Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Djokovic's Hurdles To 311 Weeks At No. 1

Now that Novak Djokovic is back at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, the climb to 311 weeks as the world No. 1 is back on. Roger Federer set the record at 310 weeks, meaning Djokovic needs to remain at the top of the rankings for another 33 weeks to tie Federer's record. This would arguably be the greatest record on a long list of accomplishments for the 17-time major champion.

Djokovic needs to remain at the top of the rankings until September 28 in order to tie Federer's record and there are a handful of different challenges that Djokovic will face as he tries to remain on top while defending 5,175 ranking points during that span.

The most immediate threat to Djokovic's No. 1 ranking is Rafael Nadal, who is currently just 325 points behind in the rankings. The two players that have played each other in professional tennis matches more than any duo in the open era have almost exactly the same amount of points to defend between now and the conclusion of the Masters Series 1000 in Madrid. That means Nadal has a three-month span to try to recover the No. 1 ranking.

Here is how many ranking points have been earned by the top players in the nine months since last year's tournament in Madrid:

1. Novak Djokovic - 8,405
2. Rafael Nadal - 8,090
3. Dominic Thiem - 5,085
3. Daniil Medvedev - 5,085
5. Roger Federer - 4,850

If Nadal does not retake the No.1  ranking during his 3-month window, Daniil Medvedev will actually become Djokovic's biggest threat to the top ranking. Medvedev became much less of a threat after his early exit at the Australian Open, but his run in the United States last summer gives him a large sum of ranking points that he won't have to defend for a while.

Here are the ranking points earned by each player since last year's tournament in Hamburg:

1. Novak Djokovic - 5,085
2. Daniil Medvedev - 4,795
3. Rafael Nadal - 4,370
4. Dominic Thiem - 3,775
5. Stefanos Tsitsipas - 2,695
6. Alexander Zverev - 2,610
7. Roger Federer - 2,250
8. Andrey Rublev - 1,640

If Djokovic can remain the world No. 1 through the conclusion of Hamburg, his next biggest threat will become Dominic Thiem. Of course, a lot can change over the next five months. However, as of now, Thiem is the player who is the closest to Djokovic in terms of ranking points won that won't have to be defended until October.

These are the ranking points earned since October 2019:

1. Novak Djokovic - 4,545
2. Dominic Thiem - 3,335
3. Stefanos Tsitsipas - 2,485
4. Alexander Zverev - 1,990
5. Roger Federer - 1,620
6. Daniil Medvedev - 1,445
7. Rafael Nadal - 1,370
8. Andrey Rublev - 1,165

Nadal will probably remain Djokovic's biggest threat for the No. 1 ranking throughout the 2020 season, because the points he will accumulate on clay could put him back in striking distance in September. However, Nadal's path back to No. 1 is hurt by how few points he has earned since the 2019 US Open. He has to strike while the opportunity is there. Meanwhile, a strong clay season for Medvedev or Thiem could spell trouble for Djokovic as the next generation of players may get their long-awaited chance to finally dethrone the greatest trio of tennis players that the sport has ever seen.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Top 20 Under 20: Where are they now?

Just over five years ago, I made my first of a series of posts called "Top 20 Under 20" where I rated the 20 most promising teenagers on the ATP. Now seems like a good time to reflect on these rankings and see what I got right and what I got wrong.

I will comment on the 20 players in the original order that I ranked them on July 17, 2014.

1. Nick Kyrgios - I put Kyrgios at No. 1 since this ranking came out shortly after he had defeated No. 1 Rafael Nadal to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals. At the time, he was the only teenager in the top 100. Since then Kyrgios has only reached one other grand slam quarterfinal and he has failed to do so in the last 16 majors that he has played in. There are now eight players ranked ahead of Kyrgios that are younger than him. He has had flashes of brilliance over the last five years, but his career has been a disappointment with his tantrums being the most defining aspect of his career so far.

2. Alexander Zverev - Zverev is now ranked sixth in the world and is the second-highest ranked player of anyone that was a teenager five years ago. He has won 11 titles in his career, including a very impressive four elite titles. He has been in a bit of a slump in 2019, but he still has the most impressive list of career accomplishments of anyone on this list at this.

3. Borna Coric - The Croat just reached a career-high ranking of 12 last week, which gives him the fifth-best ranking of any player that was a teenager five years ago. He has two titles to his name and a very impressive 12 wins against top-10 players. Coric has had a steady growth throughout his career without any single big breakthrough moment.

4. Andrey Rublev - Throughout the series, I was more optimistic about Rublev than most other people, so I felt somewhat vindicated by his win over Roger Federer last week. Still, he has only won one title and has a career-high ranking of 31. Injuries have been an issue, so there is still plenty of reason to believe that he will be a top-10 player in the future.

