Monday, February 24, 2014

2/24/2014 YTD Country Power Rankings

These are the rankings of how each country has done since the end of the 2013 tennis season. Rankings are based mainly on the year-to-date ranking of the individuals from that country from before Acapulco, Sao Paulo, and Dubai began.

1. Spain - Not surprisingly, Spain has dethroned Switzerland thanks to Rafael Nadal's win in Rio and David Ferrer's win in Buenos Aires. Spain continues to be the most dominant tennis country in the world with three players in the top 20 of the year-to-date rankings.

2. Switzerland - After not having a single player from its country play a tour-level match since my last rankings two weeks ago, Switzerland has dropped its No. 1 ranking. Still, it did avoid falling behind France to No. 3 in the rankings, but it would take an incredible effort at Indian Wells to avoid letting that happen.

3. France - The only country that stayed where it was in the top five, France let a home tournament slip to Latvia, when Ernests Gulbis defeated two top 10 Frenchmen in Marseille. However, Gael Monfils did get some company towards the top of the year-to-date rankings with better representation at the top of the sport from France.

4. United States - John Isner and red-hot Steve Johnson both reached the semifinals of Delray Beach. Match that with Michael Russell's quarterfinal in Memphis and the US slides ahead of Germany into No. 4. Still waiting for better results for Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison.

5. Germany - Peter Gojowczyk and Florian Mayer, the top two Germans in 2014, didn't gain any ranking points in the last two weeks. Despite a few solid wins from Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber, Germany wasn't able to hold onto its edge over the US.

6. Czech Republic - The Czechs improve to No. 6 thanks to Tomas Berdych's first title since 2012. The Czech No. 1 hasn't received much help from his countrymen though.

7. Croatia - Marin Cilic is on fire. He almost single-handily improved Croatia seven spots, earning 550 rankings points with a final in Rotterdam and a title in Delray Beach. He has now won 14-of-15 matches since the Australian Open.

8. Argentina - The South American country is well-represented, Juan Martin del Potro's slow start in 2014 has been costly. The Argentine's dropped two spots, but they should be back into the top six by year's end if not top five.

9. Italy - Fabio Fogini is carrying Italy like Sam carried Frodo in the Lord of the Rings. He won six matches in the last two weeks and ranks seventh in the year-to-date rankings, which is good enough for Italy to earn a spot in the top 10.

10. Japan - The blossoming East Asian tennis country may have moved down a spot, but all seven of its top players remained in the top 140 of the YTD rankings. Kei Nishikori will need some help if Japan wants to stay in the top 10.

11. Australia - As I said in the previous rankings, the farther we get from January, the lower the Australians go. They are now down three spots, and we are just two more weeks separated from the Happy Slam.

12. Serbia - It could be worse. If it weren't for a good pair of weeks from Ilija Bozoljac, Serbia would be No. 14. If Novak Djokovic doesn't win Dubai, it could be time to worry for Serbian tennis fans.

13. Russia - There's nothing new from the Russian Federation. Still just waiting for Mikhail Youzhny and Alex Bogomolov to start winning again.

14. Great Britain - The Brits dropped three spots as Andy Murray continues to struggle.

15. Ukraine - Alexander Dolgopolov reached his first final since 2012 Washington D.C. That boosted Ukraine five spots.

16. Colombia - Not much activity from the Colombians during the Golden Swing. This is why Bogota should be held in February on clay.

17. Latvia - One is the loneliest number. Latvia is the highest country with only one player in the top 300 in YTD rankings. At least Ernests Gulbis is the No. 1. Even Benoit Paire has surpassed him in broken rackets.

18. Netherlands - Robin Haase decided to skip his home country's tournament to play in South America, which didn't pay off to well. He earned a total of just 45 ranking points in two weeks' worth of work.

19. Bulgaria - Grigor Dimitrov lost to Gulbis in Rotterdam round of 16 as Bulgaria drops one spot.

20. Chinese Taipei - Yen-Hsun Lu reached the semifinals in Memphis, but Tsung-Hua Yang's YTD ranking dropped to 143, causing Taiwan's ranking to drop to No. 20.

21. Kazakhstan
22. India
23. Canada
24. Slovakia
25. South Africa
26. Brazil
27. Poland
28. Austria
29. Finland
30. Slovenia
31. Romania
32. Uzbekistan
33. Lithuania
34. Israel
35. Portugal
36. Dominican Republic
37. Bosnia & Herzegovina
38. Hungary
39. Tunisia
40. Luxembourg
41. Georgia
42. Belarus

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 YTD Power Rankings by Country

These are the rankings of how each country has done since the end of the 2013 tennis season. Rankings are based mainly on the year-to-date ranking of the individuals from that country from before Memphis, Rotterdam, and Buenos Aires began.

