Rankings Update: Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal is #1 with a bullet. Or, at least, some kind of wound. In his knee, probably, but maybe in his arm also. It doesn't matter in the short term; he is guaranteed to be #1 after Wimbledon, and probably for many months afterward. But the injury doubtless gives his rivals hope. Maybe he'll lose soon. Maybe he'll have trouble on hardcourts. Maybe....

Even if he does, it will be at least a few weeks before anyone can threaten his #1 ranking. But if he can do well here, he can pretty well put away the year-end #1. So his performance here does matter.

A little. The big contest in the short term, however, is for #2, #3, #4, #5....

Roger Federer has made some progress. The points he has earned so far have been enough to eliminate three of the four guys contending for #2. Robin Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko, and Andy Murray cannot possibly pass Federer. That leaves only Novak Djokovic.

Federer's lead over Djokovic is only about 350 points. If Djokovic wants to reach #2, that makes his task very straightforward: He must reach at least the semifinal, and he must last one round past Federer. So if Federer loses his next match, then Djokovic must make the semifinal. If Federer makes the quarterfinal, then Djokovic still needs to make the semifinal. If Federer makes the semifinal, then Djokovic must make the final. In other words, since they are in the same half, then Djokovic must win his semifinal with Federer.

As a footnote, coming in, Federer was a fairly strong #2, only about 200 points behind Nadal. But if Djokovic beats Federer, we will have a much weaker #2 -- even if Djokovic wins Wimbledon and Nadal loses his next match, Djokovic would still be 750 points behind Nadal in the contest for #1. Of course, Djokovic doesn't have as much to defend during the summer as does Federer, so he might be a stronger candidate for #1 at the U. S. Open.

It is still theoretically possible for Robin Soderling or Andy Murray to overtake Djokovic and move up to #3. Either one would need a title, and Murray needs Djokovic to lose his next match, and Soderling needs him to lose in the quarterfinal, but it could happen. Much closer is the contest for #4, #5, and #6. Murray came in at #4, Nikolay Davydenko at #5, and Soderling at #6, but they were quite close together in safe points. Davydenko's early loss means that he cannot rise above #5, and will fall to #6 if Murray can make the quarterfinal. The Russian could even fall to #7 if Murray makes the quarterfinal and Andy Roddick wins Wimbledon, but obviously the odds of that are much lower. As between Murray and Soderling, the one who lasts longer is going to be #4, with ties going to Soderling.

That's unless Andy Roddick wins Wimbledon. A title could take Roddick as high as #4, unless he faces Murray or Soderling in the final, in which case the finalist is #4 and Roddick #5. But if Roddick fails to win the title, the best he can hope for is to be #7, and if he fails to make the final, he will be no better than #8. And he is in line to face Djokovic in the quarterfinal and Federer in the semifinal.

Roddick hasn't even clinched the #8 ranking; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or David Ferrer could pass him with a semifinal if Roddick loses his next match. But it does seem safe to say that Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Soderling, Davydenko, Murray, del Potro, and Roddick will be Top Ten when this is over. That leaves two Top Ten spots, currently held by Verdasco and Tsonga. Tsonga needs a semifinal to pass Verdasco and clinch. Similarly Ferrer. (Note that, if they both make the semifinal, one would then go on to the final, since they're in the same half). Thomas Berdych also has a Top Ten shot if he makes the semifinal and Tsonga and Ferrer go down soon. The only other contenders are Jurgen Melzer and Sam Querrey, and either would need a title.

