Friday, March 29, 2013

Bold Prediction: Haas will return to top 10 before Roland Garros

Regardless of what happens between now and Sunday, the lowest Tommy Haas could be ranked when the new rankings come out will be No. 14. That would put him four spots out of the top 10 with two months before Roland Garros. The person who Haas would have to knock out of the top 10 would be No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic. After this week, Tipsarevic will drop to No. 10 in the world.  Right now, Tipsarevic leads the German by 1165 ATP ranking points, but that lead will be significantly smaller when the new rankings are released.

Between now and Roland Garros, Tipsarevic will have to defend 800 points, while Haas will only be defending 90 points. Tipsarevic does have plenty of points backed up in the non-countables as a safety net if he doesn't defend his title at Düsseldorf or the 90 points in Barcelona and Monte Carlo. However, there is no safety net for the 360 points Tipsarevic claimed in Madrid last year.

If Haas a couple solid tournaments, like he has had in Miami, during the clay season, passing Tipsarevic should not be a problem for the 34-year old German. The biggest problem for the former world No. 2 will be Marin Cilic, who is also pushing for a return to the top 10 in the world. The Croat is currently sitting at No. 11 in the world with 645 more ATP points than Haas. Like Haas, Cilic was still recovering from an injury this time last year, so he won't have much to defend either.

Between Rome and Madrid, Cilic has 100 points to defend, and he will need to reach the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo for it to be a countable tournament. However, the bulk of Cilic's points are in Munich, where he actually defeated Haas to reach the final. That totals up to only 250 points to defend for Cilic.

So Haas has his work cut out for him, but a good show in Miami, has put Haas in the position I believe he needs to reach the top 10. A win today over David Ferrer would almost guarantee a top 10 spot for the German, but even if he loses, he still takes 360 points away from the tournament. Look for Haas to have a great clay season as he tries to return to the top 10 for the first time since 2007, and be prepared for some epic match ups between Haas, Cilic, and Tipsarevic as they battle for a spot in the top 10 in the world.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Battle for world No. 1 heats up