1. Switzerland - When two of the three best players in the world come from the same country, it's a safe bet that that country is the best in the world. Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer have been on fire to start 2014. Wawrinka won the Australian Open and Chennai, while Federer reached the final of Brisbane and semifinals in Melbourne. The next week, the two worked together to send Switzerland to the Davis Cup quarterfinals. The country finished 2012 in my top four, but dropped down to No. 7 in 2013. Switzerland could challenge for a top three finish in 2014 thanks to poor starts from Argentina and Serbia.

2. Spain- Doha champion and Australian Open semifinalist Rafael Nadal alone has done enough to earn Spain a top three spot on this list. Add on the effort of 10 other players in the top 140 for the year-to-date rankings, and the Spaniards are in a good position to start the season. Spain has been No. 1 in every 52-week Power Rankings list. With the clay season just over a month away, it won't be long before the country is No. 1 in the year-to-date Power Rankings list.

3. France- Strength in numbers is a phrase that is exemplified by French tennis. The country lacks a clear No. 1, with the spot being shared by Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Richard Gasquet over the past few years. However, it has always remained on of the top three countries simply because there are so many Frenchmen at the top of the game. Both at the end of 2012 and 2013, France was the most well-represented country in the top 140. There are already 14 Frenchmen in the top 140 in the world so far in 2014, which is three more than any other country.

4. Germany- After starting the season as the top country in the world, has cooled off a bit. However, Germany still finds itself at No. 4. Despite poor starts from Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber, the rest of Germany has picked up the slack. Florian Mayer has already racked up a country-best 310 ranking points in 2014 and led the country to a Davis Cup win over No. 2 Spain. Peter Gojowczyk started the year 14-2 in all matches and cracked the top 100 for the first time in his career. 33-year old Michael Berrer has come up through qualifying and advanced to the second round of two different tournaments, including the Australian Open.

5. United States- Aside from John Isner's title in Auckland, it has been all about the young Americans, who put the United States in the top five. The US just missed out on top five finishes in 2012 and 2013, finishing No. 6 this year. Staying ahead of Serbia seems unlikely, but the possibility of jumping Germany is there if Sam Querrey and Isner can return to form. The US is tied with Spain for second best representation in the year-to-date rankings with 11 different players in the top 140. Bradley Klahn has already claimed two challenger titles this year, while Steve Johnson has one of his own. Donald Young also reached the third round of the Australian Open.

6. Argentina- Leonardo Mayer has reached the final in Vina Del Mar and won a challenger title already. The 26-year old is now near a career-high ranking. This could be a breakthrough kind of year for him. Juan Martin del Potro also has a 250 title of his own, but a disappointing performance at the Australian Open overshadowed his success. Once the clay season comes, Argentina will rise in the rankings with players like Guido Pella, Carlos Berlocq, Juan Monaco and Martin Alund typically playing their best tennis on clay.

7. Czech Republic- Although two-time defending Davis Cup champions, Czech Republic has never done too well in the Power Rankings. The Czechs usually stay between eight and 10 in the rankings, but a semifinal performance at the Australian Open by Tomas Berdych has gotten the country to a good start. These rankings were made before Berdych's title in Rotterdam, so the Czech Republic will continue to rise in the rankings as the season goes on.

8. Australia- Since the start of each season is in Australia, the country always starts better than it finishes. Australia won't continue to benefit from teenagers, who took advantage of wildcards, so their ranking will drop several starts by the end of June. However, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Roger Federer to win Brisbane, which proves that he still can compete with anyone on tour. We also got a look at just how good the teenagers in Australia are, so even though they won't be on tour for a few more years, the future of Australian tennis is very good. Players like Nick Kyrgios, Luke Saville, and Thanasi Kokkinakis will join Bernard Tomic to form a very solid group of Australians that all be future top 50 players.

9. Japan- Kei Nishikori has carried Japan's ranking for a few years now, keeping them at around 15. However, Japan's depth is growing quickly with four other players in the top 100 of the year-to-date rankings. Taro Daniel, who trains in Spain could be the most promising of all of them. Daniel reached the quarterfinals through qualifying in Vina del Mar. The 21-year old, who was born in New York, cracked the top 200 for the first time and has 57 ranking points that aren't going anywhere for the next 12 months.

10. Italy- Fabio Fognini is among one of the hottest players on tour with his form right now. However, the rest of Italy hasn't been enjoying his level of success. Despite winning its first round of Davis Cup, there are only five other players in the top 200, and they don't combine for half as many points as Fognini.

11. Great Britain- Normally Great Britain's ranking is based solely on Andy Murray. This year though, he has some support from Daniel Smethurst, James Ward, and Daniel Evans, who reached the semifinals in Zagreb. Great Britain knocked off the United States in Davis Cup play and will face Italy next. The Brits still need Murray to perform if they want to finish in the top 10 in 2014. The second half of the season is where he is at his best.

12. Serbia- Last year's Davis Cup runner-up has gotten off to a brutal start in 2014. Serbia has already been eliminated from Davis Cup, Novak Djokovic failed to reach a major semifinal for the first time since 2010, and Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic haven't even stepped on the court yet. The bright spots for Serbia have come from the young players. Laslo Djere and Nikola Milojevic have made quick transitions from the junior tour onto the futures. Also, Dusan Lajovic and Pedja Krstin have both earned career-high rankings. If Djokovic, Troicki, and Tipsarevic all return to form Serbia could get back to being a top-two nation.

