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    Which Men’s Tennis Player Will Be No. 1 at the End of the Year?

    Novak Djokovic has taken the top spot for the last two years, but, with his struggles, now it’s up for grabs.By the time Novak Djokovic took to the court for his match against Daniil Medvedev in the finals of the Rolex Paris Masters last year, he already knew he would end the season ranked No. 1 in the world for a record-breaking seventh time.With his win over Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals of that event Djokovic ensured that he would surpass Pete Sampras, who finished as No. 1 for six consecutive years from 1993-98. Close behind are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Jimmy Connors, each of whom ended the season ranked No. 1 five times.“It’s always one of the biggest goals, to try to be No. 1 and end the season as No. 1,” Djokovic said last year. “To do it for the record seventh time and surpass my childhood idol and role model, Pete, is incredible. Very grateful, very blessed to be in this position.”This year, Djokovic has no chance to end the year ranked No. 1. Because of his decision to remain unvaccinated, he was unable to play tournaments in Australia and the United States, including two of the four majors — the Australian and United States Opens. The one major that he did win, Wimbledon, did not award ranking points after Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing after Russia invaded Ukraine.Heading into the Paris Masters, Djokovic had played just 10 events all season. He didn’t compete from mid-July to mid- SeptemberSince losing to Nadal in the quarterfinals of the French Open in June, Djokovic has won 17 of his last 18 matches, beating Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this month. Still, he is ranked No. 7, his lowest ATP ranking since August 2018 when he was No. 10 following an extended break because of elbow surgery.Rafael Nadal is one of five players who could potentially end the year ranked No. 1.Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesSo with the sport’s most dominant player faltering in the rankings, the year-end No. 1 ranking is up for grabs. Multiple players have more of the ATP points that determine the top spot than Djokovic, with Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s U.S. Open winner, sitting at No. 1, about 650 points ahead of second-ranked Nadal and about 3,800 ahead of Djokovic.“The rankings are really skewed this year,” said Pam Shriver, a former top-10 player and now an ESPN commentator. “A lot of people still look at Novak as No. 1. After all, he’s only lost one match since June. His ranking may say No. 7, but that’s all because of Wimbledon. He’s playing like the No. 1 player in the world. It’s not apples to apples like other years.”Under the normal points system, Djokovic might not even qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy, this year. Heading into Paris, he was in 10th place in the points race. But under the ATP’s Grand Slam champion rule, any player who wins a major title and is ranked within the top 20 is guaranteed a spot in the year-end championship. (The WTA Tour has no such rule, which is why Djokovic’s fellow Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina, did not qualify for the WTA Finals in Fort Worth.)“Most of the upheaval this year is because of Djokovic,” Patrick McEnroe, a former United States Davis Cup captain and now an ESPN commentator said. “He missed two majors and didn’t get points for the one he won. It really affected the rest of the field. You could make the case that if Djokovic runs the table, wins Paris and the ATP Finals, that he deserves to be No. 1.”The player most likely to end 2022 at No. 1 is Alcaraz. So far he has won five tournaments this year, including ATP Masters 1000s in Miami and Madrid. In Madrid, he beat Nadal, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in succession. At the U.S. Open, he knocked off Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals and then Casper Ruud for the championship. He then, at 19, became the youngest No. 1 in ATP rankings history.The issue for Alcaraz is his lack of indoor experience. Entering the Paris Masters, Alcaraz had played just two tournaments, in Astana and Basel, Switzerland, and two Davis Cup matches indoors this season. Last year he lost in the third round in Paris, but went on to win the Next Gen ATP Finals.“The way this game is supposed to work is that the new guys get better and start beating the old guys,” said Jimmy Arias, once ranked No. 5 and now the director of tennis at the IMG Academy in Florida. “Alcaraz has shown that he’s the guy to replace them because he’s beaten Nadal and Djokovic this year. I don’t want those older guys to just fade away. The new guys won’t get respect without beating them. It’s the natural order of things.”In the last few weeks of the season, there are five players who could potentially end the year No. 1 — Alcaraz, Nadal, Ruud, Medvedev and Tsitsipas. Ruud reached two major finals this year, finishing second to Nadal at the French Open and to Alcaraz at the U.S. Open. Ruud has also won three lower-level titles and was runner-up to Alcaraz at the Masters 1000 in Miami.Medvedev, who beat Djokovic in the final of the U.S. Open last year, was runner-up to Nadal at the Australian Open in January. Shortly after, Medvedev, ascended to world No. 1.But Medvedev was banned from playing Wimbledon and then lost to Nick Kyrgios in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open. He is now ranked No. 4.Tsitsipas is also within range of No. 1. He has won two ATP titles, in Monte Carlo, Monaco; and Mallorca, Spain, and reached the semifinals at the Australian Open. Though he faltered at the other three majors, Tsistipas has a 14-6 record on indoor hard courts this year and reached the finals in Astana and Stockholm this month.“This year has been so bizarre,” McEnroe said. “It’s almost hard to legitimize the game and its rankings. The wrinkle in all of this is Ruud, Tsitsipas and Medvedev could all end up mathematically No. 1, but that would be too bad. I don’t think they deserve it.”Some experts said that Nadal should be crowned year-end No. 1, especially given the way he started the year. He had a 21-match win streak, taking three tournaments, including the Australian Open. He was finally stopped by Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final.Nadal went on to win his 14th French Open, beating Djokovic in the quarterfinals and advancing to the final when Zverev had an ankle injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Nadal also reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, but withdrew because of a torn abdominal muscle.“To me, the person who wins the majors is actually No. 1,” Arias said. “I look at the guy who played less, but won more. And that’s Nadal.”Regardless of what the computer says in December, this men’s season will be controversial. Had Djokovic been vaccinated and allowed into Australia and the United States, he might well have equaled his 55-7 record of 2021.“I do have empathy for Djokovic,” McEnroe said. “I don’t agree with his decision, but he suffered the consequences. He paid a high price for sticking to his guns.”Arias said this would be a year for the record books.“With Novak not being able to play, and with Wimbledon banning players and then giving no ranking points, I almost feel like this year shouldn’t count,” he added. “But 25 years from now no one is going to remember any of this..” More

