Daniil Medvedev Australian Open 2021

Daniil Medvedev breaks 15-year ranking domination – How did he get there and who else came close?

Daniil Medvedev became world No. 2 on 15th March 2021. In doing so, he became the first man not named Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray to be ranked in the top-2 on the ATP tour since Lleyton Hewitt back in July 2005. 

Lleyton Hewitt, the former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, rose back to world No. 2 on 18th July 2005, after reaching the US Open 2004 and Australian Open 2005 finals consecutively.

A week later, a 19-year-old Rafael Nadal reached No. 2 for the first time, marking the beginning a period of 15 years, 7 months and 18 days when the top-2 ATP rankings were not occupied by anyone other than Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray.

In that time, 11 players reached No.3 for the first time, but never the elusive No. 2 spot. Here, we shall go through each player, when they first made No. 3 and how tracking  how they did so, before analysing how Daniil Medvedev achieved this feat 15 years in the making.

1. David Nalbandian – First reached No. 3: 20th March 2006

The Argentine star enjoyed a strong 2005 season, culminating in an appearance in the final of the Tennis Masters Cup (now the ATP Finals) against Roger Federer in Shanghai. Nalbandian came from two sets down to win 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-1 7-6 and lift the title.

He made at least the quarter-final stage of three consecutive Slams at Wimbledon 2005, US Open 2005 and Australian Open 2006 before reaching the No. 3 spot on 20th March 2006, the first day of the Miami Master 2006, where he made the semi-finals, losing to…

2. Ivan Ljubicic – First reached No. 3: 1st May 2006

Since retiring the Croatian has coached two other top-3 players, Milos Raonic and Roger Federer. But back in 2006, Ljubicic was at the height of his powers.

He reached back-to-back Masters 1000 finals at Madrid and Paris in 2005. He followed up with a run to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens respectively, with a Miami Masters 1000 final appearance against none other than Federer himself in between.

Ljubicic Federer

3. Nikolay Davydenko – First reached No. 3: 6th November 2006

The Russian made three consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and US Open in 2006, reaching the semi-final in New York. He went on the win the Paris Masters 2006 in October to clinch the No. 3 ranking.

4. David Ferrer – First reached No. 3: 8th July 2013

The grinding Spaniard made at least the quarter-final stage of every Slam in 2012, reaching the semi-final of Roland Garros and the US Open. On top of this run, he reached the semi-final of the Rome Masters 1000 in 2012, and went on to win his first and only Masters 1000 title in Paris in October of the same year.

David Ferrer continued his Grand Slam quarter-final run into 2013, making the Australian Open semi-finals and reaching the final of the Miami Masters 2013. Ferrer then made his first and only Grand Slam final appearance at Roland Garros 2013 against Rafael Nadal.

He continued his Grand Slam run by reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, becoming world No. 3 after the tournament ended.

5. Stan Wawrinka – First reached No. 3: 27th January 2014

The first man on this list since Hewitt to win a Grand Slam and become world No. 3, Stan Wawrinka entered the top-3 after winning his maiden Slam at the 2014 Australian Open. In the year leading up to this point, he made the 2013 Madrid Masters 1000 final and the semi-finals of the 2013 US Open.

Stan Wawrinka Australian Open

6. Milos Raonic – First reached No. 3: 21st November 2016

The Canadian had a strong run of form in the 2016 calendar year, reaching at least the quarter-finals of seven Masters 1000 tournaments, including two semi-finals, and a final at Indian Wells.

Milos Raonic also reached the semi-final of the 2016 Australian Open and the final of Wimbledon, where Andy Murray defeated him for a second SW19 title. Raonic appeared at the ATP Finals that year, where he made the semi-final stage.

7. Alexander Zverev – First reached No. 3: 6th November 2017

While the young German did not find great success in Grand Slams in 2017, he did win two consecutive Masters 1000 titles in Rome and Montreal, defeating Djokovic and Federer in the respective finals. At just 19-years-old in Rome, he became the youngest ATP Masters 1000 winner since Djokovic in 2007, the man he beat to lift the trophy.

8. Grigor Dimitrov – First reached No. 3: 20th November 2017

The Bulgarian star started 2017 off strong by reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, then winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title at Cincinnati in August.

