A few hours after his win in Basel, Roger Federer made a telling decision. He decided to pull out of the Paris Masters that is currently taking place, essentially handing year-end No. 1 to Rafael Nadal. Federer’s call showed that he cares much more about his future on tour, and winning the world tour finals, then the number one ranking. Because of this, yesterday, Nadal clinched his final position in the rankings. That being said, there is still an argument to be had for which one of them deserves player of the year.
The case for Nadal revolves heavily around him finishing as year-end number one. He had an unbelievable season, maybe one of the best of his career. It started strong with a final at the Australian Open, and a final at the Miami Open. And then the clay court season hit, and his season really took off, he won every tournament he played aside from the Italian Open and capped it off with the most dominant performance at a major, ever, at the French Open. He then had a tough loss at Wimbledon and started the hard-court season shaky, but then he managed to win the U.S. Open for the third time in his career, and he continued that dominance in his victory at the China Open, and a final in Shanghai. His record for the season is 65-10, and he is currently favored to win Paris as well. A stunning season, no doubt.
All that being said, though, I side with Federer in this argument. When I brought up Nadal’s strong start, I referenced his appearances in the Australian Open and Miami Open finals. Both of those were losses to Federer. Federer also beat him at Indian Wells, a tournament he went on to win. After that strong start, winning the Australian and the Sunshine Double, Federer decided to take the entire clay-court season off. After that, he came back and won Halle and Wimbledon, both without dropping a set. He then was on his way to winning in Montreal but got hurt in the final against Alexander Zverev.
Most recently, he won the Shanghai masters and in Basel, beating Nadal in the finals of Shanghai. That put the head to head in 2017 between Federer and Nadal at 4-0 on the year, and the last three victories have been in straight sets. Federer also has one more title than Nadal this year, the main separator in points comes from the amount of tournaments Nadal has played. On top of that, Federer’s 2017 record is a whopping 49-4, losing only twice in tournaments worth more than 500 points. I’m not trying to insult Nadal’s season, his was incredible. However, to me, Federer’s was more impressive and is deserving of the 2017 player of the year, even if he didn’t finish as the year-end number one.