Carlos Alcaraz had an unexpectedly early exit at the National Bank Open. The Spaniard lost in the quarterfinals last week to Tommy Paul. But while Paul likely celebrated the victory quite a bit, the real winner from Alcaraz’s loss might be Novak Djokovic.
And in a weird way, Novak Djokovic is benefiting from not being able to play in the United States last year. Do I wish he had been playing? Of course! But because he didn’t participate at the US Open or at the Western and Southern Open, he has no points to defend.
Meanwhile, because of the weird way the ATP accounts for points in its rankings, Alcaraz could lose the number one ranking to Djokovic because Alcaraz has a ton of points to defend. In the 2022 Western and Southern Open, Alcaraz made the quarterfinals so he has 180 points to defend. The Spaniard won the US Open and this means he has 2,000 points to defend there.
Djokovic will likely regain the number one ranking, at least temporarily
If Alcaraz wins both the Western and Southern Open and US Open, he would accumulate 3,000 points. This would give him a total of 10,215 points. He will be the top seed at both tournaments.
Djokovic, though, only has to reach the semifinals at the Western and Southern Open and make the finals of the US Open – he doesn’t need to win either tournament – to exceed Alcaraz’s point total. If Djokovic reaches the semis in Cincinnati and the finals in New York, he would have a total of 10,355 points, clear of Alcaraz by a bit over 100 points.
If the Serb does overtake the Spaniard, it may only be a temporary regaining of the top ranking. Djoko might be held prisoner by his own success at the end of last year when he won three tournaments (Tel Aviv, Astana, and the Nitto ATP Finals) and reached the finals in another tourney (Masters 1000 in Paris). He will have 2,850 points to defend.
Alcaraz was injured before the Nitto ATP Finals in 2022 and didn’t play so he has zero points to defend. What will likely happen, unless either player loses early in the next two tournaments, is that Djokovic will regain the number one ranking from Alcaraz, but then Alcaraz will regain the ranking before the end of the year.