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Snakes n’ Ladders: Fed closing in on No.2

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Originally published on: 19/03/12 13:20

Several weeks after stating his desire to return to the top of the rankings, Roger Federer is already closing in on the No.2 spot after three tournament victories on the bounce in Dubai, Rotterdam and Indian Wells. Having narrowed the gap between himself and Rafael Nadal to only 825 points with yesterday’s victory over John Isner in the Californian desert, Federer could overtake Nadal and return to No.2 for the first time since March 2011 by the end of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

Last year’s semi-final loss in Miami means the Swiss has fewer points to defend than both Djokovic and Nadal, so the pressure is on the top two to replicate last year’s success.

With the exception of Janko Tipsarevic and Isner, who helped bump Juan-Martin Del Potro out of the top 10, there was little movement, the top 8 holding firm. More dramatic development occurred further down the rankings, with Argentinian David Nalbandian leaping 24 places to 50th after battling past Tsonga before running Nadal close in the quarter-finals in Indian Wells.

Meanwhile, Isner’s surge into the top 10 disguised a disappointing fortnight for the US at their home event. Though Mardy Fish held on to his No.8 spot, every other American fell in the ATP rankings thanks to lacklustre performances in the desert.

Andy Roddick was felled by Tomas Berdych in round three despite a second set comeback and promptly slipped three places to 34th in the rankings, while compatriot Donald Young fell at the first hurdle and found himself shunted down seven spots to No.69. 

Ryan Sweeting also plummeted six places to 86th after a second round loss to Fernando Verdasco but Ryan Harrison had more success. Saved from facing Murray thanks to his shock second round defeat at the hands of Garcia-Lopez, Harrison was given an easier ride through to the fourth round. He was dispatched by Gilles Simon, but not before breaking the Frenchman three times in the second set. He still slipped one place in the rankings to 73rd. James Blake, unable to compete due to a knee injury, also limped down seven places to 69th.

Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak recorded the biggest leap in the WTA ladder, shooting up 21 places to 65th. Meanwhile, the American women were on better form than the men at Indian Wells, with almost all of them making progress in the rankings. Jamie Hampton made the most impressive jump, bounding from 99th to 85th after cruising into the fourth round. Vania King and Christina McHale also made steps forward, King skipping four places up to 54th and McHale continuing her rise to 32nd after taking eventual semi-finalist Angelique Kerber to three sets in the fourth round.

Irina Falconi settled herself comfortably inside the top 100 after being given a five-place boost by virtue of her opponent’s retirement in the first round while Varvara Lepchenko went from 82nd to 76th, despite losing to seventh-seeded Marion Bartoli in the second round.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands was the only female American to drop in the rankings, falling from 75th to 86th after a first round loss to Russia’s Marakova.

In contrast to the US, it was a fortnight of triumph for Japan in the ATP rankings with all three of their top 100 players riding a career high after their respective events. Ito Tatsuma broke into the top 100 for the first time, now sitting at 94th after winning the Kyoto Challenger event last week. Go Soeda took the top spot at his own Challenger event in Pingguo yesterday and climbed 10 places to 67th, while Kei Nishikori, Japan’s top performer, managed to sneak up into the No.16 spot despite a second round loss at Indian Wells.

-Olivia Lee

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