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    Federer-Nadal Rivalry Ends in a Doubles Match Partnership

    One of the greatest rivalries in tennis history will end in harmony on Friday when Roger Federer plays his final competitive match with Rafael Nadal as his doubles partner.The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has been a 21st-century staple.Righty versus lefty. Panache versus perspiration. Zen vs. Vamos.Back in the day, it was the establishment versus the avant-garde, as well, but that distinction has blurred through the decades, just as the edge has softened. Many of the new-age fans whom Federer and Nadal attracted to the game might need reminding that Federer is nearly five years older than his defining rival from Majorca.That significant age gap helps explain why Federer will be the first of the golden-era gang to retire from professional tennis (even if Andy Murray came tearily close a few years back before soldiering on with an artificial hip joint). Federer turned 41 last month and will play what he insists is his final competitive match on Friday night in the Laver Cup team event in London.“Sitting here, it feels good that I go first from the guys; it just feels right,” Federer said at a news conference on Thursday, flanked by Murray, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, all his teammates for this special farewell weekend at the O2 Arena.Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Federer and Nadal once made up the Big Four of tennis, until Murray faded and the rest became the Big Three.Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThey were once the Big Four, with Murray serving as Ringo Starr, but they have long since become the Big Three. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have racked up 20 or more Grand Slam singles titles and won multiple majors in their 30s, often at one another’s expense.Their careers are all deeply, inextricably intertwined, and Nadal and Djokovic have actually played each other significantly more on tour than Nadal and Federer.But Fedal was the original golden-age rivalry, and if “Fedal” still sounds a bit clunky, best to consider the alternatives. “Naderer”? No gracias.Federer and Nadal first played singles in March 2004 in a night match in the third round of the Miami Open, with the 17-year-old Nadal ambushing the top-ranked Federer in little more than an hour. The final score was 6-3, 6-3.But their first match was actually the week before, when Nadal and his Spanish compatriot Tommy Robredo defeated Federer and his Swiss compatriot Yves Allegro 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, Calif.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.A Billion-Dollar Brand: Some tennis superstars have built sponsorship empires. But none ever wooed the corporate class as brilliantly as Federer did.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.For those like me who like their symmetry, it feels rather neat and tidy that Fedal will end back on the doubles court, as they partner each other, creaky knees willing, on Friday night for Team Europe against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.“Different kind of pressure,” Nadal said of the occasion. “After all the amazing things that we shared together on and off the court, to be part of this historic moment is going to be something amazing, unforgettable for me. Super excited. I hope I can have a good chance to play at a decent level, and hopefully together we can create a good moment and maybe win a match. So, let’s see.”Victory is hardly guaranteed. Sock, whose whipping forehand has even more topspin than Nadal’s or Federer’s, is one of the world’s best doubles players, and Tiafoe, his fellow American, is still on a high after making a breakthrough run to the semifinals of this month’s U.S. Open in singles.“Obviously tomorrow night is going to be a beyond-iconic evening,” Sock said on Thursday. “I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe next to me. We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”Perhaps Sock needs to be reminded that Federer is a co-owner of this event, launched in 2017 to create a tennis version of golf’s Ryder Cup and establish a more solid bridge between the generations, with captains John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg on opposite benches and Rod Laver as the namesake.But Federer, who wants the Laver Cup to be taken seriously even though it awards no ranking points, would surely have no quarrel with Sock and Tiafoe going full throttle. And it is honestly hard to imagine anything spoiling the night other than Federer limping around the O2, unable to cover his half of the court.Nobody is up for that, even if Federer is smartly trying to manage expectations.Bjorn Borg, Europe’s Laver Cup captain, with Federer on Thursday.Andrew Boyers/Action Images Via ReutersWhen Borg, Team Europe’s silver-maned captain, was asked about his squad on Thursday, his answer was: “Everybody is healthy. They are ready to play.”Federer quickly interjected: “Medium healthy.”Not prepared to play one more singles match because of his postoperative knees, Federer chose doubles as the safer option, but this will still be his first competitive match in more than 14 months.There will be rust, and then there will be the emotions, his and his public’s, and as the thousands of fans present for Thursday’s open practice session made clear, there will be noise.Ivan Ljubicic, one of Federer’s longtime coaches, took it all in courtside and started to tear up, and he is not even playing.“I’m not sure if I can handle it all; I’ll try,” Federer said. “I have had some tougher moments as well in the past, you know, being horribly nervous all these years sometimes before matches. This one definitely feels a whole lot different.”It’s different in part because his co-tormenters-in-chief, Nadal and Djokovic, are teammates this time.“I am super excited to have them on our team and my team and not having to play against them on my last match,” Federer said.It certainly has lightened the mood in the prelude.On Thursday, Djokovic was asked which of his previous battles with Federer first came to mind.Djokovic gallantly began with the 2007 U.S. Open final against Federer.Djokovic: “I lost that match.”Federer: “He’s being nice now. Thank you, Novak.”Djokovic: “I haven’t finished.”There was laughter, and he soon got around to mentioning the 2019 Wimbledon final, in which Federer had two match points on his serve in the fifth set but was unable to close it out. (Djokovic gallantly did not go into these details either.)“What happened?” Federer asked. “I’ve blocked it out.”There was more laughter, which has certainly not been the rule among men’s tennis rivals over the past couple of decades. So many major titles have been at stake so often as they pushed each other on the match court and, in their quieter moments, on the practice court.They all became better because of that daily pressure, and Federer and Nadal concluded long ago that they had more reach as a pair than on their own.Fedal’s best singles matches have been some of the best content of the new century: the 2006 Italian Open final won by Nadal, the 2007 Wimbledon final won by Federer, the pièce de résistance 2008 Wimbledon final won in near darkness by Nadal, the 2017 Australian Open final won by Federer after both had come back from extended injury layoffs.The backlist is strong, too, even if they, frustratingly for us symmetrical sorts, never played at the U.S. Open. And though Nadal will forever lead the series 24-16, Federer can glide into the sunset (and toward their future exhibition matches) with his strong chin held high after winning six of their last seven encounters.“Through time, we’ve left behind a bit of that hard-core rivalry on court for a rivalry that we both value and understand has been part of something special within the world of sport,” Nadal once told me. “And I think we also understand that both of us have benefited from it, and we have to take care of it.”On Friday night, on the same side of the net at the end of an era, they can take care of each other. More

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    As Roger Federer Retires, Two Great Rivalries Come to an End