Regarding the world No. 1 ranking, one thing is certain, and that is that Novak Djokovic will be the top-ranked player in the world going into Roland Garros. After that, the battle begins. That means that every match that is played by the Big Four from now until the first serve in Roland Garros has implications as to who has the upper hand on the coveted ranking. So let's take a look at what it would take for each of the top four players in the world to reach the top ranking at some point in the 2013 season.
1. Novak Djokovic- The Serb is the current world No. 1, giving him a big target on his back. Djokovic has a seemingly comfortable lead at over 4500 points, but having that many points means there is plenty to defend. Djokovic is the top-ranked player in the Race rankings, which means he is the favorite to finish the year as the No. 1 player in the world, but two losses in March to players outside the top four has made his lead much less substantial.
Djokovic didn't win any clay court titles last year, but he did reach the finals in three of the four clay events he competed in. He has 2580 points to defend. Madrid will be on red clay again this year, so defending the 180 points there should not be difficult. However, defending 2400 points in Monte Carlo, Rome, and Roland Garros will be extremely difficult since Djokovic could be faced Rafael Nadal in the semifinals this time around.
If Djokovic drop in the rankings to No. 2 in Paris, he will quickly get it back in August. Djokovic only reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2012 and will only lose 270 points from the London Olympics.
After that, there is little room to improve for Djokovic, who won titles in Canada, Beijing, Shanghai, and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The only tournaments where he could conceivably improve his ranking are the US Open and Paris.
Djokovic has a ton to defend over the next eight months of his tennis career, but the world No. 1 achieved that title for a reason and is more than capable of defending his points.
2. Roger Federer- The Swiss world No. 2 will have the toughest time of any of the Big Four at trying the overtake Djokovic. However, Federer proved last year that you can never count him out. Federer decided to skip out on Miami, which is perhaps a sign that returning to the top-ranked position in the world isn't that important to him. Also Federer has failed to reach a final so far this year, so if Federer wishes to improve his ranking, he needs to act quickly. Federer's success is evenly spread out over the next five months of the season, so this isn't going to be quick or easy for Roger. Where Federer can do his damage is in the final three months of the season, where he took a back seat to Djokovic on the hard courts.
Federer skipped the event in Canada last year, but even if he reaches the semifinals in Montreal this year, he still will not have made up for the 450 points lost from the London Olympics. So Federer will begin to make his move at the US Open. The key for Federer is to be within range of the world No. 1 when he arrives in New York. I would say that within 3000 would be in range of achieving world No. 1 for Federer. However, that is easier said than done since he is currently trailing Djokovic by over 4500.
Federer must be nearly perfect over the next eight months if he wants to be the world No. 1 at the end of 2013. According to the Race rankings, Federer is the seventh most likely person in the world to be the No. 1 in the offseason, and he will be even lower once the new rankings come out after Miami. Combine that with an expected no-show in Monte Carlo and Federer could be outside the top 10 in Race rankings over a third of the way into the season.
The odds are not in Federer's favor, but he has proven the doubters wrong again and again. Can he do it one more time?
3. Andy Murray- The Scot is Novak Djokovic's biggest immediate threat to the top ranking in the world. At No. 3 in the world Murray is just two wins away in Miami from becoming the No. 2. If that does happen, Murray's chances of surpassing Djokovic increase in two ways. First, he will have 1000 points from Miami, which would be his first ATP Masters Series title since 2011. Second, Murray will be the No. 2 seed at all of the big clay tournaments over the next three months. That means that there is a possibility that Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer will all be on the opposite side of the draw for any of the big upcoming clay tournaments.
If there is a draw where Murray doesn't have to face any of the other Big Four, it would be hard to imagine him not reaching the final. Murray failed to even reach a semifinal at a clay tournament, so gaining ground on Djokovic should not be a problem for the Scot.
Losing in the quarterfinals of Indian Wells was a big missed opportunity for Murray, but he can make up for it with a win in Miami. If Murray wins Miami, he will trail Djokovic by 3620 points. If Djokovic defends all of his points in the clay season, Murray will need to do 3620 points better than he did last year. Murray could possibly add 4780 points to his ranking by the end of Roland Garros, but that is more than extremely unlikely. That means that Murray is going to need help from Djokovic if he wants to become the 26th player to be ranked No. 1.
If Murray has the best clay season of his career and becomes the world No. 1, it will be tough for him to hold onto. Murray will be defending a final in Wimbledon and a US Open titles, while losing 750 points from the London Olympics. Murray can make up for those points at the Masters Series events, where he has plenty of room to improve.
Murray has to play some inspired tennis over the next three months if he wants to achieve a career-high ranking, but even if he fails, he has still one of the top contender for year-end No. 1. He is currently No. 4 in Race rankings, he could pit himself at No. 2, not far behind Djokovic.
4. Rafael Nadal- Who would have seen this coming just a month ago, but Nadal is actually Djokovic's biggest threat to the year-end No. 1 ranking. The Spaniard is ranked No. 2 in the Race rankings despite missing the first major of the year. Nadal missing the Australian Open has actually helped the No. 4 player in the world in terms of ranking. Because he skipped going to Melbourne Nadal decided to compete in three smaller tournaments in South America. At those tournaments, he accumulated 900 points before going to Indian Wells, which was 180 more than he had last year at Indian Wells.
Then at Indian Wells, Nadal reintroduced himself to the tennis world, winning a hard court tournament for the first time since 2010. Skipping Miami, may have put a dent in Nadal's chances at returning to No. 1 in the world, but a good clay court swing will erase that quickly.
Nadal has a ton of points to defend from now until June, but when Wimbledon comes, Rafa will be getting free points at every tournament. For Nadal to become the year-end No. 1, he will likely need to be leading in Race rankings by the time he leaves Paris. After that, if he will have to defend that lead to become the top-ranked player.
In order for Nadal to pass Djokovic, he needs to do as well on clay as he did last year. It won't be easy for the Spaniard, since he won't one of the top two seeds at every clay tournament this year, but there is a reason why Nadal is widely considered the greatest clay-courter of all time. Plus, if Nadal is still trailing Djokovic at the end of 2013, he could be in prime position to surpass Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open.
 Emirates Rankings
 Race Rankings
5Del Potro1415

Haas finds Fountain of Youth

What Tommy Haas has done this week is flat out unbelievable. Nobody could have seen this coming. I think Haas is a little surprised himself. He has beat Alexandr Dolgopolov, Novak Djokovic, and Gilles Simon in straight sets. Djokovic came the closest to taking a set off the German, getting to 4-4 in the second set, but even the world No. 1 wasn't enough to slow down the former world No. 2. Haas is almost 35-years old now, and not many have had success at this point in their career. Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors each had a considerable amount of success in their mid and late 30's, but that was a different era of tennis. This is supposed to be the era, where athleticism and physical fitness dominate the sport, yet somehow at age 34, Haas is beating guys much younger than him. The last three opponents that Haas beat were a combined 25 years younger than Haas. What Haas has done in the last week has been the most amazing accomplishment of the 2013 season so far.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Round of 16 preview and predictions in Miami

Djokvic/Haas: 99.4% of fans picked Novak Djokovic to win this match before the tournament and that is not surprising. Djokovic has owned the city of Miami and is going for his third straight title in the Masters Series 1000 event. Tommy Haas has beat Djokovic twice before and made a lot of Nole fans nervous in Toronto last year as he won the second set 6-3 against the Serb. However, both of Haas's wins were on grass, which is his favorite surface and Djokovic beat Haas fairly handily in the Shanghai quarterfinals later last year. I'm picking Djokovic to win this 6-2, 6-4.

