After every couple of big tournaments, I have a post on this blog that ranks how tennis players are doing based on the country they are from. (This is my most recent set of rankings). I rank the top 40 or so countries in tennis based on a simple formula to track which countries are having the best season.
I came up with the formula in 2011 and check in periodically to see where each country ranks and decided to start posting the results this year. Over the past three years, the rankings have stayed pretty similar with Spain dominating, followed by France, Switzerland, and Serbia. Then USA, Germany, Argentina, and Czech Republic round out the top eight usually.
Since it has stayed this way for the last three years, I've started to wonder how long it would stay like this. More specifically, I want to see what the rankings will look like in five years. I thought I would come up with a new formula that would look at the ages of players from each country in the top 400 and project where each country would be ranked in five years. As I started working on the formula, I realized that with how many variables there are, it would take me several months to develop a somewhat accurate formula and then even longer to actually do the calculations for 50+ countries represented in the rankings.
I've decided to use a basic formula and then try to make up for the errors in the formula with my own research and then make a general prediction. So here is how we're going to do this: We will treat it like the stock market. I can buy, sell, or hold on each country for how I think each country will be doing the week before the Western & Southern Open in 2019 compared to now. Feel free to comment which countries you would buy, sell, or hold on for five years from now.
*Countries are in order of their 52-week ranking as of August 11, 2014
1. Spain - SELL - Spain doesn't have a single teenager in the top 500, meaning that in five years, clay-court specialist Pablo Carreno Busta could be the highest ranked Spaniard. Nadal is now 28-years old and has been affected by several injuries for most of the last three years, so a Federer-like longevity doesn't seem likely for the King of Clay. Aside from Carreno Busta, every Spaniard that is currently in the top 100 will be at least 31-years old this time 2019. Meanwhile, Garcia-Lopez, Ferrer, Robredo, and Lopez, who are all a big reason Spain has been No. 1 for the last three years, have already reached the 31-year mark. Spain isn't going to just drop in the rankings; in five years Spain will be mostly irrelevant.
2. France - SELL - France's drop in the rankings over the next five years won't be as big as Spain's, but the near future of French tennis isn't too bright. The reason France is No. 2 in the rankings isn't because they have a single dominant player like a Nadal or Djokovic, but because they have 12 different players in the top 100. However, the youngest of those is 25-year old Benoit Paire, who just barely cracks the top 100 at No. 97. Mannarino, Monfils, and Paire may still be in the game in 2019, but none of them will be near their peak form. Most of French hopes for the near future rest on three players: Herbert, Lokoli, and Pouille. It is still hard to see those three replacing the quartet of Gasquet, Monfils, Tsonga, and Simon over the course of just five years.
BUY - This might seem a little surprising since their current ranking is almost entirely based on a player, who is already 27-years old. Still, I think Djokovic can stay in the mix of top five or top 10 until he turns 32. I don't think he will remain a slam threat long into his 30s. So much of his success is based on his movement, durability, and flexibility, which are difficult to maintain with age. Troicki also should still be a factor even after he turns 33. Since he took a year off the tour, that could add on a couple more years of playing at his peak onto the tail end of his career. The real reason to buy on Serbia, though, is the youth. There are already four teenage Serbs that are having success on the challenger level and well inside the top 500. Plus, Krajinovic and Lajovic will both be hitting their peaks right around five years from now. With so much young talent, Serbia's future will be fine even if there are a few busts.
4. Switzerland - SELL - This is an easy sell. In five years, Federer and Wawrinka won't be nearly as dominant as they are now if they are even still playing. No matter how good the next generation is, they can't replace what Federer and Wawrinka have done over the last 10 years in tennis.
5. Argentina - BUY - It has been a rough 2014 for Argentina so far, which is a big reason why I am picking them to do better in 2019. It is hard to say where exactly the injury-prone Del Potro will be five years from now, but the former world No. 4 will only be 30-years old, so it seems safe to say that he will be more useful to his country than his current ranking of No. 101 in the Race Rankings. Then, with so many players from Argentina trying to break through it seems unlikely that they could have another year like 2014 any time soon. Delbonis, Bagnis, Schwartzman, Arguello, Londero, and Cachin just to name a few seem like strong candidates to be members of the top 100 five years from now if not much sooner.
6. Germany - SELL - Germany's fall over the next five years probably won't be significant, but a lot of things would have to go right for Germany to go up any higher in the rankings. Germany has essentially put all of its eggs in one basket for the future, which is Alex Zverev. The German is only 17, so in five years, he still will have not reached his peak physically yet. But a lot can happen in five years, which makes predicting the success of an entire country based on just one teenager very difficult. Jan-Lennard Struff is the only other player from Germany, who is a likely pick for top 100 in 2019. He could help Zverev keep the country in the top 10, but that is still a drop from where they are now.