13. Russia- Mikhail Youzhny has struggled so far in 2014. Russia can only go up.

14. Croatia- Marin Cilic has been incredible this year, but the rest of the country hasn't helped him. Ivan Dodig's only wins have come against fellow Croat Ivo Karlovic, who struggled after upsetting Tomas Berdych. Cilic and Karlovic each reached the finals of their respective tournaments this week, so they will rise in the rankings later this year.

15. Columbia- Alejandro Gonzalez earned a career-best 74 after reaching the final of his first challenger of the year. Along with Alejandro Falla and Santiago Giraldo, the Colombians are always dangerous from Miami to Roland Garros.

16. Canada- It has been a slow start for the Canadians, and Milos Raonic isn't playing in February this year, which is when he is normally at his best. Vasek Pospisil has established himself as a mainstay on tour. He will be key if Canada continues to rise.

17. Chinese Taipei- After Switzerland, Taiwan has had the most surprising start to the 2014 season. Yen-Hsun Lu is ranked 28 in the year-to-date rankings thanks an incredible week in Auckland. He also did very well this week in Memphis. At 30 years-old, he is playing the best tennis of his career.

18. Bulgaria- Grigor Dimitrov is the 10th ranked player in the world in the Race to London. BabyFed reached the quarterfinals in Australia erasing some doubt that he couldn't win best-of-5 matches.

19. Slovenia- 23-year old Blaz Rola came up through qualifying to reach the second round of the Australian Open, earning a career-high ranking of 152. Along with Blaz Kavcic and Aljaz Bedene, those three carry Slovenia's ranking.

20. Ukraine- Considering the brutal start to the season for Alexander Dolgopolov, Ukraine in the top 20 seems surprising. However, there is no other team left that has three players with at least 70 ranking points so far in 2014. Sergiy Stakhovsky reached the semifinals in Sydney as a qualifier.

21. Finland
22. India
23. Brazil
24. Netherlands
25. Kazakhstan
26. Slovakia
27. South Africa
28. Uzbekistan
29. Poland
30. Romania
31. Israel
32. Bosnia & Herzegovina
33. Hungary
34. Latvia
35. Lithuania
36. Austria
37. Tunisia
38. Belarus
39. Portugal
40. Venezuela

Friday, February 7, 2014

Peter Gojowczyk: Making a Name for Himself

After Peter Gojowczyk defeated Dustin Brown in a third-set tiebreaker in the quarterfinals in Doha to begin his 2014 campaign, he entered his press conference, where, according to Neil Harman, he told reporters, "Hello everybody. My name is Peter. I'm from Munich."

Entering his first tournament of 2014, the 24-year old German had only made two appearances in the main draw of a grand slam and had only one tour-level victory to his name. After winning his first five matches in Doha, including three in qualifying, and his win over Brown, Gojowczyk had caught the attention of fans in Doha. However it wasn't until the next day that he caught the attention of fans around the tennis world.
In his first career tour-level semifinal, Gojowczyk won the first nine points of his first match against world No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Gojowczyk took a 3-0 lead, and despite having his break lead taken away, broke again to win the first set 6-4. Although the German eventually lost the match, he earned 102 ranking points that week, which was a personal best.
"It is the best week of my career," he said. "I'm really happy and I hope I learn from it and gain confidence. I have to play qualies in Melbourne on Wednesday, so it's close but it's tough. But I will give my best there."

In Melbourne, Gojowczyk qualified easily, dropping just 15 games in his in three matches. In the main draw, Gojowczyk dropped two narrow tiebreak-sets to start the match against Victor Hanescu, who eventually won the match in straight sets.

Gojowczyk didn't give himself a break as he hopped on a plane and flew to Heilbronn, Germany for a 100k challenger event. There, unseeded Gojowczyk won all five of his matches without dropping a set to claim his second challenger title and first 100k title. When the rankings came out the following Monday, Gojowczyk was featured in the top 100 in the world for the first time in his career at No. 99.

The German is now 14-2 in all matches he has played in 2014, winning 13 of those matches in straight sets, and has a year-to-date ranking of 14 in the world. His 14 wins, including challenger events and qualifying is the most of any tennis player so far in 2014.

Success hasn't always come so easily for Gojowczyk, who had to wait over eight years after earning a ranking for the first time to reach the top 100. Through the first six years of his professional career, he earned $89,486 in prize money. Gojowczyk, did however, win eight futures events and reached the final in a challenger in Manerbio, Italy as a qualifier in that span.

Gojowczyk has already earned six-figures in just one month this year, while quadrupling his career total in tour level wins. This weekend, he will try to qualify for his first main draw appearance in an ATP World Tour 500 event in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He is the No. 6 seed and will face Adrian Sikora in his first qualifying match as he tries to earn one of four of the remaining spots in the main draw.