Simon/Tipsarevic: Gilles Simon leads Janko Tipsarevic in the series history 6-2, but a comeback win for Tipsarevic in the previous round will fuel him as he takes on the lower-ranked Frenchman. Also Tipsarevic won the last match between these two that wasn't decided  by retirement. However, Simon's patience could be too much for Tipsarevic, who will have to grind to win every point. Tipsarevic clearly isn't 100% after dealing with issues in his heel, so I am picking Simon to reach the quarterfinals by a score of 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Ferrer/Nishikori: David Ferrer has bounced back nicely after being upset in the first round at Indian Wells with a win over Fabio Fognini on Sunday. The last time this pair met, Ferrer completely demolished Kei Nishikori, but Nishikori was hampered with an injury. Nishikori, who appears to be healthy following wins over Victor Hanescu and Xavier Malisse, is looking to prove that the beatdown in Melbourne was just a fluke. Nishikori has two wins over Ferrer in the US Open and London Olympics, but overcoming the Spaniard in Miami is a big ask for the No. 15 player in the world. I'm picking Ferrer to grind out a 7-6(5), 6-3 win.

Ramos/Melzer: These are the two big surprises in the round of 16 in Miami and one of them is advancing to the quarterfinals. This will be the first time either of the lefties have played each other. Jurgen Melzer's physicality and big ground strokes will be tough for Albert Ramos to handle. Ramos prefers the clay, but is finding plenty of success on the American hard courts. I think Melzer's power will be too much for Ramos as the Austrian will take a 6-3, 7-5 win into the quarterfinals.

Gasquet/Almagro: This match features the two best one-handed backhands in tennis right now. The backhand rallies will be mouth-watering. Nicolas Almagro owns the series history 3-1 and won the only match on a hard court, but Richard Gasquet won the most recent match up in Wimbledon in straight sets. I expect this to be the best match of the fourth round of the tournament. I think Gasquet, at age 26, is finally beginning to live up to some of his potential right now. Although he may not ever be the world No. 1, he is quickly becoming one of the toughest players to beat on tour. I think he will hold on for a close win by a score of 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3).

Berdych/Querrey: Tomas Berdych has been anything but impressive this week, needing consecutive comebacks to defeat two opponents ranked outside of the top 40. However, his resilience displayed in the last week explains why he has been a regular in the top 10 for the last two years. Sam Querrey has 11 career top 10 wins, proving he is capable of competing with the best. This match features two of the most powerful hitters on tour, making for some bludgeoning rallies. This is an oppurtunity for Berdych to get some points for his ranking with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer gone. I expect Berdych to be especially focused on getting a good start after doing the complete opposite in his previous two matches. I'm picking Berdych to win this mathc 6-3, 7-5.

Tsonga/Cilic: 83.5% of fans picked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the quarterfinals before the tournament and he has not disappointed them with wins over Viktor Troicki and Jarkko Nieminen. Both players enter this match with a record of 14-4, setting the stage for another thrilling match between two players who can absolutely crush the ball with their forehands and serves. Cilic is the one with more precision with his ground strokes, but Tsonga is a much better mover and possesses deft touch which is what makes him a mainstay in the top 10. Tsonga can be a tough player to predict, but I like him to win this match in three sets, 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-3.

Seppi/Murray: 95% of fans are picked Andy Murray to win this match before the tournament. Andreas Seppi defeated Murray in 2006 when the Scot was just 19 years old. Since then, Murray has defeated the world No. 19 four times. Seppi doesn't have the kind of weapons that can make Murray nervous on a hard court. This will be a glorified practice session for Andy Murray who will defeat the Italian 6-1, 6-4.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Players of Interest in Miami

These 12 days in Key Biscayne are some of the most interesting days on the ATP world tour this year. It is a 96-player field, which is tied with Indian Wells for the most of any non-slam tournament, so you know you are going to get a wide variety of players just like in the slams. However, the big difference from this tournament and slams is no Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. This leaves a lot of room for some of the players outside the top four to make a mark on the Masters Series event. So let's take a look at some of the players who have done just that in the first week.

