If Rafa comes back strong, the race to #1 could be very interesting. However, if Rafa is weak, Djokovic in all likelihood wins most clay events, as he was unbeaten on red clay last year vs. everyone except Nadal. When combined with his consistency on hard courts (and complete dominance over slow outdoor HCs), winning most of the big clay events (say 2-3 M1000s or at least 1 M1000 + RG) would almost certainly guarantee him YE #1 barring injury.
Murray really needs Rafa to come back strong and dominate the clay season in order to have any chance at YE #1. If that happens, there could be a 3-4 way split of the major events and therefore allow someone like Murray to sneak in there with a Slam win and some good M1000 results (similar to what Fed almost did last year).
Rafa missing the AO and probably having mediocore results at the start of his return for the M1000 HC events in IW/Miami pretty much rules him out for #1, as Novak will probably have a lead over him of 3,000+ points in the race by the end of March (assuming Novak wins at least one of IW/Miami and goes deep in the other). Even if Rafa dominates on clay again, Novak will still probably lead the race after RG (since he probably makes the final of most clay events, depending on how early he draws Nadal) and there's no way Nadal earns more points in the post-FO grass/hard-court season than Novak.
At this point, I don't think Fed really desires nor realistically expects himself to compete for YE #1. He would have to make the committment to smaller tourneys he made last year to even have a chance, and given his age and current schedule, he's clearly decided (correctly in my view) that he's better off just focusing his efforts on winning Slams and remaining in the Top 4.
My prediction for YE Rankings:
Reverse 3 and 4 if Rafa's recovery is delayed or incomplete by the time the clay season starts.
Last edited by CDNguy87; 01-28-2013 at 03:53 PM.