Every Grand Slam has major implications for the rankings that follow it, and the 2021 Australian Open was no different—here are some of the top ranking storylines to come out of Melbourne this year.
Novak Djokovic secures No. 1 record, Daniil Medvedev on the verge of No. 2
The next few weeks on the ATP rankings are going to be pretty historic for Djokovic. Going into the Australian Open, he was already guaranteed of tying Roger Federer’s all-time record of 310 career weeks at No. 1 on March 1st, but when Rafael Nadal fell to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals in Melbourne, the Serb was assured of passing the Swiss with his 311th week at No. 1 on March 8th.
“I’m always motivated and inspired to achieve big goals and break records. I’d be lying if I said that’s not something that I’m thinking about, or that my attention is not going that way,” he said. “I’ve been very transparent about the fact that one of the biggest goals is to try to reach the No. 1 record, and I’m getting closer and closer to that one. So obviously that’s kind of a lifetime achievement for me.”
The man Djokovic defeated for his ninth Australian Open crown, Medvedev, moved up from No. 4 to a new career-high of No. 3 on Monday, switching spots with Dominic Thiem. Medvedev would’ve risen to No. 2 had he won the final, but he’s now just 115 points behind current No. 2 Nadal (9,850 to 9,735).
No one other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray has been ranked in the Top 2 for more than 15 years, since Lleyton Hewitt spent his last week at No. 2 the week of July 18, 2005.
And the biggest jump in the Top 100 of the ATP rankings this week came from another Russian, Aslan Karatsev, who rose from No. 114 to No. 42, soaring past his previous career-high of No. 111 to make his simultaneous Top 100 and Top 50 debuts. Karatsev qualified for the main draw of a major for the first time in Melbourne and made it all the way to the semifinals, becoming the first man in the Open Era to reach the semifinals in his Grand Slam debut. Djokovic ended his run in straight sets.
Naomi Osaka back to No. 2, Serena Williams now at highest ranking as a mom
There were some very significant moves on the WTA rankings this week, too, including Osaka going from No. 3 to No. 2—switching spots with Simona Halep—after winning the fourth Grand Slam title of her career at the Australian Open. The Japanese star is now back in the Top 2 for the first time since the two weeks of the 2019 US Open, which were also her 24th and 25th career weeks at No. 1.
And Serena rose four spots from No. 11 to No. 7 after reaching the semifinals in Melbourne, where she fell to Osaka. It’s Serena’s highest ranking since she returned to the tour as a mom in March 2018.
A few more spots down the rankings, Jennifer Brady jumped from her previous career-high of No. 24 to No. 13, her Top 20 debut, after reaching her first Grand Slam final at the Happy Slam.
“I think I belong at this level,” she said after finishing runner-up to Osaka. “I think winning a Grand Slam is totally achievable—it’s within reach. Playing out there, obviously I was nervous and it didn’t go my way, but at the same time, coming off court I was like, ‘Okay that feels a little bit normal.’
“It felt different than what I was expecting it to feel like if you were to ask me maybe a year ago. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, or it would feel like it’s going to Mars.”
And another American, Jessica Pegula, made her Top 50 debut, rising from No. 61 to No. 43 after reaching her first major quarterfinal, falling to Brady. Pegula had never even been to the fourth round of a major, let alone a quarterfinal—she also got her first Top 10 win en route over Elina Svitolina.
There’s also a new No. 1 in doubles on the WTA, after Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka captured their second Grand Slam doubles title together at the Australian Open, having already won the 2019 US Open together. Mertens rose from No. 6 back to her career-high of No. 2 on the WTA doubles rankings this week, while Sabalenka rose from No. 5 to No. 1, her first time at the top spot.
Sabalenka is the 44th woman in WTA rankings history to rise to No. 1 in doubles, but not the first Belarusian—Natasha Zvereva spent 124 non-consecutive weeks there between 1991 and 1999.