Janko Tipsarevic (Srb)- To say that Tipsarevic is having a disappointing 2013 would be a massive understatement. The No. 9 player was riding a five-match losing streak going into Miami. Tipsy finally snapped the streak with a straight-set victory over Dudi Sela on Friday. Tipsarevic backed up that win with a three-set victory over Kevin Anderson (4-6, 7-6(5), 6-0), but not without a little bit of controversy.

After holding at love in the opening service game of the deciding set, Tipsarevic took a medical timeout to have his heel checked, which has been an issue since he was in Melbourne. Fans have been quick to criticize Janko for taking the medical timeout before Anderson's serve, but I would argue that Tipsarevic's decision to call the trainer wasn't a dirty move.

During a changeover is always the best time to get an medical timeout regardless of who is serving. That way it interupts the flow of the match as little as possible. Also, Anderson is one of the best servers on tour. To say that a little time between games caused him to get broken is obsurd.

Anderson got broken in the second game and eventually lost the set to love, because he was still thinking about the second set. The South African had several oppurtunities to break in the second set and was up a minibreak in the tiebreaker. That is hard for any tennis player to let go of. This isn't the first time in tennis that a player lost a close set and then got bageled in the following set. In sports, people talk all the time about the importance of having a short term memory. Clearly Anderson was still thinking about the missed oppurtunities in the second set.

Even if Tipsarevic's medical timeout was the reason that Anderson's serve was broken, it doesn't explain why Kevin lost the set to love. Anderson came recovered from getting broken early in the second set. If Anderson surrenduring his serve in the second game of the decider was just because of the trainer, why wasn't the world No. 29 able to recover.

Anderson played a great match today, but didn't take adavantage of the many oppurtunities he had in the second set. Eventually, that cost him the match. Clearly this was a big win for Tipsarevic. He showed a lot of emotions on the court after the match. Hopefully the heel issues are behind him, so he can stay in the top 10. He will play Gilles Simon in the round of 16 on Tuesday.

Kevin Anderson (RSA)- Coming into the ATP Masters Series event in Miami, Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour. At 26 years of age, he is playing the best tennis of his career and he is just one spot below his career-high ranking achieved at this time last year. Anderson has compiled a record of 13-4, reaching the final in Sydney, round of 16 at the Australian Open, and the quarterfinals in Delray Beach and Indian Wells. After beating Horacio Zeballos in the second round, he was two points away from collecting his second win this season over a top 10 foe before losing in a deciding set. Going into the clay season, things are about to get tough for the 6-foot-8 South African. He has a career record of 15-19 on clay. Anderson is going to have to find away to turn things around on clay if he wants to keep moving his ranking up. He only has to defend 290 points from now until the end of Wimbledon. If he finds a way to win on clay and performs better at SW19 than he did last year, the world No. 29 has a great chance to move into the top 25 or better in the world.

Bernard Tomic (Aus)- Once again, Tomic was booed by fans for a lack of effort on the court. He has had issues in Miami before. Last year, he asked to receive a point penalty for coaching, so his dad would stop talking. I was hoping his character issues were in the past after a good start to the year with a title in Sydney, but it appears that Tomic is still just as immature as ever. I don't understand how a player would ever tank a match when they have an opportunity to play against one of the best players in the world in Andy Murray on a center court. Isn't that what you go through all the training and tough futures and challengers matches all your life for? A lot of people are expecting amazing things from Tomic, but before he can do amazing things, he needs an amazing amount of change to his character.

Tommy Haas (Ger) and Lleyton Hewitt (Aus)- These two have a combined age of nearly 67. It has been over 10 years since either of them were at their peak. However, they are still both going at it. Hewitt defeated Joao Sousa before losing to Gilles Simon in Miami. Meanwhile, Haas defeated Igor Sijsling and got revenge on Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr., who beat him the final in Washington DC. It is incredible to see two of the greats in the sport still competing at such a high level still. I do my best to always watch these two when they are on court, because they aren't going to be out there much longer.

