Novak Djokovic is back at No.1 in the ATP rankings after a two-year absence — and the first man in nearly two decades to rise to the top spot after being outside the top 20 in the same season.
Djokovic moved up from No. 2 to overtake Rafael Nadal, who pulled out of the season-ending ATP Finals in London because of an abdominal injury. Nadal announced on Twitter that he was done for the year and then decided to have surgery on his right ankle Monday. John Isner will replace Nadal in the ATP Finals field.
Djokovic will be the ATP’s year-ending No. 1 for the fifth time, pulling even with Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors for the second most since the computer rankings began in 1973. Pete Sampras holds the record of six.
“Reflecting on what I’ve been through in the last year, it’s quite a phenomenal achievement,” said Djokovic, who was No. 2 last week and hadn’t been No. 1 since November 2016. “And, of course, I’m very, very happy and proud about it. Five months ago, if you told me that it was highly improbable at that time, considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court.”
When 31-year-old Djokovic fell to No. 22 in May after beginning the year with a 6-6 record while recovering from surgery on his right elbow, it was his lowest ranking since the Serbian was 22nd in 2006 as a teenager.
Djokovic has gone 43-5 since, including Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Djokovic raised his haul of major trophies to 14, tied with Sampras for third most in men’s tennis history behind Federer with 20 and Nadal with 17.
The last man to go from outside the top 20 to No. 1 within a single season was Marat Safin, who was No. 38 and No. 1 in 2000, before ending that year at No. 2.
“What Novak has achieved this season has to go down as one of the great sporting comebacks,” ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kerned said. “It’s been a phenomenal return to form that would have been hard to imagine just six months ago.”