There could be some major shake-ups in the ATP’s Top 10 soon, particularly during January's Australian swing that culminates in Melbourne.
One player in a seemingly comfortable position is No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who enters 2019 with a 1,565-point lead over No. 2 Rafael Nadal (9,045 to 7,480).
Neither Djokovic nor Nadal has many points to defend in Australia. They both only played one ATP event during the Australian swing in 2018—the Australian Open—and neither made as far as they’re accustomed to. Djokovic fell in the fourth round, earning just 180 points, while Nadal fell in the quarterfinals, earning 360 points.
It’s not out of the question for Nadal to pass Djokovic in Oz, but the Spaniard would not only need to win the Australian Open, he would need the six-time champion and hottest player in the world to lose before the quarterfinals once again.
On the contrary, world No. 3 Roger Federer has the most points to defend of anyone next month. Almost a third of the points on his ranking—2,000 of 6,420—come from his title run at the Australian Open in 2018, and an early loss in Melbourne would likely drop him out of the Top 5.
Like Federer, No. 7 Marin Cilic has plenty of points to defend during the Australian swing. In 2018 the Croat earned 90 points from reaching the semifinals of a lead-up event in Pune, India, and 1,200 points from reaching the final of the Australian Open.
No one else in the Top 10 is defending much in January: No. 4 Alexander Zverev just 90 points; No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro 240 points; No. 6 Kevin Anderson 160 points; No. 8 Dominic Thiem 270 points; No. 9 Kei Nishikori zero points; No. 10 John Isner a measly 10 points.
Nishikori didn’t even play an ATP-level tournament last January, making his comeback from a wrist injury at a Challenger event during the Australian Open; Isner, the American No. 1, didn’t even win a match last January, losing his openers at both Auckland and the Australian Open.
With Federer and Cilic defending so much, can someone else in the Top 10 take advantage?
A little further down the rankings, three up-and-comers have a tremendous opportunity to break the Top 10: No. 11 Karen Khachanov only has 90 points to defend in January, No. 12 Borna Coric only 55 points, and No. 15 Stefanos Tsitsipas 67 points. They’ll all be in the hunt for their Top 10 debuts.