John Isner (USA)- Isner is another player who has had issues this season becuase of injuries, but his injuries have also affected him mentally. After Indian Wells, the 6-foot-9 American's ranking dropped to 23, which is the lowest it has been since late in the 2011 season. After defeating Novak Djokovic and cracking the top 10 in the 2012 Indian Wells semifinals, Isner has had a lot of struggles to meet the expectations that come with being the No. 1 American and being in the top 10. Isner has a record of 37-22 after beating Djokovic with only two titles. Isner was 8-14 in his last 22 matches before coming to Miami. Analysts have identified many potential reasons why the big man has struggled and I believe it is a little bit of all of them. First is the injuries.When you are 6-foot-9, you are a little bit more susceptible to injuries and it takes longer to recover. Second is the pressure of being the top ranked American and a top 10 player. That pressure is now gone now that he is outside the top 20 and Sam Querrey passed Isner in the rankings, but dealing with that pressure can be tough. Third is he isn't having fun anymore. Rob Koenig suggested this one yesterday and this goes along with the second reason why he is struggling. Winning isn't as fun when you are expected to win. If he beats a top 10 player now, it is no big deal and not really a surprise. That takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of the game. At this point in the season, Isner simply needs to press the reset button and start anew with new goals. He already has a new coach, now it is time for him to start to turn things around. Hopefully his comeback win over Ivan Dodig will be the spark he needs to get his season going.

Tobias Kamke (Ger)- Kamke knocked out Indian Wells finalist Juan Martin Del Potro in the second round in Miami. It was Kamke's second career top 10 win (other was Tomas Berdych) and put him into the third round against an unseeded Jurgen Melzer. Currently, Kamke leads Melzer 7-6(3), 3-45 This is already a career-best effort for Kamke in Miami, but a win over Melzer would add 72 points to his ranking, as opposed to 27 if he loses. The German's ranking has been oscilating between 64 and 110 in the last 31 months, but a good week in Miami could be the key for him to crack the top 50.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NoleFam has reason to cheer for Rafa?

Over the course of Novak Djokovic's career, Rafael Nadal has been the Serb's biggest rival. They have played 33 matches against each other, including five grand slam finals. Rafa has beat Nole 19 times, and over the last seven years, NoleFam has learned that anytime Rafa loses, it is good for Djokovic. However, over the next few months, Djokovic fans have several good reason to root for the King of Clay.

1. Nadal is good for the sport- Let's just admit it. The fans love to watch Rafa. His rivalries with Djokovic and Federer are two of the best rivalries in tennis history. Upsets are fun, but Nadal and Federer or Nadal and Djokovic finals are the most exciting matches of the season.  These are the matches that people pay to watch. These are the matches that draw in new fans. The sport is simply more exciting with Rafa in the mix.

2. Djokovic needs to face Nadal before Roland Garros- Nadal may have skipped out on Miami, but Djokovic and Nadal could potentially meet in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Rome. In each of the last two years, they have met in two of these tournaments. In 2011, Djokovic won in Madrid and Rome. In 2012, Nadal won in Monte Carlo and Rome. Nadal followed that up with a win in Roland Garros, which was the last time these two played each other. NoleFam should want Rafa to do well enough at these 1000 events to get to the later rounds where he will play Djokovic. Since it has been nearly a year since they last played, both players have changed a lot. Meeting in one of these 1000 events will give Djokovic a chance to see Nadal from the other side of the net and snap a three-match losing streak to Nadal before a potential matchup in Paris.

3. Djokovic doesn't want to play Nadal in the Roland Garros quarterfinals- That's right. If Nadal doesn't perform well at these next three tournaments, he will likely be the No. 5 seed at Roland Garros, which rarely changes seeds anymore. That means that there is a 25% chance that he will face Djokovic in the quarterfinals and a 50% chance that they will meet before the final. Now, I believe that Djokovic is more than capable of beating Nadal on clay. However, nobody on tour wants to see their name anywhere near Nadal's name when the French Open draw is released. The later Djokovic faces Nadal in Paris, the better. If Nadal stays ranked No. 4 in the world, then there is no chance that the pair will meet any sooner than the semifinals.

Those are the reasons that Novak fans should cheer for Nadal to have success early in the clay court season. However, there are still plenty of upsides for Djokovic if Nadal fails to defend his 4680 points from now until June. These are the reason for Novak's fans not to root for Nadal.

1. If Nadal does poorly, Djokovic won't face him- It's that simple. If Nadal is not where he used to be, then getting to the stages in tournaments where he would face Djokovic would be extremely difficult.If Nole never faces Rafa, then that's one less person that Djokovic has to worry about.

2. NoleFam should be more worried about Djokovic- Djokovic is the greatest player in the world right now, and nobody will argue  the fact that when Novak is playing his best, nobody can beat him. It doesn't matter for Djokovic how Nadal is doing, because Djokovic is capable of beating anyone. At the same time, we have seen Djokovic lose some bad matches when he isn't at his best. He lost to Querrey in Paris and nearly lost to Seppi and Wawrinka in slams in the last 12 months. Djokovic has those days where he isn't like himself and there are plenty of challengers ready to pounce on the world No. 1 on those days. It doesn't matter what Rafa is doing, because what is going on on Novak's side of the net is most important.