It is likely that we will have only one new Top Fifteen player, either Melzer or Sam Querrey, replacing Ivan Ljubicic. It will probably be Melzer; Querrey needs a semifinal to pass him. Querrey is at least certain to break into the Top Twenty, replacing Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Safe in the Top Thirty are Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Soderling, Davydenko, Murray, del Potro, Roddick, Verdasco, Tsonga, Ferrer, Cilic, Berdych, Youzhny, Melzer, Ljubicic, Monfils, Isner, Querrey, Almagro, Ferrero, Bellucci, Gonzalez, Baghdatis, Lopez, Wawrinka, Monaco, and Stepanek. That leaves two spots, which coming in were held by Gulbis and Hewitt. But Hewitt was defending quarterfinalist points, so he is only #31 in safe points. Right now, Gulbis and Montanes have the #29 and #30 spots. But Hewitt can pass both, and clinch, by winning his next match (against Djokovic). Or Julien Benneteau can make is by winning his next match if Hewitt loses, or by winning his next two no matter what Hewitt does.

In doubles, the early loss by Nestor/Zimonjic makes a change at #1 possible. The Bryans have two possible milestones ahead of them: If they make the final, they are back at #1, and if they win the title, they set the record for titles as a team.

The Bryans and Nestor/Zimonjic will be #1-#4 no matter what happens here. Lukas Dlouhy will be #5 unless Mahesh Bhupathi wins the title, and Leander Paes will be #6 unless Bhupathi makes the final. Bhupathi could still end up as high as #5 or as low as #8, but his current #7 seems the best bet. The Bryans, Nestor, Zimonjic, Dlouhy, Paes, Bhupati, and Mark Knowles are guaranteed to be To Ten. The last two Top Ten spots coming in were held by Marach and Kubot, but they are now out. It is likely that Andy Ram and Max Mirnyi will get the last two spots, but not quite mathematically certain. Aspelin and Hanley could still pass them with a final, and Moodie and Norman with a title -- assuming Ram and Mirnyi lose soon.



Rankings Update: Wimbledon
Quick: Assume you have four players. How many possible orders can they be ranked in?

Believe it or not, the answer is no fewer than 24. If we call our four players S (for Serena Williams), J (for Jelena Jankovic), C (for Caroline Wozniacki), and V (for Venus Williams), the 24 possible orders are:

10. JSVC
11. JVCS
12. JVSC
13. SCJV
14. SCVJ
15. SJCV
16. SJCV
17. SVCJ
18. SVJC
19. VCJS
20. VCSJ
21. VJCS
22. VJSC
23. VSCJ
24. VSJC

To be sure, in the real world of ranking the top four, some of those orders are impossible. Serena cannot end up at #4, and it is highly unlikely that she will end up at #3. But that is about the only constraint on the order. Serena can end up anywhere from #1 to #3, and Jankovic, Wozniacki, or Venus could all end up anywhere from #1 to #4. That was the situation coming in, and that is still the situation now.

There is, to be sure, only one way that Serena can end up at #3. That's if she loses in the quarterfinal or earlier, and Wozniacki wins Wimbledon, beating Jankovic in the final. In that case, Wozniacki is #1, Jankovic #2, Serena #3, and Venus #4.

But the ways in which Serena can end up at #2 are many. Serena can end up #1 behind Jankovic if:
* Jankovic makes the final and Serena loses by the quarterfinal, or
* Jankovic wins the title beating anyone other than Serena in the final.

Serena can end up #2 behind Wozniacki if:
Wozniacki wins Wimbledon and Serena loses by the quarterfinal

Serena can end up #2 behind Venus if:
Venus wins Wimbledon and Serena loses by the quarterfinal

Of course, Jankovic and Wozniacki have never won a Slam. Venus has won here, but she can only regain #1 if Serena loses in her next two matches. Adding it up, Serena's odds of staying #1 are pretty good. But it's not guaranteed.

As for the #2 ranking, Jankovic leads Wozniacki by 270 points, and Wozniacki leads Venus by not quite 250 (meaning that Jankovic leads Venus by a little more than 500). In addition, Kim Clijsters is about 1500 points behind Jankovic. That means that Clijsters could theoretically reach #2, if she wins Wimbledon and Jankovic loses her next match.