5. Christian Garin - This looked like a massive whiff for a long time, but Garin is finally starting to make a name for himself on tour. He has won two titles this year and has a career-high ranking of No. 32 in the world after breaking into the top 100 for the first time late last year. At this point, he looks like he'll never be more than a clay specialist with 28 of his 34 career wins coming on dirt, but he can make a decent career for himself that way.

6. Jared Donaldson - Just a year after getting into the top-50 in tennis, Donaldson had a right knee injury that has kept him away from tennis for over five months now as his ranking has slipped to No. 713 in the world. He has 47 career wins and is still only 22 years old. It will be a long road back for him, but his career isn't necessarily over.

7. Frances Tiafoe - Unlike five years ago, we now know the right way to spell Frances. Earlier this year, he was ranked No. 29 in the world, but has since dropped back down to No. 52. Last year, he won his only career title to date in Delray Beach and he also reached the final in Estoril. He has struggled at the majors, but has proven to be a tough draw in a best-of-3 match. Tiafoe was a little overrated at No. 7 on this list, but not by much.

8. Thanasi Kokkinakis - Most people had Kokkinakis in their top 3 or 5 this time five years ago, so I felt like I was being bold putting him as low as No. 8. Yet I still overrated him. Kokkinakis has not reached the top 50 in the rankings yet and is currently outside the top 200. Injuries have been the main reason that he hasn't lived up to potential. Kokkinakis has finally been healthy over the last month, so maybe now he can start to make a comeback.

9. Nikola Milojevic - This is another one that looked like a big bust until recently. Don't get me wrong, the former junior No. 1 is still a long way away from living up to expectations, but there have been some positive signs over the last year that he will eventually be a regular on the tour-level. He won his second career Challenger title this month and is back in the top 150.

10. Stefan Kozlov - The American has been a bust so far, but is also only 21-years old, so it's way too soon to give up on Kozlov. Still, it has been two and a half years since he reached his career-high ranking of 119 and he is now outside the top 500 despite having played in 14 events this year. All 14 events have been played in North America, which is great for saving on travel expenses, but a nightmare for trying to get ranking points.

11. Hyeon Chung - We finally get to the first underrated player on this list. While Chung has had a massive slump in 2019, he did get into the top 20 in the world last year. He has 81 career tour-level wins and there is no reason to think he won't be back in the top 20 again in the future.

12. Noah Rubin - My American bias was showing on this one. I never listed Rubin this high again on my list, although his career trajectory hasn't been that bad. He still hasn't cracked the top 100 and is currently No. 195, but he did qualify for Wimbledon this year.

13. Kyle Edmund - The Brit was definitely underrated on this list. He is the tenth-highest ranked player of anyone who was a teenager five years ago. He has been ranked as high as No. 14 in the world and has one title to his name. He has 22 grand slam wins, which is near the most of anyone on this list.

14. Gianluigi Quinzi - This was another bust. Quinzi had an impressive junior career, but it never turned into much on the professional level. He is ranked lower now than he was five years ago and he peaked at No. 142.

15. Roman Safiullin - The Russian's career so far has been totally derailed by injuries. 2019 will be his first full season as a professional and he is near breaking into the top 200 for the first time. Lots of young Russians are having success right now, and it would be great to see Safiullin join them. He's still only 22 years old.

16. Yunseong Chung - Despite having not played a single tour-level match at this point in his career, he is ranked No. 259 in the world. So far, Chung has been a bust.

17. Elias Ymer - Ymer is still trying to get into the top 100. He came very close last year and could do it this year. At 23 years old, I would have expected him to be farther along by now. I'm more optimistic about his younger brother at this point.

18. Laslo Djere - The Serb has finally started to deliver on all the hype this year. He got as high as No. 27 in the world in June after reaching the third round of Roland Garros where he nearly took out Kei Nishikori. His success has been limited to clay courts, but if you told me five years ago that he had a better career than Garin, I would have been very surprised.

19. Johan Tatlot - I had nearly forgotten about Tatlot. He still hasn't reached the top 200 yet and hasn't played a single tour-level match, so he's definitely a bust so far.

20. Nicolas Jarry - The Chilean peaked at No. 8 in his junior career, so most people didn't have high expectations for Jarry as a professional, so I'm going to give myself some credit on this one. He is currently ranked No. 69 with a career-high ranking of No. 38. He also won his first career title this year in Bastad.

Players missing: Lorenzo Sonego, Cameron Norrie, Yoshihito Nishioka, Matteo Berrettini, Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Bublik, Hubert Hurkacz, Ugo Humbert, Reilly Opelka, Taylor Fritz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Denis Shapovalov, Alex De Minaur, Miomir Kecmanovic, Felix Auger-Alliasime.