3. Nadal is a threat to Djokovic's ranking- Although he is at No. 4 right now, after Roland Garros, Nadal has 90 points to defend until February 2014. Nadal rack up a lot of points during that time. If Rafa does well in April and May, then he is putting himself in good position to steal the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic at the 2014 Australian Open. The stage is going to be set for an epic grand slam down under in 2014 already. Melbourne is almost guaranteed to be the battle ground for the No. 1 ranking. If Nadal struggles in the clay season, Djokovic will have the upper hand down under.

Overall, I think it is best for Djokovic if Nadal struggles in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and even Barcelona. I want Nadal to be healthy, of course, but it is still best for Djokovic if Nadal does not continue to dominate on the red clay the way he did in the past. If what we have seen of Nadal in Acapulco or Indian Wells is any indicator, it looks like Rafa is as good as new.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The GOAT list

Who is the GOAT is the greatest debate in the tennis world today, and it's not going away. A lot of people say that one era is more difficult than another, so you can't determine the greatest of all time. Then there are other people who say that you can't compare eras, so you can't determine the greatest of all time. My belief is that you can't compare the difficulty of eras. Everyone in each era played by the same rules, so nobody can definitively say that one era is better than another. However, that doesn't mean that you can't determine who the GOAT is.

For me, the GOAT is the person who dominated their era the most. I began researching who I thought was the GOAT around 18 months ago. I sort of already had an idea who I thought was the best off all time, but I wanted to be able to have a logical explanation. So I created a mathematical formula to determine the GOAT, and I got Ivan Lendl. Since then I have drastically edited, updated, and improved my formula for the last 18 months. I used the formula to determine the 25 greatest players since 1973 (the year computer rankings began). So let's have the countdown begin.

25. Stan Smith- He was overshadowed by other Americans dominating the sport, but former world No. 3 racked up 634 wins and 36 titles, including Wimbledon and the US Open.

24. Andy Roddick- The last American to win a grand slam spent 13 weeks atop the rankings, won 32 titles, and ranks 16th all-time in win percentage (74.2%).

23. Michael Chang- The former world No. 2 won his only grand slam title when he was only 17. Even though he never won another major, he did collect 34 titles and 51 wins against top 10 opponents.

22. Ken Rosewall- As part of a golden era in Aussie tennis, Rosewall was known for his slice passing shots.The former world No. 2 would be higher on the list if the peak of his career wasn't before the Open Era. He still won four grand slam titles and 445 matches.

21. Thomas Muster- If these were clay court rankings, he would be top 10, but he spent six weeks as the top ranked player in the world and won 44 titles.

20. Arthur Ashe- The player whose name is on the center court at the US Open is best known as a humanitarian, but the former world No. 2 won three grand slam titles and 623 matches in his career.

19. John Newcombe- At 30-years old, the Australian finally reached world No. 1. Newcombe won five majors in the open era and won 31 tournaments.

18. Yevgeny Kafelnikov- When you look at the former world No. 1's stats, nothing really jumps out at you, but the Russian did a little bit of it all. He was atop the rankings for six weeks, won two majors, knocked out 46 top 10 opponents, won 26 titles, and was victorious in 609 matches.

17. Jim Courier- The American spent over a year as the best player in the world, winning four grand in three years. Courier is one of the only Americans to have success on both clay and hard courts. Although most fans would rank Courier between 10 to 15, his inability to dominate lower ranked opponents hurt his ability to rack up titles. Courier won only 23 titles and lost 164 matches to players outside the top 10.

16. Rod Laver- Laver is the one of the greatest tennis players in all of tennis history, but the bulk of his career came before the Open Era, and since computer rankings didn't begin until 1973, he was never ranked higher than three in the world. However, Laver still won five majors and 42 titles in the Open Era, including the last calender slam in tennis.

15. Ilie Năstase- The Romanian was the first person ever ranked No. 1 according to the computers. The two-time grand slam champion is another player who would have been higher on the list if his whole career was in the Open Era. He still won 750 matches and 56 titles, dominating the ATP World Tour when it first began.

14. Guillermo Vilas- The Argentine was the third winningest player of all time notching an incredible 923 match wins as well as 63 titles, including four grand slams. However, that is where the former world No. 2's list of accomplishments ends. Aside from failing to reach world No. 1, he only had 29 wins over top 10 opponents. Vilas is widely considered the best No. 2 player in tennis history, but failing to reach world No. 1 knocked him several spots down on this list.