We aren't even going to try to list all the possibilities here. Suffice it to say that Wozniacki will end up ahead of Jankovic if she makes at least the semifinal and outlasts Jankovic; Venus will end up ahead of Wozniacki if she makes the semifinal and outlasts Wozniacki; and Venus will end up ahead of Jankovic if she makes the semifinal and Jankovic loses her next match, or if Venus makes the final and Jankovic does not make the final; or if Venus wins the title. As for Clijsters, she can reach #7 if she reaches the quarterfinal; a semifinal would make her #5; a final could make her #4 if Venus loses her Round of Sixteen; and a title could take her past Venus if Venus loses by the semifinal, past Wozniacki if Wozniacki loses by the quarterfinal, and past Jankovic if Jankovic loses her next match.

Good luck keeping all that straight!

Eight players appear to be safe in the Top Ten: Serena, Jankovic, Wozniacki, Venus, Stosur, Dementieva, Schiavone, and Clijsters. Agnieszka Radwanska and Flavia Pennetta held the other two spots coming in, but Pennetta is already certain to fall to no better than #11. Li Na is currently #10 in safe points, but Justine Henin, Marion Bartoli, and Maria Sharapova are all serious candidates to pass her. Again, we aren't even going to try to catalog all the possibilities here, but Henin is only 120 points back (meaning that she needs to win only one more match than Li to end up ahead of her), Bartoli is 190 points behind Li (meaning that she too needs only one more win than Li to end up ahead of her), and Sharapova is about 280 points back (meaning that she needs at least a semifinal to overtake Li, plus she needs to go one round deeper). Boiling it all down, the last two Top Ten spots are likely to go to the two players on that list (that is, Radwanska, Li, Henin, Bartoli, and Sharapova) who last longest, with ties broken in the order given. Radwanska's chances are pretty good; the others are in a real slugfest.

Victoria Azarenka and Nadia Petrova are out of the Top Fifteen, replaced by Henin and Sharapova. It appears the only player falling out of the Top Twenty is Aravane Rezai, replaced by Vera Zvonareva. Certain to fall out of the Top Thirty are Yaroslava Shvedova and Dinara Safina (who will fall to no better than #32 after being #1 less than a year ago), replaced probably by Alexandra Dulgheru and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, although Petra Kvitova could make the Top Thirty with a semifinal and any other player left in the draw could make it with a title.

Top Sixty Players suffering particularly big falls, apart from Safina, are Elena Vesnina (from #41 to around #57), Ana Ivanovic (from 345 to around #63), Polona Hercog (from #51 to around #65), Sorana Cirstea (from #55 to around #69), and Sabine Lisicki (from #40 to below #75). These are balanced by upward moves by players such as Petra Kvitova (from #62 to around #36), Klara Zakopalova (from #66 to around #41), Kaia Kanepi (from #80 to around #54), and Tsvetana Pironkova (from #82 to around #61).

In doubles, it's now pretty much a straight contest between the Williams Sisters and Liezel Huber for #1. With the Sisters in the quarterfinal and Huber still in the Round of Sixteen, there are two ways Huber can regain #1: She can win the title, or she can reach the final and the Sisters can lose in the quarterfinal.

The Sisters and Huber are certain to be Top Five after Wimbledon. The other two Top Five spots will go to Cara Black if she reaches the quarterfinal, to Gisela Dulko if she wins Wimbledon, to Maria Jose Martinez if only one of those last two conditions is met, and to Nuria Llagostera Vives if neither condition is met.

The Williams Sisters, Huber, Martinez Sanchez, Llagostera Vives, and Black are guaranteed Top Ten places, and Dulko is almost sure. That leaves three spots, and six contenders -- Rennae Stubbs, Flavia Pennetta, Katarina Srebotnik, Kveta Peschke, Nadia Petrova, and Samantha Stosur. Only 490 points separate Stubbs, #8 in safe points, from Stosur, #13, so those six truly could end up in any order. And there are a few other players -- Lisa Raymond and Bethanie Mattek-Sands -- who have outside shots at the Top Ten.

We will probably do another rankings update in a few days, when things are a little more clear. So far, while we have eliminated a number of players, we have not eliminated any contested rankings. Not a single one.

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