    A look at the great matches between Federer and Rafael Nadal as well as Federer and Novak Djokovic.Baseball has the Yankees and Red Sox. Soccer has F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid. College football has Michigan and Ohio State.Over the past two decades, men’s tennis has had Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and also Federer and Novak Djokovic. In team sports, rosters change year by year and the rivalries endure. But when players retire in individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them.Such is the case for Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, and his rivalries with Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, and Djokovic, who has 21 Grand Slam titles.As the eldest of what has become known as the Big Three in men’s tennis, Federer, 41, made his debut on the pro tour earlier than Djokovic and Nadal. Federer turned pro in 1998 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2003 at Wimbledon. Nadal, 36, turned pro in 2001 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2005 at the French Open, and Djokovic, 35, turned pro in 2003 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2008 at the Australian Open.Jon Wertheim, a Tennis Channel commentator and sports journalist, said the younger Nadal and Djokovic had more time to prepare for how to beat Federer.“By virtue of being first, he could not tailor his game for how to beat them,” Wertheim said of Federer. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for raising the bar. He will finish third in majors won, but there’s a huge disadvantage that comes with being first.”In the end, Federer played Nadal 40 times from their first match against each other in the round of 32 at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Miami in 2004 (which Nadal won) to their most recent match, a Wimbledon semifinal in 2019 (which Federer won). Federer beat Nadal 16 times; Nadal won 24 times.Federer and Djokovic played in 50 matches against each other. Starting with their first match at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Monaco (which Federer won) to their most recent match, a semifinal at the Australian Open in 2020 (which Djokovic won), Djokovic came out slightly ahead, winning 27 matches to Federer’s 23.David Law, a commentator and co-host of “The Tennis Podcast,” said the rivalries made all three players better over time.“One would gain the upper hand, the other was forced to adapt,” Law said. “Federer doesn’t develop the smashed backhand drive down the line if Nadal doesn’t force him into taking it early to avoid the high backhand off the back foot. Djokovic doesn’t develop his serve with the help of Goran Ivanisevic if Federer isn’t all over him trying to half volley the return and charge in.”The rivalries made for some epic matches. Here is a look at some of the best between Federer and Nadal, and Federer and Djokovic:Nadal vs. Federer, 2008 Wimbledon finalFor many fans, the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final will go down as one of the best matches in the history of tennis. Going into the final that year, Federer had won five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, including two against Nadal, in 2006 and 2007.Played on Centre Court, which did not yet have a roof, the match was delayed twice because of rain, pushing it closer and closer to darkness. The match went to tiebreakers in the third and fourth sets. In the fourth set, Federer saved two match points, and in the fifth set, he was two points away from winning his sixth consecutive Wimbledon final.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.A Billion-Dollar Brand: Some tennis superstars have built sponsorship empires. But none ever wooed the corporate class as brilliantly as Federer did.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.Finally, at 9:16 p.m. local time, after 4 hours 48 minutes, Federer hit a forehand into the net. Nadal collapsed onto the grass with his first Wimbledon title, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.Federer said after the match that it was “probably my hardest loss, by far; I mean it’s not much harder than this right now.”