13. Lleyton Hewitt- As a young Aussie, Hewitt spent 80 weeks as the top-ranked player in the world, but failed to live up to his potential, winning just two majors and 28 total tournaments, while suffering countless injuries. Aside from being the best player in the game for 80 weeks, his top accomplishment was his 61 match wins over top 10 foes. Although Hewitt is still competing, he is far from the player he was over a decade ago.

12. Mats Wilander- The Swede made his way this high on the list for one reason and one reason only. The guy knew how to win majors. Seven of his 33 titles were at the slams. That is the third best ratio of any player on this list. His win percentage was 7.5% higher in majors. Wilander only spent 20 weeks as the world No. 1 and only won 571 matches. Those numbers are good, but they are way below average for a top 15 player on this list. Wilander consistently rose to the occasion when it mattered most at the majors, winning seven grand slams in the span of seven years.

11. Novak Djokovic- Just over two years ago, Djokovic wouldn't have even been considered for the top 25 tennis players in since 1973. However, the Serb has had one of the greatest 25-month stretches (from the 2011 Australian Open to the 2013 Australian Open) in tennis history. During that span, Djokovic won five of the nine majors, reaching seven finals. Djokovic also went from No. 3 to No. 1 in the world, where he currently is after 74 weeks at that position. Djokovic also won eight of the 18 1000 events and now has a total of 36 career titles. With no end to his success in sight, Djokovic could potentially crack the elite eight on this list.

10. Boris Becker- If 713 wins wasn't enough for the six-time grand slam winner to crack the top 10 on all GOAT lists, then maybe I should remind you that 121 of his wins were against top 10 ranked opponents. That is the third most in tennis history. Becker also won 49 titles and was the World No. 1 for 12 weeks. Becker was the model for consistency, winning at least two tournaments every years for 12 consecutive years. At just 18 years of age in 1986, Becker reached nine tournament finals and won Wimbledon for the second consecutive year. Becker went on to win one more Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open twice.

9. Stefan Edberg- When it comes to Edberg the numbers speak for themselves. 72 weeks as world No. 1, six grand slam titles, 41 tournaments won, and 801 match wins. However, what may be most impressive was the way he handled the other legends of his era. Edberg totalled 47 combined wins against Becker, Lendl, Chang, and Wilander. Edberg's biggest weakness was his clay court game, but he made up for it with two major titles at each of the non-clay slams.

8. Andre Agassi- The American may not be the statistical leader in any category, but he was one of the most well rounded players to ever play. Agassi dominated on every surface and is one of only two male singles tennis players to achieve the career golden slam. Agassi finished his career with eight grand slam titles and 60 tournaments won over the span of 19 years. The former world No. 1 won 870 matches and spent over 100 weeks atop the rankings.

7. Björn Borg- A lot of fans would put Borg in the top five, but he is getting any bonus points from me for quitting when he was just 25. However, his dominance in just eight years on the world tour is still enough to place seventh on this list. In that short span, he won an incredible 64 tournaments, including 11 majors. Borg also spent 109 weeks as world No. 1 and won over 70% of his matches against top 10 opponents. Even more impressive than that is his 89.8% win rate at the slams. His numbers are astonishing, but we can only wonder how good he could have been if he continued playing for another eight years.

6. Rafael Nadal- At only 26 years of age, Nadal still has a chance to move up several spots on this list. He already ranks third all time in major titles with 11. A return to world No. 1, where he spent 102 weeks of his career, would strengthen his chances at one day becoming the GOAT. However, a knee injury that sidelined him for seven months could prove costly. Nadal is widely considered the greatest clay court player in tennis history with seven Roland Garros crowns. However Nadal has also had plenty of success on the hard and grass courts with two Wimbledon titles, a US Open win, an Australian Open triumph, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics Gold Medal for the golden slam. Nadal is currently ranked No. 4 in the world with almost no points to defend after June. As he battles for a return to world No. 1, Nadal keeps moving up this list.

5. John McEnroe- Known more for his tirades than actually playing tennis, McEnroe truly is one of the greatest players in tennis history. The five-time Wimbledon finalist ranks fifth in the Open Era in weeks at No. 1, titles, and wins. In 1984, the American won 13 titles and only lost three matches in the entire year. McEnroe finished his career with 77 titles, which ranks third in the Open Era. Along with seven grand slam titles, he spent 170 weeks as the World No. 1. McEnroe finished his career with 875 match wins. Where McEnroe made his mark in tennis was in Davis Cup ties. McEnroe led the United States to five Davis Cup titles. McEnroe also won eight year-end Championships. Five at the WCT Finals and three at the Masters.

