finals and three titles at the event there’s every chance he was the favorite to make it four titles–and at least make the latter rounds which would have offered a large haul of ranking points. As it stands right now, had the 23-time Grand Slam champion been able to play the US Open in 2022, even a third-round loss would have him in his rightful position at the top of the rankings.
So that’s two things, Wimbledon not offering points last year and also not being able to play the US Open. Then there’s also Indian Wells and Miami, a further two events in the United States where the former World #1 could not enter due to the same reason of not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The man from Belgrade has 11 titles combined in both events, yet ended up with zero ranking points from both events whilst his much younger rival got the full 1000 winning in the Californian desert and a further 360 with a semifinal in Miami. It just adds up and from those three U.S. events alone, the youngster from Murcia gained an insane 3360 points, almost 45% of the points making up his ranking. It just makes the sport look laughable and horrible when all of this is down to his biggest rival not being allowed to play.
To conclude, Carlos Alcaraz is the future of tennis, that much is clear. We’ve not seen a youngster this good in the men’s game since the likes of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray themselves, but right now he’s by far and away the second-best player in the world, not the first as the rankings suggest. Had the Serb been able to play the events he would have liked and points offered at Wimbledon last year, it’s clear and obvious he would be miles ahead of everyone else in the standings as he should be.
The fact that the seven-time Wimbledon champion is ahead of everyone else in the total weeks at world #1 despite all this and the rankings being frozen for a period years ago is only a testament to just how good he is. His record of 389 weeks should no doubt be closer to 450 if it wasn’t for so much going against him. Every person and organization that has allowed this not to be the case should be ashamed of themselves. Not only is Novak Djokovic currently the best player in the world, it’s also pretty evident he’s the greatest player of all time.
Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports