Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returned to the top of the ATP Rankings for a fourth stint at the pinnacle of men’s professional tennis. Almost two years to the day since Djokovic completed his 223rd and most recent week at No. 1, he replaces Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the top spot.
According to ATP press release, Djokovic is the first player to be ranked outside the Top 20 then climb to No. 1 in the same season since Marat Safin in 2000. Safin was as low at No. 38 on 28 February 2000 before becoming No. 1 on 20 November that year. When Djokovic fell to No. 22 on 21 May 2018, it was his lowest ranking since he was No. 22 as a 19-year-old on 2 October 2006.
“Reflecting on what I’ve been through in the last year, it’s quite a phenomenal achievement,” said Djokovic. “And, of course, I’m very, very happy and proud about it. Five months ago, if you told me that, I would be — I always believe in myself, but it was highly improbable at that time considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court… I’ll probably be able to speak more profoundly about it when the season is done and hopefully if I get to finish as No. 1.”
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, “What Novak has achieved this season has to go down as one of the great sporting comebacks. It’s been a phenomenal return to form that would have been hard to imagine just six months ago. He fully deserves his return to No.1 in the ATP Rankings and should be incredibly proud of his exceptional season.”
Djokovic underwent surgery on his right elbow in January after the Australian Open, which was his first tournament in six months. He reunited with long-time coach Marian Vajda at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April and entered the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in May with a 6-6 record. Djokovic has since compiled a 43-5 match record, including a 31-2 mark since the start of Wimbledon.
The 31-year-old won two Grand Slam championship crowns at Wimbledon (d. Anderson) — which represented his first major title since June 2016 at Roland Garros — and at the US Open (d. Del Potro) for the third time in the same season (also 2011 and 2015). As the World No. 21 at Wimbledon, he was the lowest-ranked major champion since No. 44-ranked Gaston Gaudio at 2004 Roland Garros. He defeated Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set of their Wimbledon semi-final, which lasted five hours and 15 minutes.
By beating Roger Federer in August at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Djokovic became the first player to win titles at all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events since the start of the tournament series in 1990. He captured his fourth Rolex Shanghai Masters title (d. Coric) last month and additionally finished runner-up at the Fever Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club (l. to Cilic) in June and at the Rolex Paris Masters (l. to Khachanov) last week.
Djokovic and Nadal will now battle to become a five-time year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings at the Nitto ATP Finals, the season finale to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.