“He played a super match, and I’m sure it was a great match to watch and to play, but it’s all over now,” Federer said. “I need some time.”Nadal vs. Federer, 2009 Australian Open finalFederer and Nadal met again the next year at the Australian Open final in 2009. Again, the two played five sets in a match that lasted more than four hours. In the end, Nadal defeated Federer, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2, stopping Federer at least temporarily from matching Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.The intense match is also remembered for its emotional ending. After the match, a devastated Federer struggled to speak during the trophy ceremony.“God, it’s killing me,” he said before breaking into tears.After lifting his trophy, Nadal walked back to Federer and put his arm around him and put his head to Federer’s, appearing to console him. Federer pulled himself together and walked back to the microphone.“I don’t want to have the last word; this guy deserves it,” Federer said. “So, Rafa, congratulations. You played incredible. You deserve it, man.”Djokovic vs. Federer, 2014 Wimbledon finalLaw said that while the 2008 Wimbledon final will be remembered as a standout match, “the best rivalry was the one between Federer and Djokovic.”They met in the Wimbledon final in 2014. By then, Federer had seven Wimbledon titles, and Djokovic had one. The final went to five sets, with tiebreakers in the first and third sets.At 4-5, Federer was serving with the game at 40-15 in Djokovic’s favor. Trying to return one of Djokovic’s forehand shots, Federer’s iconic one-handed backhand failed him, as he hit the ball into the net, losing the match, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4.“Winning or losing, it’s always something special and something you’ll remember, even more so when the match was as dramatic as it was today,” Federer said after the match. “It’s even more memorable when I see my kids there with my wife and everything. That’s what touched me the most, to be quite honest. The disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly.”Nadal vs. Federer, 2017 Australian Open finalFederer, then 35, entered the Australian Open in 2017 after some considerable time off in 2016 because of a knee injury. Federer reached the final and defeated Nadal, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The win was Federer’s first major title since Wimbledon in 2012 and the first time he had beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2007.Like in the 2008 Wimbledon final, when Nadal and Federer played, Law said that “neither could pick on a specific weakness.”“It became a sharpshooter’s matchup full of shotmaking, attack and counterattack,” Law said.Though it was a meaningful win for Federer, the match ended in a less than ideal manner. Serving while up, 5-3, in the final set, and after a small flurry of line challenges, Federer hit a forehand to Nadal’s right on a championship point. The ball was called in, but Nadal immediately raised a finger and challenged, arguing that the ball was out.The players anxiously waited for the official review of the shot, which confirmed that the ball was in and had hit the line. Federer immediately threw his arms into the air and leaped in celebration.“Of course, it’s slightly awkward to win this way,” Federer said after the match. “Nevertheless, emotions poured out of me. I was incredibly happy.”Djokovic vs. Federer, 2019 Wimbledon finalThe Wimbledon final in 2019 will go down as Federer’s last appearance in a Grand Slam final. To reach it, Federer beat Nadal in four sets in the semifinal. The final turned out to be another marathon, five sets in 4 hours 57 minutes. The final set lasted just over two hours by itself. In the end, Djokovic beat Federer, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3).Djokovic saved two match points on Federer’s serve, then won in a final-set tiebreaker that was the first of its kind for a Wimbledon final.After the match, Djokovic said he thought Federer had commanded most of the match.“I was defending,” Djokovic said. “He was dictating the play. I just tried to fight and find a way when it mattered the most, which is what happened.”Federer said there were some similarities to the Wimbledon final in 2008 when he lost to Nadal.“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed, I can’t believe it,” Federer said. More