Of those players that were missing, the following were listed on later editions of the top 20 under 20 series: Nishioka, Khachanov, Bublik, Opelka, Fritz, Tsitsipas, Ruud, Shapovalov, De Minaur, Kecmanovic, Auger-Alliasime.

Daniil Medvedev is currently the highest ranked player that was a teenager five years ago. He was never listed in my top 20, which either shows how bad my lists were or how he came out of nowhere. His junior ranking peaked at No. 13 and he didn't reach the top 100 until he was 20. He did receive consideration for my list, but he never made the cut. He has definitely proven me wrong!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

In three years, nothing has changed

One of my favorite series on this blog was comparing the top tennis countries in the world. It's been nearly three years since I posted an update on this series, and that was when France finally surpassed Spain as the top tennis country in the world. With only a couple young Spanish players on the rise, that seemed like a permanent switch, but right now, the standings are right back where they were three years ago.

The top three countries are now Spain, Serbia, France and United States in that order, identical to exactly three years ago.

Here are the full standings based on the combined ranking points of every player in the top 140:
1. Spain - 17,693
2. Serbia - 16,956
3. France - 13,385
4. United States - 10,712
5. Italy - 9860
6. Switzerland - 9592
7. Argentina - 8580
8. Germany - 8527
9. Russia - 7396
10. Australia - 7043
11. Japan - 6070
12. Canada - 5446
13. Austria - 5413
14. Croatia - 4810
15. Greece - 3455
16. Great Britain - 3320
17. South Africa - 2682
18. Chile - 2182
19. Georgia - 2020
20. Kazakhstan - 1866
21. Belgium - 1815
22. Poland - 1660
23. Slovakia - 1495
24. Hungary - 1323
25. Moldova - 1132
26. Portugal - 1045
27. Uruguay - 1013
28. Korea - 994
29. Sweden - 980
30. Norway - 951
31. Bulgaria - 802
32. Belarus - 799
33. Lithuania - 765
34. Romania - 622
35. Bolivia - 618
36. Slovenia - 605
37. India - 600
38. Tunisia - 544
39. Brazil - 532
40. Czech Republic - 530
41. Bosnia & Herzegovina - 530
42. Netherlands - 446
43. Latvia - 442
44. Chinese Taipei - 405
45. Uzbekistan - 392

A few notes on this list...

-45 different countries rated in the top 140 is the most that I have ever recorded.
-The highest ranked No. 2 from any country is from Russia
-The highest ranked No. 3 is from Argentina
-The most well-represented country is France with 13 players in the top 140
-Greece, Chile and Georgia are all in the top 20 after having not been ranked at all for many years.
-Great Britain and Czech Republic have made massive dives in the rankings
-The first rankings I ever did in 2012 included Ukraine, Colombia, Cyprus, Finland, Luxembourg, Estonia and Israel. None of those countries are represented in the top 140 anymore.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Djokovic Reaches Milestone In Cincinnati

I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll get right to the point. With his win today, Novak Djokovic became the third-most successful player in the history of the Cincinnati Masters Series tournament, making him the first player in tennis history to rank in the top three at all nine masters series tournaments.

This is based on the same metric that I have used in previous posts, which is total ranking points earned. The formula is adjusted to the current ranking formula so that a quarterfinal appearance in Monte Carlo is worth 180 points regardless of whether it happened in 1994 or 2019.

In his career, Djokovic has now earned 4,605 points in Cincinnati, surpassing Michael Chang at 4,570 points. In the history of Cincinnati, which is Djokovic’s second worst tournament, he now only trails Roger Federer and Pete Sampras.

Federer is in the top three at eight of the nine tournaments, missing only Monte Carlo, where he ranks fourth behind Rafael Nadal, Thomas Muster and Djokovic. Rafael Nadal is among the top three at five of the tournaments, cracking the top-3 players in Canada last week with his title. He is also among the top three at Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome.

Djokovic is the most successful player at three of the majors, which is tied for most with Nadal. Federer is the top player at two of the Masters Series events and Andre Agassi is the best player in the history of Miami.

