There are at least three faces in men's tennis that even a marginal fan should know. One is cool, calm and collected at all times. One is brimming with energy and newness.
And the other is Rafael Nadal after a loss. Or at a press conference after a loss. Sullen. Brooding. Like a child after you steal his candy.
My allegiances to Roger Federer are no secret, and I'd much prefer to see Novak Djokovic win than watch Nadal creep closer and closer to 16 Grand Slams. I will never wake up early just to watch Nadal, unless he is playing Federer.
Nadal currently trails Djokovic by about 2,000 points in the latest ATP rankings. A Grand Slam title is worth 2,000 points, coincidentally.
Given that Nadal won the 2010 U.S. Open, he'll almost certainly need to defend his title if he wants to return to No. 1 in 2011. He'll also need Djokovic, who was the runner-up at the 2010 U.S. Open (earning 1,200 points), to fall early, ideally in the quarterfinals or earlier.
Nadal was the runner-up at the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals, losing to Federer in three sets and earning 1,000 ranking points. Djokovic earned 400 at the tournament.
All this means is that Nadal has a lot points to defend. He can't improve his position by very much; he can only hold serve.
The No. 1 ranking is Djokovic's to lose. Quite frankly, Nadal doesn't deserve it with the way he's played this season. Or rather, Djokovic just deserves it more.
Nadal was half an inch from falling to Federer in the 2011 French Open finals (recall Federer's drop shot on set point) and then was simply outplayed by Djokovic at Wimbledon.
Simply put, Nadal will be No. 1 again, but not this year. Even if he wins the U.S. Open and year-end championship, Djokovic will be impossible to overtake if he even marginally improves on his 2010 performances.