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    At the Laver Cup, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray Make Team Europe Formidable

    Team World has never won the cup, and now it will face the rare dream team of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and the retiring Roger Federer.When he announced his retirement from professional tennis last week, Roger Federer put a cap on one of the most storied careers in the sport. That he chose to end competitive play at the Laver Cup, the Ryder Cup-style event that he and his management team founded in 2017 as a chummy atmosphere of star players to showcase great tennis, speaks volumes.He will say goodbye to his fans while competing alongside his greatest rivals — Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — demonstrating just how important the Laver Cup, which starts on Friday in London, is and will continue to be for Federer.“This is a bittersweet decision because I will miss everything the tour has given me,” he said on Twitter on Sept. 15. “But at the same time there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.”The Big Four, as they have been known, have faced off countless times at Grand Slam events, but never have they been teamed together, until this weekend when they form the nucleus of Team Europe in the Laver Cup.Those four players have been formidable. Between them, they have won 329 ATP titles over the last two decades. They have amassed 66 major championships, including 19 at Wimbledon, 17 at both the Australian and French Opens and 13 at the United States Open. They have won more than 4,000 matches and earned nearly half a billion dollars in prize money.Novak Djokovic, left, and Andy Murray, will also play for Team Europe. This is the first time the four players, who have won a total of 66 major championships, have all played together on a team.Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesEvery year since 2004, one of them has ended the season ranked No. 1 in the world. Federer, the oldest at 41, won his first match in September 1998 just after his 17th birthday, when he beat Guillaume Raoux in Toulouse, France.“Let me first say, this is legendary,” said a grinning Stefanos Tsitsipas, who is ranked No. 6 in the world and is playing in the Laver Cup for the third straight time. “This team is a joke. This is Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls.”When the Laver Cup started, Federer said at the time, “We need to see the legends of our sport more frequently, who we’d like to thank. It’s not just the players standing on court today, there’s so many more that have paved the way for us so we can enjoy playing in front of a crowd like this, earn a living and live our dream. All of us, all we wanted to do all our life is play tennis, and here we are.”The fifth edition of the competition will again include singles and doubles matches and also feature Casper Ruud, No. 2, and Tsitsipas for Team Europe against a contingent representing the rest of the world. Called Team World because it includes players from other parts of the globe, the team includes Taylor Fritz, No. 12; Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 13; Diego Schwartzman, No. 17; Frances Tiafoe, No. 19; Alex de Minaur, No. 22; and Jack Sock, No. 128.Tiafoe, who upset Nadal in the U.S. Open and then beat Andrey Rublev before falling in the semifinals to the eventual champion, Carlos Alcaraz, is a last-minute replacement for John Isner, who fractured his left wrist at the U.S. Open.The captain of Team Europe is the six-time French Open, five-time U.S. Open champion Bjorn Borg. Leading Team World, which has lost every year since the event’s inception, is the seven-time major winner John McEnroe.“I love being part of this event in any way, shape or form,” said McEnroe, an ESPN commentator. “Just seeing my buddy Bjorn on the other side. Obviously, my days are getting numbered because my record isn’t too good. But the law of averages states that at some point Team World can come through. Since it’s more unpredictable this year we go in with a solid puncher’s chance.”The last time Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray were in the same major tournament was the 2019 Australian Open when Djokovic won his record seventh championship.McEnroe’s uncertainty centers on the health and ages of Federer, Nadal and Murray and the lack of tournament play for Djokovic. The average age of Team Europe’s four marquee players is almost 37, while the average age of Team World is about 26.Djokovic, 35, who was barred from playing the Australian Open and the U.S. Open because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, has played just seven tournaments this year. He won two of them, including Wimbledon, but his ranking has dropped to No. 7.Murray, 35, has shown stretches of brilliance this year, notably when he beat Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en route to the final in Stuttgart in June. But he also failed to win back-to-back matches from mid-January to early May.Nadal, 36, has been hampered ever since he tore an abdominal muscle at Indian Wells in March. Then, after beating Fritz in a five-setter in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Nadal was forced to withdraw before his semifinal match against Kyrgios. He also struggles with chronic foot pain.Still, Nadal is looking forward to supporting his longtime friend Federer. Asked if he would play doubles with him, as he did in a win over Sock and Sam Querrey in 2017 — a match that featured a near midair collision and giggles between them — Nadal said he would jump at the chance. “If the captain chooses us as teammates, why not?” Nadal said with a smile.Federer will clearly be the biggest draw of the weekend. He has not competed since last year’s Wimbledon, when he lost in the quarterfinals to Hubert Hurkacz. Federer had knee surgery last year in August and struggled to return to the tour, prompting his decision to retire.Roger Federer played with Alexander Zverev in a doubles match at the 2019 Laver Cup.Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesFederer is part owner of the Laver Cup. He missed last year’s event because of his knee, but arrived on crutches to cheers from the fans and sat on the bench encouraging Team Europe. This year he will do everything he can to play, even if it is just in doubles with Nadal.For the younger players, just being able to share the Laver Cup experience with Federer is valuable.“I’ve learned so much from these greats,” said Tsitsipas, who played doubles with Federer at the 2019 Laver Cup. “I get to share something very meaningful with them through the course of the three-day performance period. More than that, we get to connect and share great ideas on court, off court, be part of something very extraordinary for our sport.”When asked the nature of those off-court experiences, Tsitsipas deferred.“I signed an N.D.A., so I’m not allowed to share,” he said with a laugh, referring to a nondisclosure agreement.As for Ruud, who played in his first Laver Cup last year in Boston and finished second in the U.S. Open this month, just playing with the Big Four is magical.“It’s going to be so special, and a small dream come true,” Ruud said. “For all the tennis fans around the world to see the Big Four on the team together for the first time, and maybe the last time. To know that I can be a part of that team and learn from them and be around them for that week will be incredible.”“Roger has always been an inspiration to everyone,” Ruud added. “For me as well. He shows that what we thought was impossible is possible. I can’t wait to see him at the Laver Cup.” More

