Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at centre of 'ridiculous' virus controversy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2016. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The ATP’s decision to freeze world rankings amid the coronavirus pandemic has sparked controversy around Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Djokovic is nearing Federer’s all-time record for total weeks at World No.1 (310).

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Currently at 281 weeks, Djokovic has previously made it clear that snaring Federer’s record is one of his goals for 2020.

But with rankings frozen and no tennis for the foreseeable future, debate is raging about whether Djokovic’s weeks should continue to accumulate.

The ATP and WTA recently extended the suspension of their tours until June 7, adding another 12 weeks onto his tally.

But with no one able to play due to the shutdown, should those weeks count?

According to coach and ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert they should.

“He earned the ranking, and he was going to be No.1 for a while even if things went on as normal,” Gilbert told ESPN.

“Going into Indian Wells, Djokovic was going to stay No.1 by the end, unless he lost before the semis and Rafa won the tournament.”

Darren Cahill, Aussie coach of Simona Halep, echoed that sentiment.

“[Djokovic should get that credit] until the next major, and then I'm a bit unsure of what is the right thing to do,” Cahill said.

“These weeks he would have retained the No.1. The same goes for [Ashleigh] Barty.”

But as Gilbert predicted, fans aren’t happy with that stance.

Djokovic was likely to retain No.1 anyway

Djokovic currently holds a 370-point edge over World No.2 Rafael Nadal in the rankings - 10,220 points to 9,850.

However Nadal would have been asked to defend 4260 points through June 7, while Djokovic was only defending 2635, making it highly likely that Djokovic would have retained the No.1 spot anyway.

After undergoing minor keen surgery last month, Federer was facing the prospect of dropping from World No.3 to the lower half of the top 10.

But with rankings frozen he will remain at World No.4 until he returns.

Both ATP and WTA rankings work on a points system that requires players to ‘defend’ the points they earned at events the previous year.

For example, if Barty fails to defend her French Open title in 2020 she will lose points because she won the event in 2019.

Barty is also seemingly benefiting from the suspension of the tennis tours.

The Aussie was facing a tough task to retain her 2500-point buffer as World No.1 over the next three months after she earned around 40 percent of her ranking points throughout the same stretch in 2019.