Here is a breakdown of where Djokovic ranks at all 14 elite events.
First (3): Canada, Shanghai, Paris
Second (6): Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Year-End Finals
Third (3): Madrid, Wimbledon, Cincinnati
Fourth (2): Roland Garros, US Open

The same breakdown for Federer
First (5): Australian Open, Indian Wells, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, Year-End Finals
Second (3): Madrid, Rome, US Open
Third (4): Miami, Roland Garros, Shanghai, Paris
Fourth (2): Monte Carlo, Canada

And for Nadal
First (4): Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros
Second (1): Canada
Third (1): Indian Wells
Fourth (1): Shanghai
Fifth or lower (7): Australian Open, Miami, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, US Open, Paris, Year-End Finals

Looking at the GOAT debate from this perspective might make someone wonder why Nadal is even in the conversation. There are six elite tournaments in which Nadal isn’t even among the five best players in the history of that tournament. Meanwhile, Djokovic and Federer are inside the top four in all 14 tournaments. Djokovic will likely finish his career inside the top three in all 14 tournaments.

No single metric can resolve the GOAT debate, but based on this metric, Djokovic is well on his way to finishing his career as the GOAT.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Career Masters Performances

Four years ago, I began measuring how many ranking points players have earned in their career at the nine Masters Series 1000 events. I am now reposting it with updated stats to see how players have progressed, since it has been over two years since I updated the original post.

I found the sum total of ranking points earned by all of the top players since 1990 at each of the Masters Series events that they played in. The totals were based on the current ranking system: W-1000, RU-600, SF-360, QF-180, R16-90, R32-45, R64-20, and all first round losses were worth 10 points unless it entrance was based on a wildcard.

Keep in mind that players who started their peak years before 1990 could be drastically underrated in categories that have to do with totals, and could be very overrated in categories that have to do with averages.

Career Masters Ranking Points Earned:
1. Rafael Nadal 54,950
2. Novak Djokovic 52,565
3. Roger Federer 52,485
4. Andy Murray 28,230
5. Andre Agassi 27,745
6. Pete Sampras 24,420
7. Tomas Berdych 16,655
8. David Ferrer 16,560
9. Andy Roddick 15,755
10. Michael Chang 15,405
11. Thomas Muster 12,810
12. Stefan Edberg 12,695
13. Boris Becker 12,671
14. Jim Courier 12,600
15. Gustavo Kuerten 12,150
16. Lleyton Hewitt 11,865
17. Carlos Moya 11,570
18. Stan Wawrinka 11,375
19. Marcelo Rios 11,370
20. Goran Ivanisevic 11,360

Average Ranking Points Earned per Tournament: 
1. Rafael Nadal 473.7
2. Novak Djokovic 473.6
3. Roger Federer 391.68
4. Andre Agassi 298.3
5. Pete Sampras 294.2
6. Andy Murray 291
7. Stefan Edberg 275
8. Boris Becker 248
9. Thomas Muster 241
10. Andy Roddick 212
11. Kei Nishikori 203.5
12. Marcelo Rios 199
13. Milos Raonic 182.9
14. Gustavo Kuerten 181
15. Michael Chang 181
16. Jim Courier 177
17. Lleyton Hewitt 160
18. Patrick Rafter 159
19. Yevgeny Kafelnikov 145.3
20. Sergi Bruguera 142.4

Nadal has finally surpassed Djokovic in average points, and holds a very slim margin. It's amazing how close these two players are after such long and different careers. Nadal is certainly the best player in Masters Series history as of right now, but that could change even before the end of the 2019 season.

Most Points Earned at One Tournament:
1. Rafael Nadal 12,590 (Monte Carlo)
2. Rafael Nadal 10,750 (Rome)
3. Roger Federer 8780 (Indian Wells)
4. Rafael Nadal 8565 (Monte Carlo)
5. Andre Agassi 8220 (Miami)
6. Roger Federer 8100 (Cincinnati)
7. Novak Djokovic 7900 (Rome)
8. Novak Djokovic 6830 (Miami)
9. Novak Djokovic 6745 (Indian Wells)
10. Roger Federer 6355 (Miami)

There is one more way of looking at the numbers presented in this form. The first two categories dealt with totals and averages. Averages are good for looking at how good a player is in the tournaments that they played. Total is good for looking at the longevity of that success in tournaments.

This final list looks at a combination of the two. It takes the total amount of points won and subtracted from that is the number of Masters Series tournaments played multiplied by 171, which was the average amount of points won per tournament of the players that were researched. That means that an average score on this list would be zero for the 46 players that were researched.

Career Points Earned Adjusted
1. Rafael Nadal 35,114
2. Novak Djokovic 33,584
3. Roger Federer 29,571
4. Andre Agassi 11,842
5. Andy Murray 11,643
6. Pete Sampras 10,227
7. Stefan Edberg 4829
8. Boris Becker 3950
9. Thomas Muster 3747
10. Andy Roddick 3101
11. Marcelo Rios 1623
12. Kei Nishikori 1397
13. Michael Chang 870
14. Gustavo Kuerten 693
15. Milos Raonic 581