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    Who’s the Best Men’s Tennis Player? It Depends on How You Measure.

    Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all have credible claims to be considered the best. Here are a few ways to consider their gaudy stats.When Roger Federer announced his retirement this week, he was showered with hosannas befitting one of the greatest men’s tennis players of all time.But was he merely one of the greatest? Or was he the greatest of them all?It’s not hard to declare a favorite player the best ever and then seek out statistics to justify the argument. Let’s come at it from the other direction and look at numbers first to see where they lead.Grand Slam WinsIf any single number has been widely accepted as the ultimate measure of a tennis great, it is the number of Grand Slam tournaments won. And there is certainly plenty of logic behind that.A Grand Slam title is the ultimate goal for most players: The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open draw the most attention and the strongest fields and shower their winners with prize money and visibility. In men’s tennis, they are also known for a best-of-five-set format, a lengthier test than those in regular tour events.This simplest of measures is the one most tennis fans know:

    By The New York TimesThe Big Three (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) tower over the rest of men’s tennis history as they do in so many categories.Both Nadal and Djokovic are still playing, too, and could increase their totals; the two between them won three of the four Grand Slam singles titles this year.Grand Slam PerformancesReducing Grand Slam performances to a binary — did he win or not? — is something of an oversimplification. Winning matches and advancing deep into a tournament are important, too, no matter what Vince Lombardi might say.The scoring system might be debatable, but what if we awarded 6 points for a Grand Slam win, 3 for a runner-up finish and 1 for making a semifinal?Now the players stack up this way:

