The 2012 Australian Open is the first Grand Slam of the calendar year and it will start next Monday, Jan. 16th.
As is the case with all Grand Slam tournaments, the potential swings in ranking points can be severe and the top spots on tour can have a different complexion when the rankings update after the major.
However, with the 2012 Australian Open there is no scenario under which Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, can lose top spot on the men's tour.
Here's what each round of elimination awards players in terms of ranking points:
Djokovic won the event in 2011 and that means he has the most to lose at the 2012 event. Currently Djokovic has 13,630 ranking points in the last calendar year, a whopping total.
But even if he misses the 2012 Australian Open entirely he will still have 11,630 ranking points, an amount that the current world No. 2 cannot eclipse with a title at the Australian Open this season.
Nadal made the quarters last year at Melbourne and only has 360 ranking points to defend this season. If he manages to win the 2012 Australian Open title he'll still turn a net gain of 1640 points but that would not add enough to his current total of 9595. Under that scenario he would have just 11,235 ranking points, still about 400 short of 11,630.
Of course Djokovic is not expected to miss the 2012 Australian Open as he is currently the tournament favorite (Source: bet365 or any other sportsbook). But the point is that it is impossible for Nadal to catch Djokovic for top spot on tour in Melbourne no matter how poorly the Serb might play or how well the Spaniard might play.
If Rafa is to reclaim the top ranking, it will have to be done over the longer term.