4. Jimmy Connors- The American is the winningest player of all time with 1243 match wins and 109 titles. When the first set of computer rankings came out, Connors was listed as No. 10 in the world. At 38 years of age in 1989, Connors was still ranked in the top 10 in the world. It wasn't until 1996 that Connors finally left the top 500 for good at the age of 45. However, the Americans only accomplishments weren't just the length of his career. Connors won over 80% of his matches, eight majors, and spent 268 weeks as the No. 1 in the world. Connors dominance is often overlooked, because it was stretched over a span of 20 years, but looking at the whole body of work, Connors is clearly among the four greatest tennis players in the Open Era.

3. Ivan Lendl- In my opinion, the most underrated player of all time, Lendl was the greatest player in the Open Era when he retired in 1994. When you look at the GOAT lists of other tennis fans, some list him as eight or nine or don't include Lendl in the top 10. That is nuts when you see that Lendl is in the top five for the Open Era in major titles, weeks at No. 1, titles, wins, and win percentage. Most fans rank him so low, because he lost 11 grand slam finals. However, I think that reached 19 grand slam finals is yet another reason to rank him in the top three of all time. Lendl won eight grand slam titles and was the No. 1 player in the world for an incredible 270 weeks. Lendl also won 94 titles and 1071 matches, while maintaining a .818 win  percentage.

2. Pete Sampras- The American is considered in the top 3 on almost every GOAT list in tennis and rightfully so. Sampras absolutely dominated the grand slams from the 1993 Wimbledon to the 2002 US Open winning 14 of the 41 majors, including a stretch of seven Wimbledon titles in eight years. Sampras knew all about playing his best when it mattered most at the slams. Sampras's win percentage in slams was 9.0% higher than in the rest of his matches. Sampras also had a stranglehold on the title of No. 1 player in the world in his career, holding the top ranking for 286 weeks. Sampras ranks second all time in wins over top 10 opponents with 124 and has 64 titles to his name.

1. Roger Federer- How this isn't case closed boggles my mind. Federer is the leader in majors won, weeks at No.1, wins against top 10 opponents, and he is still going. Federer's records at the slams shatter those of any other player in the Open Era. Federer has spent over 300 weeks as the world No. 1. Federer was the tyrant of the ATP rankings from early 2004 to the summer of 2008. From 2004 to 2006, he lost a total of 15 matches. Federer has won 17 grand slam titles and still believes he can win more. Federer has reached the final of each grand slam tournament at least five times, and at one point, reached 10 consecutive finals. Some people like to argue that Federer played in a weak era from 2004 to 2008, but Federer really just dominated the era so much that it seemed like there were no other good players. If you look at how Federer performed against the players who were ranked No. 1 in the world before him, you can see that he dominated even against the best opponents. Federer had a .770 win percentage against Agassi, Hewitt, Ferrero, and Roddick. Federer dominated the sport more so than any other player and did so for a longer amount of time than any other player. Therefore he is the GOAT.

These are my top 25 and I am ready to defend them, so please leave a comment. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Second Serb

Well, for my first post, I just want to very briefly explain what this blog will be about and where better to start than the name of the blog. No, I am not from Serbia. In fact, I have never been to Serbia or outside of the USA which is where I was born. I am a huge Novak Djokovic fan, and he is an incredible ambassador for his country, which has made me a fan of all Serbian tennis players.

I only started following tennis in 2010, which was when I first started playing. The first tennis match I ever sat down to watch from beginning to end was Djokovic's epic win over Roger Federer. Who wouldn't become a huge tennis fan after watching that match? Ever since then, Djokovic has been my favorite player. I never miss any of matches if I can help it. Even if that means ditching class, getting up at 3 a.m., or, in the case of the 2012 Australian Open Final, pulling an all-nighter.

So obviously, I am going to talk a lot about Djokovic. I also love making tennis predictions. I fill out the draw at the beginning of each tournament. Last year, I correctly picked the winner of 26 tournaments and also had 1680 correct picks overall. I also make predictions on who will be in the top 100 at the end of each year, and what their rank will be, so I will talk a lot about rankings as well.

I'm just doing this for fun to have a chance to write down my thoughts on tennis. I'm not sure how often I will post, but I love to write a lot.  Hopefully this will spark some tennis discussions. I love talking about tennis with anyone.