    Note: Under this scoring system, a Grand Slam title is worth 6 points, an appearance in the final is worth 3 and an appearance in the semifinals is worth 1. Djokovic scores 170 points because 21×6 + 11×3 + 11×1 = 170.By The New York TimesIf anything, it’s just as close. And a slightly different scoring system could easily change the order.For example, plenty of fans consider the Olympics, in which tennis is staged every four years, to be a Slam or a near-Slam-caliber tournament in importance. Each of the players won one Olympic singles medal. Add 6 for Nadal’s gold, 3 for Federer’s silver and 1 for Djokovic’s bronze and you get a laughably close race: 171-171-170, with Nadal trailing by just a point.Federer beat Rafael Nadal in the 2006 Wimbledon final. But Nadal holds the edge in their head-to-head record, 24-16.Anja Niedringhaus/Associated PressAll three men also lost the bronze medal match at an Olympics, and Djokovic did it twice. That’s the equivalent of a semifinal, which would push Djokovic a point ahead.Grand Slams From Another AngleCounting only Grand Slam wins, finals and semifinals doesn’t account for early round performances, nor does it factor in that Federer got his start earlier than the other two players and has had more opportunities in Grand Slams. A simple won-lost record in Grand Slam events accounts for both of those factors. By this measure:

    By The New York TimesFederer’s longevity counts against him here; some early- and late-career losses bring down his win percentage. The same could happen in the twilight of Nadal and Djokovic’s careers, if they stick around.VersatilityWinning on a variety of surfaces is important to a player’s legacy. That’s why Federer’s lone Grand Slam win on clay, in the 2009 French Open, mattered so much to tennis fans.So — and stick with us here — what if instead of adding up the Grand Slam titles, we multiplied them? This would give more points to players who won a variety of Grand Slams and penalize the specialists. It would also give a score of 0 to anyone who didn’t win all four, but luckily each of the big three did.

    Note: Singles titles in the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open are shown. Under this scoring system, Djokovic scores 378 points because 9×2×7×3 = 378.By The New York TimesDjokovic’s comparative versatility gives him the edge here. Federer is hurt by winning only once in Paris, while Nadal’s amazing 14 French Open wins have diminishing returns by this method.Other TournamentsTennis is not just the Grand Slams, and the totality of the men’s careers should probably be looked at as well.In terms of won-lost record in all official events, they stack up:

    By The New York TimesBy winning percentage, it’s Nadal, Djokovic, Federer. By total wins, it’s Federer, Nadal, Djokovic.Here’s more to consider: Djokovic spent 373 weeks ranked at No. 1 and ended seven different years there. Federer was on top for 310 weeks and five times at year’s end, and Nadal 209 and five.Federer won 103 tour singles titles, Nadal has 92 and Djokovic 88. (For once, another player beats the triumvirate: Jimmy Connors, playing in a much different era, won 109 titles, something for those who want to make a very contrarian case for the best ever.)While some players and fans dismiss the Davis Cup, others see it as a critical part of the tennis calendar. Nadal has a stunning 29-1 record in Cup play, for a .967 percentage. Djokovic is 38-7, .844, and Federer is 40-8, .833.The Nuts and BoltsMaybe gaudy stats such as wins and Grand Slams are too results oriented. The ATP Tour compiles plenty of others to examine the players at a hyper-granular level.But there’s little clarity here either. Who has the best serve? Federer won 77 percent of his first serve points, with Djokovic at 74 and Nadal at 72.Best returner in the clutch? They rank in the opposite order. Nadal has won 45 percent of break points, with Djokovic at 44 and Federer at 41.Head-to-HeadMaybe it’s time to throw out all those matches against Tomas Berdych and Diego Schwartzman. How did the Big Three fare when they faced off against each other?Here, Djokovic gets the nod, if slightly. He holds a 30-29 edge over Nadal and 27-23 over Federer. Nadal leads Federer, 24-16.And in Conclusion …There are probably a million ways to figure it. And every time you figure it, someone won’t like the way you figured it.In our little experiment, Nadal led in five categories, Djokovic in four and Federer in three. But most of the categories were extremely close. And if we had picked a few different ones, there would have been a different result. Unless you stubbornly decide that only one statistic matters, there doesn’t seem to be any way to clearly separate the three.Maybe you have a favorite. If so, we have given you some ammunition to make your argument while you are waiting for the next match at Rod Laver Arena or Arthur Ashe Stadium.But no matter who your choice is, it is clear that Federer’s retirement is the beginning of the end of a Golden Age for men’s tennis. Maybe young Carlos Alcaraz will scare some of these numbers in 20 years or so. Or maybe we will never see the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, at least all at the same time, again. More

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    Roger Federer’s Retirement Makes Room for a New Era of Champions

