Can Nadal Catch Wawrinka Before the French Open

Eleven months ago at the French Open draw ceremony, Rafael Nadal watched helplessly as his name was placed in Novak Djokovic’s quarterfinal.  This made the potential dream rematch of the 2014 final melodramatically take place 2 rounds earlier.  Nadal was in this position as his ATP ranking dropped to #6, making it a possible for him to fall into any one of the top 4 seeds.

Fast forward to today as Nadal is currently the #5 ranked player in the world.  This ranking would still potentially (as long as the current top 4 are healthy enough to participate) force the same potential scenario for Nadal, a premature date with Djokovic.

As Nadal is coming off his biggest win since 2014 Roland Garros by winning the Monte Carlo championship,  this has awoken the belief that he is a strong threat at this year’s championship.  Many are beginning to ask if he can make it into the top 4 seeds to avoid Djokovic until at least the semifinals.

To answer this, we need to understand the ATP ranking system and where Nadal currently sits. Djokovic, Murray, and Federer all have significant leads over Nadal so it is nearly impossible for him to overtake any of them before the French Open.  Wawrinka is within striking distance at 865 point differential.  To understand the potential rankings at the French Open, we need to quantify the potential for new points and remove the points that will be coming off from performances in 2015.

For Nadal, he will lose 600 points from Madrid and 180 points from Rome putting him at 5,135.  Wawrinka will lose 90 points for Madrid and 360 points for Rome.  Also, he will not lose any points for Geneva, but is limited in only picking up 205 points (250 points – 45 for Marseille).  This puts Wawrinka’s new starting point at 6,010.

Now Nadal actually needs make up 875 points between his results and Wawrinka’s before the French Open to jump into the #4 seed.  This is possible as Nadal has a total of 2,000 points he can pickup up (1000 each for Madrid & Rome).  But it is complicated by the fact that Wawrinka can also pickup points (1000 each for Madrid & Rome plus 205 points for Geneva).  So Nadal drastically needs to outperform Wawrinka to be able to pass him.

Nadal Top 4 Seed Pre FO.png
ATP Ranking Point Differential for Nadal – Wawrinka Post Rome

The chart above shows for Nadal to pass Wawrinka, he would need to probably win at least 1 or the 2 Masters and make a deep run in the other.  All at the same time that Wawrinka heads home from both tournaments a little early.  No small task especially as Djokovic is planning on playing both Madrid and Rome this year.

This is before Wawrinka plays Geneva where he could pickup a total of 205 more points if he wins the tournament.  If this is the case, then the previous chart updated looks even more ominous for Rafa.  Nadal would need to win at least 1 and finish runner-up in the other and still need help from Stan.

Nadal Top 4 Seed Pre FO (2)
ATP Ranking Differential for Nadal – Wawrinka if Wawrinka Wins Geneva

So it is unlikely that Nadal will be a top 4 seed this year at Roland Garros.  He will again have to look onto the draw ceremony with apprehension.  The good news for Nadal is Wawrinka is losing 2000 points for his 2015 French Open win so he has a strong chance at a top 4 ranking after the French Open.  But that might be too late.


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