7. United States - BUY - Similar to Argentina, this is a buy because things can't get much worse. Americans are always looking for who will be the next grand slam champion, and since there isn't a clear answer to that question, most fans think men's tennis has a dim future in America. However, even though there are no teens reaching the second week slams right now, there is a wave of young American talent that can make a splash on the ATP tour. Former college players like Johnson, Klahn, and Williams still won't hit their peak for a few more years. Then there is another group of guys like Sock, Kudla, Harrison, and Young that probably won't ever do what was expected of them as teenagers, but can still do a lot to boost the USA ranking. Then there are the current teenagers like Tiafoe, Donaldson, Rubin, and Kozlov that have plenty of potential. There are currently six Americans in the top 100. I'll predict that in 2019, that number will get to at least 10.
8. Czech Republic - SELL - I could end up being completely wrong on this if Vesely becomes a contender at majors like some expect. However, the near future of Czech tennis is in the hands of just a couple players, so it would be risky to buy here. The Czech Republic currently has three players in the top 40 including Berdych in the top five, and none of those three will still be near their current level in five years time.
9. Canada - BUY - This is the easiest buy on the list. Raonic, Pospisil, and Peliwo will all be hitting their peaks in about five years. The only worry here is an injury to one of the three. Otherwise, it wouldn't be surprising to see all three of these Canadians in the top 20 in the world.
10. Russia - BUY - It's only going to take a couple years before the look of Russian tennis is very different on the ATP. Youzhny, Davydenko, and Tursunov have led Russia for several years now, but all three are well into their 30s now. Meanwhile, there is a whole generation of new faces ready to break into the top 100. Andrey Kuznetsov and Donskoy are the closest right now with 20-year old Karatsev, 18-year old Khachanov, and 16-year old Rublev not far behind.
11. Australia - BUY - This is arguably the country with the most exciting future. With guys like Kyrgios, Tomic, Duckworth, Saville, Kokkinakis, and several other players in their early 20s doing well on the challenger tour, it seems like a safe bet that a grand slam champion will emerge from this group at some point. Since former champions like Hewitt and Rafter are doing a lot to mentor this young group, Australian tennis fans have a lot to be excited about.
12. Japan - BUY - Nishikori, at 24-years old, has already reached No. 12 in the world this year despite being plagued by injuries. Much of the Japanese No. 1's career has been affected by injuries, so there really isn't much reason to think it won't still be an issue in five years. Still, Japan has a wave of juniors that could be breaking onto the tour level over the next five years. Even if Nishikori does slip in the rankings, Japan will be much more well represented in the top 100 five years from now.
13. Italy - Hold - Italy produces so many tennis professionals that it will always have players in the top 100. There are four Italians in the top 100 right now, and with so many Italians trying to break through, it is hard to imagine there not being at least four that will break into the top 100 in five years. Quinzi is one of the names that stands out among the many Italians, who could be a presence on the ATP World Tour. He is 18 and is currently ranked No. 307 in the world.
14. Croatia - BUY - Marin Cilic is currently 25-years old and ranked No. 19 in the world. However, Cilic is set to climb several spots in the rankings over the next few months. The Croatian No. 1 has the kind of game that could work for a 30-year old with a big serve a short points from the baseline. He could easily be in the top 20 at 30-years old. Also Borna Coric is already in the top 200 at just 17-years old. He will be even higher in 2019.
15. Bulgaria - BUY - Dimitrov is the only real factor in this pick. Essentially, I'm picking Dimitrov to be ranked higher than No. 8 in the world in five years.
16. Great Britain - BUY - Murray has always been one of the fittest players on tour, so it's not hard to imagine him still being in the top 10 well into his 30s. Meanwhile, some of the British teenagers, Edmund especially, will continue to develop and move up in the rankings.
17. Austria - BUY
18. Latvia - SELL
19. Colombia - HOLD
20. Ukraine - BUY
21. Kazakhstan - SELL
22. Netherlands - SELL
23. Slovakia - HOLD
24. South Africa - SELL
25. Slovenia - SELL
26. Poland -BUY
27. Uzbekistan - HOLD
28. Brazil - SELL
29. Portugal - SELL
30. Belgium - BUY
31. Finland - SELL
32. Cyprus - SELL
33. Israel - SELL
34. Lithuania - BUY
35. Romania - BUY
36. Chinese Taipei - SELL
37. India - BUY
38. Chile - BUY
39. Korea - BUY
40. Sweden - BUY