    Roger Federer’s retirement will auger opportunities for a new generation of players not named Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.Upon learning that Roger Federer will retire after the upcoming Laver Cup, Judy Murray, the Scottish tennis coach and mother of Andy Murray, one of Federer’s great opponents, noted on social media that it signifies “the end of a magnificent era.”But Federer’s pending retirement, announced Thursday, also foretells the conclusion of a larger era defined by more than just him.For many, it is the greatest era of men’s tennis, one that includes the unsurpassed greatness of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Collectively, the three helped define a transcendent and remarkably durable period in tennis history that also parallels the career of Serena Williams, who announced she was stepping away from the sport last month.On the men’s side, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic’s collective reign, which endured for two decades, was glorious for tennis fans. Their stubborn persistence also prevented numerous “next generations” from finding the spotlight.Nadal, 36, and Djokovic, 35, who won Wimbledon this year, will presumably still carry on a bit longer. But Federer’s announcement on Thursday reminded the tennis world that the end will eventually come for all three of them, leaving the stage to a host of hungry new players, some of whom have already muscled their way into the breach.Carlos Alcaraz, right, keeps a photo of himself with Federer on a bookshelf at his home in El Palmar, Spain.Samuel Aranda for The New York Times“Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration,” Carlos Alcaraz, the new United States Open champion, posted on his Twitter account in tribute to Federer. “Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you! Wish you all the luck in the world for what comes next!”What comes next is a peek into a future of men’s tennis minus one of its greatest male stars, and eventually all three of them.Alcaraz became the youngest men’s player to reach No. 1 when he captured the U.S. Open on Sunday at only 19. Others — including Casper Ruud, whom Alcaraz beat in the final; Daniil Medvedev, last year’s U.S. Open champion; Jannik Sinner, the promising 21-year-old from Italy; Nick Kyrgios; Frances Tiafoe; Felix Auger-Aliassime; and Denis Shapovalov — now can all ponder the possibilities that tennis mortality presents to them.“It’s been a privilege to share the court with you,” Shapovalov, 23, told Federer on social media Thursday.It will be a different kind of privilege — and opportunity — to play without him.But on the court, Federer’s retirement does not constitute a sudden change in the landscape. There were few expectations that, even if he could have rediscovered his health, Federer would come back to win more majors — not at 41, and not after three frustrating years trying to regain his footing. Nadal and Djokovic, on the other hand, remain the agenda setters in men’s tennis.Since 2019, they have combined to win 12 of the 15 major tournaments that were held. Had Djokovic not been barred from entering the United States this year, he likely would have been favored to win the U.S. Open, and if he had won, it would have given him and Nadal a sweep of this year’s majors.Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic before their French Open semifinal earlier this year.James Hill for The New York TimesTwo of the big three are still as dangerous as ever, and there is no fixed expiration date on either of them. There are concerns, though. Health has long been a nagging issue for Nadal, as it was at the U.S. Open, when he was ousted by Tiafoe in the fourth round after he returned from an abdominal strain that forced him out of Wimbledon.For Djokovic, there is the matter of his refusal to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, which prevented him from competing in this year’s Australian Open and U.S. Open. At least some doubt remains about Djokovic’s availability for those events next year, lending even more hope to the younger stars.So, can promising young players like those previously mentioned, plus No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, who won the 2020 U.S. Open, take advantage, as Alcaraz did? For the first time in 20 years, it seems possible, even with Nadal and Djokovic still standing in the way. But tennis has seen this before.In 2017, the A.T.P. launched the Next Generation Finals in Milan. Zverev, Medvedev and Karen Khachanov, who reached a U.S. Open semifinal last week, were all invited, along with Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, and Jared Donaldson, who retired with an injury. Tiafoe and Tsitsipas were alternates.Since then, only Medvedev, 26, has won a major title. The rest of the time, he and the others were thwarted, often by one of the big three. It was the same for older players, too, like Andy Roddick, Stanislas Wawrinka, David Nalbandian, David Ferrer and Mikhail Youzhny, all of whom played for leftovers.Daniil Medvedev, who beat Djokovic to win the 2021 U.S. Open, is among the emerging generation of stars.Ben Solomon for The New York TimesSince 2004, Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has finished as the year’s No. 1 player except one, when Andy Murray earned the distinction in 2016.In 2018, when Youzhny retired, he said, “Sometimes these guys didn’t give anyone else chances to win. I can’t say I would have won more, but this is a great era for tennis.”Federer came into the game first, turning professional in 1998 and winning his first Grand Slam event at Wimbledon in 2003. Nadal was next, playing professionally since 2001 and winning the first of his 22 majors in 2005. Djokovic turned professional in 2003 and won his first major title in Australia in 2008.It seems natural that they should go out in the same order. Only then can a new generation of stars finally establish a new era, one that has been decades in the making. More