Roger Federer may be powerless to stop Novak Djokovic but Rafael Nadal has a chance of helping the 38-year-old keep hold of a famous record. Federer has not competed since the 2020 Australian Open after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
He suffered a setback in his recovery though as he required another procedure on the knee, ruling him out for the remainder of the year.
Federer has since returned to the practice courts as he works towards his comeback, but the 2021 Australian Open will come too soon for him.
His representative, Tony Godsick, revealed last month that Federer was working towards a plan to make his return in late February ahead of the claycourt season.
But tennis fans will still get to see both Nadal and Djokovic in action at the start of the 2021 campaign with both players committed to the ATP Cup and Australian Open.
And the next few weeks hold significance for Djokovic for more than one reason.
While the Serbian will be looking to add to his illustrious trophy cabinet, he is also closing in on breaking Federer’s men’s record of most weeks spent at world No 1.
Federer last held the top spot in the men’s rankings back in 2018 and at 39 years of age it looks increasingly unlikely that he will return to world No 1.
Djokovic is extremely close to overtaking Federer’s record having spent a total of 302 weeks in top spot.
The 33-year-old will surpass his Swiss rival if he stays world No 1 until March 8 2021.
But Nadal has a slim chance of spoiling Djokovic’s dreams heading into the start of the new ATP season.
The Spaniard is currently 2,180 points behind Djokovic in the standings and faces an almighty task to dethrone his rival.
He needs to win both the ATP Cup and Australian Open as well as reach the quarter-final of another event before March 8 in order to overtake Djokovic.
There are a few events scheduled to take place between the final of the Australian Open and March 8 where Nadal could pick up points. The Rotterdam Open is the most likely competition which he could participate in.
Reaching the quarter-finals would be enough to see Nadal knock Djokovic off top spot in the rankings.
But if Nadal does win both the ATP Cup and Australian Open then Djokovic himself has other tournaments he could enter – Cordoba Open or Open Sud de France – which could ensure he stays top.
Whatever happens over the next few weeks though, Djokovic looks a strong favourite to eventually take Federer’s record of total weeks spent at world No 1.
However, the Swiss tennis icon is unlikely to have his record of consecutive weeks spent at world No 1 – 237 between 2004 and 2008 – under threat any time soon.