Dimitrov then landed the greatest triumph of his career so far, winning the ATP Finals in November to become world No.3.

9. Marin Cilic – First reached No. 3: 29th January 2018

Another Grand Slam champion, the big-serving Croatian did not make the No.3 spot after his US Open triumph in 2014. Instead, his chance came in 2018.

Cilic made two Grand Slam finals in three events, reaching the last stage of Wimbledon 2017 and the Australian Open 2018. Both times he lost out to Roger Federer, but gained the No.3 ranking after the latter final.

10. Juan Martin del Potro – First reached No. 3: 13th August 2018

The gentle giant of Argentina famously defeated Roger Federer to win his only Grand Slam to date at the US Open in 2009 as a 20-year-old, but did not reach the No. 3 ranking until nine years later.

Del Potro won Indian Wells 2018 against the same opponent and made the semi-finals of Miami, then the semi-finals of the French Open and the quarter-finals of Wimbledon.

He reached No. 3 on 13th August 2018, two weeks before the US Open, where he made the final nine years after last making it that far.

Del Potro Indian Wells 2018

11. Dominic Thiem – First reached No. 3: 2nd March 2020

Finally, Dominic Thiem enjoyed a terrific 2019 run of results. He won Indian Wells and made the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters. The Austrian went on to make the final of both the French Open and the ATP Finals.

He reached another Slam final in at the 2020 Australian Open before clinching the No.3 ranking at the start of March, mere weeks before the tour froze for the COVID pandemic.

Player First time at No. 3 Notable results in the year prior
David Nalbandian 20th March 2006 Madrid Masters 2005 SF → Wimbledon 2005 QF → US Open 2005 QF → Won ATP Finals 2005 → Australian Open 2006 SF
Ivan Ljubicic 1st May 2006 Madrid Masters 2005 Final → Paris Masters 2005 Final → Australian Open 2006 QF → Miami Masters 2006 Final → French Open 2006 SF
Nikolay Davydenko 6th November 2006 Australian Open 2006 QF → French Open 2006 QF → US Open 2006 SF → Won Paris Masters 2006
David Ferrer 8th July 2013 Rome Masters 2012 SF → Won Paris Masters 2012 → Miami Masters 2013 Final → French Open 2013 Final
Stan Wawrinka 27th January 2014 Madrid Masters 2013 Final → US Open 2013 SF → Won Australian Open 2014
Milos Raonic 21st November 2016 Australian Open 2016 SF → Wimbledon 2016 Final → ATP Finals 2016 SF
Alexander Zverev 6th November 2017 Won Rome Masters 2017 → Won Canada  Masters 2017
Grigor Dimitrov 20th November 2017 Australian Open 2017 SF → Won Cincinnati Masters 2017 → Won ATP Finals 2017
Marin Cilic 29th January 2018 Wimbledon 2017 Final → Australian Open 2018 Final
Juan Martin del Potro 13th August 2018 Won Acapulco 2018 → Won Indian Wells Masters 2018 → Miami Masters 2018 SF → French Open 2018 SF → Wimbledon 2018 QF
Dominic Thiem 2nd March 2020 Won Indian Wells Masters 2019 → Madrid Masters 2019 SF → French Open 2019 Final → ATP Finals 2019 Final → Australian Open 2020 Final →

Now, Daniil Medvedev can start his own list of No. 2 players not named Djokovic, Federer, Nadal or Murray.

1. Daniil MedvedevFirst reached No. 2: 15th March 2021

The Russian has become ‘the man to beat’ on the ATP tour according to some, and he began his rise to the top-2 by having an incredible run of form in the summer of 2019.

Daniil Medvedev made three consecutive Masters 1000 finals, including winning Cincinnati and Shanghai. In between, he made the US Open final, an epic that Medvedev almost won again Rafael Nadal, pushing the Spaniard to five gruelling sets.

Daniil Medvedev US Open 2019

Since then, Daniil Medvedev has made the US Open semi-finals in 2020 and the Australian Open final earlier this year. He also won the 2020 Paris Masters and his biggest title to date, the ATP Finals, held in London for the last time.

While his most recent tournament win in Marseille was not necessary for him to reach the No. 2 spot, it will no doubt be a nice stamp for Medvedev to remember the achievement by.