The Number One spot once seemed unbeatable.
Since the world rankings were first used in 1973, there have been just eight seasons in which the top-ranked player didn’t win a major. It was only a handful of years ago, when Rafael Nadal held the position, that that number approached double digits. Now it has gone up to 11. Novak Djokovic, whose latest bout of poor form came on the back of a string of early exits at the Grand Slams, is the third active player to take that spot (Gael Monfils and Stan Wawrinka did so in 2016).
Djokovic has spent more than 11 years atop the rankings. But he will have to use a lot of his recent experience and patience to win a sixth major — his first Grand Slam title came at the 2008 U.S. Open. He hasn’t won at Wimbledon since 2015, when he became the first man in the open era to hold all four majors simultaneously. He also hasn’t won a major since 2014, and a year later he was suspended by the sport’s governing body for reportedly tanking his match at the 2016 U.S. Open. Last season he won just one tournament, and he’s come up short in three matches so far this year.
It looks like he might just have to beat Federer in a final — something they’ve never done in a Grand Slam event — to get his elusive sixth title. On Wednesday night, in a tournament that almost failed to take place after the UK terror attack last month, he and Federer played the last match of the day to earn the third-to-last seeds in the U.S. Open draw.