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17th May 2022

One Week Wonders: The Worst Tennis World No. 1s

Inspired by Medvedev’s limited tenure at the number one spot – who else has hold the position for a few short weeks?
One Week Wonders: The Worst Tennis World No. 1s
Photo: CORNUT @ Wikimedia Commons

Last month Russia’s Daniil Medvedev reached the ATP no. 1 ranking spot. Since Andy Roddick held this spot in 2004, in the last eighteen years, the ‘Big Four’ have dominated the sport. This happened after defeating Djokovic to win his first major title at the US Open, and narrowly finishing runner up to Nadal in a gruelling contest at the Australian Open. Medvedev, after years of knocking on the door, deservedly claimed the top spot in men’s tennis during the Mexican Open. 

However, following a shock defeat to Gaël Monfils in the third round of the Indian Wells Masters, Medvedev ceded the no. 1 spot back to Djokovic, ending his stint at the top with only 3 weeks to his name. Although the Russian is likely to return to no. 1 in the near future, for now he sits towards the bottom of the list for total weeks at no. 1. Inspired by Medvedev’s limited tenure at the sport’s pinnacle, this article will look back at some of the shortest stints at no. 1 in the history of men’s tennis.

Marcelo Ríos: 6 weeks

In March 1998 the left-hander from Chile created history becoming the first tennis player from Latin America to achieve world no. 1 rankings. Renowned for his on-court flair and creative playing style, Ríos reached the top spot after becoming only the third man to complete the sunshine double (winning Indian Wells and Miami consecutively). 

Unfortunately for the Chilean, he stands alone as the sole world no. 1 to have never won a grand slam title. Ríos’ best result at a major tournament came at that year’s Australian Open where he finished second place to Petr Korda. This undesirable statistic still lingers as a significant asterisk on his career, with many arguing that Ríos’ lack of a grand slam title invalidates his achievement of the no. 1 ranking.

Pat Rafter: 1 week

Truly epitomising the term ‘one week wonder,’ Australian Pat Rafter’s reign at the pinnacle of men’s tennis lasted for all of one week, making his stint at no. 1 the shortest in the sport’s history.  Although his time at the helm of men’s tennis was brief, the Aussie enjoyed a glittering career. His reputation as one the game’s greatest net players propelled him to consecutive US Open titles in 1997 and 1998. 

His serve and volley style was well suited to the grass courts of Wimbledon where he narrowly finished runner up on two occasions during his career. Furthermore, in his breakout 1997 season, Rafter became the first man in history to complete the US Open series (winning Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters, and US Open consecutively), a feat that has been achieved only by Nadal and Roddick since.

Carlos Moyá: 2 Weeks

Hailing from Mallorca, today Moyá is more recognisable as coach to Rafael Nadal than as a former world no. 1. The Spaniard announced himself to the tennis world as a nineteen year old at the 1997 Australian Open when he defeated defending champion Boris Becker en route to the final. His biggest achievement came one year later when he won his maiden grand slam title at Roland Garros. Moyá appeared destined for a lengthy career at the top of the game, however, at twenty one, shortly after reaching world no. 1, he suffered a career hampering back injury.

Although he never reached the same heights at the grand slam level, Moyá managed to carve out a successful remainder to his career, winning his twentieth and final singles title in 2007. Arguably, his greatest contribution to the sport was inspiring his fellow Mallorcan, Nadal, who idolised Moyá from a young age.

Throughout the last two decades, the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have made staying at world no. 1 appear effortless. With each man boasting over two-hundred weeks at the top of the sport, as fans, we don’t always appreciate how phenomenal theses achievements are. In reality, reaching no. 1 is difficult enough, but staying there is a different beast entirely.

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