Philadelphia, PA – Well, if you're lookin' for year-end No. 1 drama next week, it's not going to happen.
Roger Federer was trying to finish No. 1 in the world again for the first time in three years. Andy Murray gave it a shot, but will not ascend to No. 1 for the first time in his career. And Rafael Nadal won't even be on hand for next week's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, as he continues to nurse a left knee injury which has kept him on the sidelines since June.
So that leaves us with Novak Djokovic.
Last year, Djokovic became the first-ever Serb to both reach and end the year at No. 1 following a season for the ages, one of the top-three seasons in my estimation on the tour, as he piled up 10 titles, including three of the four Grand Slams and a record five Masters titles.
Sure, Djokovic lost in the second round this week at the final Masters 1000 event of the year in Paris (his earliest loss since March of 2010), but he had already sewn up the year-end top spot despite heading to France as the No. 2 player on the planet.
Djokovic coughed up the No. 1 ranking to Federer back in July following a stellar 53-week reign, but he'll reclaim the perch next week when Federer drops his points from his 2011 title wins at the Swiss Indoors, Paris Masters and World Tour Finals. The six-time Tour Finals king Federer will not be able to earn enough rankings points next week at The O2 to finish the year ahead of the Djoker.
The five-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic will become the first man since Federer in 2007 to finish as a year-end No. 1 in back-to-back campaigns. The Fed turned the trick four straight years from 2004-07 and secured a fifth year-end No. 1 spot in 2009.
Note: The great Pete Sampras still holds the record with six year-end No. 1 finishes.
The 25-year-old Djokovic boasts five titles this season, including a third Australian Open win and a trio of Masters victories. He's also had runner-up finishes at two other majors in '12 (French and U.S. Opens) and three Masters tournaments.
The 17-time major titlist Federer, meanwhile, gave it his best shot this year, returning to the Grand Slam winners' circle for the first time in 2 1/2 years and reaching the gold medal match at the London Summer Games at the All England Club, settling for silver.
The 31-year-old husband and father of twin girls co-leads the ATP with a plentiful six titles in 2012 (along with David Ferrer), including three Masters championships.
The 25-year-old Murray only has three titles this year, but two of 'em were big ones -- the U.S. Open and the Olympics. The current world No. 3 star was also a runner-up at Wimbledon and at two Masters events, in Miami and Shanghai. Of course, that U.S. Open title marked the first Grand Slam win of his quality career.
Murray, like Djokovic, also lost early in Paris this week, which means the quarterfinals in the French capital will be without the top-four players in the world. Federer withdrew from the event on Sunday, while the banged-up Nadal was already looking toward 2013.
The 26-year-old Nadal "settled" for four titles this year, including a record seventh French Open championship and a pair of Masters wins, in Monte Carlo and Rome, where he's won eight and six titles, respectively. The world No. 4 lefty was also a Grand Slam runner-up in Oz.
Unfortunately, bad knees prevented the 11-time Grand Slam champ from competing at the U.S. Open and the Olympic Games.
Djokovic will shoot for the three-peat next year, and, of course, he can expect major resistance from the "usual suspects" -- Federer, Murray and Nadal, just not Verbal Kint.