Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With three quarters of the year's Slams already under the belt, it would appear to be a three-horse race between Roger Federer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and the ageless Andre Agassi for the coveted year-end top ranking.
"The Fed," who currently leads the wildly-popular Champions Race, is a sizzling 53-10 this season with a tour-best five titles, including his first- ever Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon earlier this month.
The 21-year-old Swiss is arguably the most talented player on the planet right now and finally enjoyed his much-anticipated "breakthrough" at the All England Club a couple weeks back. The versatile star excels on all surfaces, as evidenced by his titles on four different coverings in 2003.
He's 10-2 at the Slams, including a vastly-disappointing first-round loss at the hands of little-known Peruvian Luis Horna at Roland Garros. The Swiss, however, surely redeemed himself on the storied grass at SW19.
Federer hoists the Wimbledon Championship trophy.
Just for the record, Federer is 1-0 against Ferrero this year (semifinal in Rome) and has yet to play Agassi.
Ferrero, a.k.a. the "Mosquito," also sizzles, with a 43-8 mark this season and three titles, including his first-ever Grand Slam success last month at the French Open and a Masters Series crown in Monte Carlo.
The 23-year-old Spaniard does have one strike against him heading down the stretch run, however, as he has failed to title off of his beloved clay this year, despite relative success on hardcourts (12-5).
The Mosquito is a stellar 14-2 in the Slams.
And just for the record, Ferrero is 0-1 against Federer and has yet to meet Agassi in '03.
The 33-year-old Agassi is the oldest-ever No. 1 star, as the American legend continues to defy father time in his never-ending quest for tennis glory. The "A Train" is a scorching 33-5 this year and only Federer has won more events than the tireless American (4).
Agassi corralled the season's first Grand Slam tournament -- the Australian Open -- back in January and, like Ferrero, is a sparkling 14-2 in his major matches this year. He also pocketed an ATP-record 16th Tennis Masters shield with a big win in Miami back in March.
The eight-time major titlist has yet to meet Federer or Ferrero this season, but that could change by the time of the U.S. Open and will most certainly change at the lucrative season-ending Tennis Masters Cup.
Federer currently boasts 547 points to head up the Race, while Ferrero has 537 and Agassi shows 472. Somethin' has to give over the next couple of months, culminating with the Open in late August/early September. But the trio of stars will likely settle the No. 1 dispute at the prestigious eight-man Masters Cup event in Houston in November.
Are there any darkhorses in the year-end No. 1 equation? Not really.
French Open semifinalist Guillermo Coria (372 points) and Aussie Open and Wimbledon semifinalist Andy Roddick (370) are still in the picture, but the exposure on their head shots is blurry at best.
Honorable mentions go to Aussie Open runner-up Rainer Schuettler, Carlos Moya and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis, who currently round out the top- eight in the Race.
Conspicuously absent from the chase is reigning two-time defending Champions Race winner Lleyton Hewitt, who has failed to reach even one Grand Slam quarterfinal this year and is currently 14th in the Race with a paltry 208 points, due in great part to a lack of activity this season. Eight tourneys in 6 1/2 months? That's inactivity if I've ever seen it. Having said that, Agassi has only performed in nine events this season, but he's certainly made the most of his outings.
The official world rankings -- the ATP's Singles Entry system -- currently has Agassi (4,090 points) on top, followed by the free-swinging Ferrero (3,875) and silky-smooth Federer (3,575).
Agassi, of course, is trying to become the oldest-ever year-end No. 1, and things definitely look good for the Las Vegas native with plenty of hardcourt tennis ahead for the charismatic star, who plays his best tennis on the hard stuff (i.e. the U.S. Open and this year's Masters Cup).
Watch out Fed and Mosquito...the A Train could be ready to roll!
Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley