On this day: Yevgeny Kafelnikov embraces terrible streak but becomes world No. 1

Yevgeny Kafelnikov lost seven consecutive matches in the ATP events and still conquered the ATP throne

by Jovica Ilic
On this day: Yevgeny Kafelnikov embraces terrible streak but becomes world No. 1

On May 3, 1999, Yevgeny Kafelnikov became the 16th world no. 1 in ATP history. The Russian reached the ATP throne in bizarre circumstances, losing seven straight matches on the ATP Tour and still conquering the ATP throne. Yevgeny won the Australian Open in January and celebrated in Rotterdam a few weeks later, for a perfectly typical scenario to see a Major champion as world no.

1. Still, the story has one big catch: the Russian had lost the last seven matches in the ATP tournaments before achieving the top spot in the rankings! Something like that is unthinkable today, and Kafelnikov accomplished the feat after a slow start from the previous decade's best player Pete Sampras.

The American missed the Australian Open and competed in four tournaments before May, winning only seven matches. Carlos Moya was the third pretender for the throne. The Spaniard took the top spot after reaching the Indian Wells final, heading to Miami as world no.

1 and staying there for two weeks. Moya could not deliver steady results in the upcoming weeks, propelling Kafelnikov to the top of men's tennis despite his worst streak in the ATP tournaments in a career! After winning that Rotterdam title, Yevgeny lost the London quarter-final to Thomas Johansson and suffered early exits at Indian Wells and Miami to Gustavo Kuerten and Vincent Spadea.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov lost seven straight ATP Tour matches before becoming No. 1.

Kafelnikov grabbed two Davis Cup wins against Germany in Frankfurt on an indoor carpet. However, he could not catch a break when the clay season started.

The Russian dropped all four encounters in April against the rivals ranked outside the top-40! Andrei Pavel toppled him in Estoril in three sets before Franco Squillari served his early exit in Barcelona. The worst was yet to come, though, with the 20-year-old Ivan Ljubicic demolishing him in Monte Carlo in just 44 minutes.

Richard Fromberg completed the Russian's miserable month after beating him in Prague. Despite this disastrous streak, Kafelnikov would become world no. 1 on Monday after Prague, moving just 15 points clear of Pete Sampras (3382 in comparison to 3367) and staying there for six weeks before the American restored the order in June on his beloved grass.

Kafelnikov would win seven more titles by the end of his career, including an Olympic gold medal in Sydney. However, he never got another chance to stand above all the others. Yevgeny finished the 1999 season ranked second and stayed in the top-10 until October 2002. He slowly faded away from the big scene, ending his tennis journey in St. Petersburg in October 2003.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov