This week sees the start of what has been named by Roger Federer a "crazy three weeks." It certainly will be, at least for him.
While his closest rivals for the closing moments of 2012, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, lie exhausted after their epic close at the Shanghai Masters, they must also lie contented with the knowledge that they are primed for the indoor offensive.
Djokovic, the world No. 2, stands just shy of 300 points from Federer's No. 1 ranking—indeed, year-end No. 1 ranking—having to defend less than 400 points between now and the end of the year. Federer by contrast has 2,500 points to defend, and nothing to be gained. Djokovic's win at Beijing made up for his withdrawal from Basel, and this additional two-week break before the Paris Masters makes him a hot candidate to reclaim the top ranking.
Murray, while coming off Shanghai a loser, will have gained some confidence from the fact that he stood just points from victory—no less than five times—against a man who by even the superlative measures men's tennis has come to be judged was playing outstanding tennis. Such has been the story of Djokovic.
Murray was simply cornered at a moment of vulnerability, and the tables turned therefrom. The newly crowned U.S. Open champion is without doubt right in among the rarefied Big Four of tennis. He has prove himself, and stands in good stead to claim one of the big titles remaining for the year.
Federer's task is the tallest among the three—there is no doubt about it. His crazy three weeks will see him compete almost non stop at Basel, Paris and London, in something of a marathon of indoor events comparable perhaps to Nadal's own epic feats on clay in the European spring.
Nothing is settled in tennis until the last ball is struck, but it is hard at this point to see how Djokovic will not somehow emerge from the World Tour Finals with the top ranking—it's a matter of mathematical probability that he, playing as well as he has been (he will be heavily favoured at both Paris and London), should not somehow wrest it from Federer.
He need only win a round or two more than he did last year at either event, practically, to gain enough points for a surplus.
It has never been the conclusively the case in any match between Federer and Djokovic, but for once the Serb is almost guaranteed of prevailing in the rankings tussle, even if he should play only half his best, and Federer play the very best he can, for the rest of 2012.