Friday, January 30, 2015

Racket Rally Fantasy Insider: Post-Australian Open

This is the second installment of the new series, which features fantasy tips and rankings for Racket Rally. You can find a more detailed explanation of the series here.

After the first tournament of Racket Rally, there is already a lot to be learned. The profiles that did well were the ones that had 50 shares or close to that of just a few players and those players all did really well. It's an all-or-nothing strategy and if you pick the right players it can really pay off. Those players have already gained a massive lead in the standings that will be very difficult to overcome.

Since all players are given $100,000 and prices are determined by how many points a player was worth in the past 52 weeks, a score of over 100,000 on the whole year is a good one. Everyone in the top 100 has at least 13,000 points and the top score is currently bautistabomb's 24,670. That means the pace is being set very high already. The rest of us have some catch up work to do, but it is a very long season.

Tip of the Week: Now it is time to start thinking long term as far as strategy goes. There are a limited number of court coins and February is not a good time to be using them. They will be much more valuable at around the time of Roland Garros or US Open because there are so many big tournaments leading up to those events.

That means now is a good time to stock up on cheap players, whose value will increase as the year goes on. These are also the type of players who could win MVP, meaning more court coins when those big tournaments come around.

Top Prospects vs. Drop Prospects

Top Prospects

1. Madison Keys, 19, USA
Price per share: $1,390
This is what you call an absolute no-brainer. The Australian Open MVP is going to see her value sky-rocket. However, that doesn't happen until next week, meaning she must be bought now. Even if she never reaches another grand slam semifinals, she will be more than worth her price. She is going to start being seeded higher at tournaments, meaning easier draws and more wins.She is just about to turn 20. Don't expect her to repeat what she did in Melbourne or win another MVP, but this is a very safe buy.

2. Bethanie Mattek Sands, 29, USA
Price per share: $260
The No. 2 player in the MVP rankings and 2015 Australian Open Women's Doubles Champion is making a comeback, yet is barely receiving any protected points. The former world No. 30 need only get into the top 200 to be a valuable buy. She should be able to do much more than that this year. This is another player that must be bought now. Stock up on shares of BMS.

3. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 31, ESP
Price per share: $1020
Upcoming Tournaments: Zagreb, Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai
You don't have to look much farther than the upcoming tournaments list to know why Garcia-Lopez is a good buy. The Spaniard also just reached the second week of the Australian Open, taking advantage of a weak draw yes, but he that means he will be seeded most-likely at each of the upcoming tournaments. Get him now before his price goes up next week. The only worry might be that he is playing all hard court events, and when we switch over to the clay he has a ton to defend and his ranking and value will both drop. Never own a player at a price more expensive than what you could rebuy him for.

4. Vasek Pospisil, 24, CAN
Price per share: $785
Upcoming Tournaments: Zagreb, Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai
The only reason Garcia-Lopez is higher on this list is because he will be seeded in upcoming tournaments. Otherwise, Pospisil is a better long-term buy in every aspect. He was No. 5 on my list before the Australian Open and reached the third round. He has little to defend coming up meaning he will only get more expensive between now and the after Wimbledon. He lost to Garcia-Lopez in Melbourne, but will be playing the exact same four tournaments in February, so they could meet again. It's hard to beat Pospisil twice in a row.

5. Vera Zvonareva, 30, RUS
Price per share: $242
What a steal to get the world No. 2 at that kind of a price even if she doesn't turn out to be even half the player she used to be. This is by no means a "must buy" because her price won't be going up just yet. Perhaps just wait for her to win a couple matches to make sure she can perform again and then buy her that week for the rest of the season. If you don't buy her now, make sure you have someone you can sell at any time to clear room in your roster and bank account for the Russian.

Drop Prospects

1. Novak Djokovic, 27, SRB
Price per share: $11,405
Upcoming Tournaments: Dubai
If you are new to Racket Rally, it may seem bizarre that a player can go from No. 4 top prospects list to No. 1 on my drop prospects list after just one tournament - a tournament where the player reached the semifinals. However, Djokovic is a must drop player right now. He is about to take three weeks off, meaning he is burning a hole in your wallet right now without giving anything in return. Also, when he finally plays Dubai, he is going against a tough field for a maximum of 500 points at a price of over $11k. Then, even if he wins Dubai, his value will start to plummet as he tries to defend titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, and Wimbledon along with a final appearance at Roland Garros. The best he can do is break even, you want players that will exceed previous results and therefore exceed their value.

2. Roger Federer, 33, SUI
Price per share: $9,875
Upcoming Tournaments: Dubai
If you have Federer, there is no possible benefit from keeping him. He isn't playing for the next three weeks, and if you really want him for Dubai, just buy him back. He will be at a lower price in just a couple weeks because of his third round exit at the Australian Open. Still, I wouldn't buy him back for a while anyways. He has a title to defend in Dubai, finalist points at Indian Wells and Monte Carlo, and semifinal points at Miami. If you are a huge Federer fan and must have him, wait to buy him back the week before Madrid. There is nothing to be gained from having Federer between now and then.

3. Rafael Nadal, 28, ESP
Price per share: $6585
Upcoming Tournaments: Rio de Janiero, Buenos Aires
This list is starting to resemble the ATP rankings, but it is hard to understate how necessary it is to sell these guys during February. Nadal won't be playing for two more weeks and his value is about to drop after losing in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. He value won't stop dropping any time soon either. He has a title to defend in Rio de Janiero, Madrid, and Roland Garros along with finalist points at Rome and Miami. The absolute soonest that it might be a good idea to buy Nadal would be before Monte Carlo, but I would wait until the week before Roland Garros. Buy him just for that tournament and if he does any thing less than win the title sell him again only to buy him right back at a cheaper price for Wimbledon.

4. Ernests Gulbis, 26, LAT
Price per share: $2,455
Upcoming Tournaments: Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai
This might be a tempting buy since he is going to be seeded at three tournaments in February right before playing Indian Wells and Miami, especially since he is typically very good this time of year and they are all hard court events. However, the Latvian is defending a ton of points with a lingering injury. Do not get lured into this trap. Buy him after Roland Garros when his 720 points come falling off his ranking. Hopefully by then his injury issues will be a thing of the past. At that point he will actually one of the most valuable players available as long as he is just somewhat healthy. 

5. Petra Kvitova, 24, CZE
Price per share: $6,360
The defending Wimbledon Champion is a huge achievement and for fantasy purposes, that means she comes at a huge price. She took an early exit in the Australian Open, which doesn't mean she won't do well in upcoming tournaments, but it does show the risk of spending so much money on a player with such a high-risk game. Sometimes it pays off and she's the Wimbledon champion. Other times she bows out of a tournament before giving you her fantasy value. If you had her in Melbourne, the bright side is that selling her will open a lot of room in the bank to invest in one of the top 5 prospects.

Twitter Questions:
@CarosWrist: I have $5K to spend on an ATP journeyman to bring some points in February. Any suggestions?

I would go after Dusan Lajovic. The Serb has an absolutely packed schedule and he is going to tournaments with some relatively weak fields. They are all on clay until he goes to Acapulco, Indian Wells, and Miami. He performs well on clay and even reached the second week of Roland Garros last year. You are getting him at a great price of just $711. Be sure to drop him before those Roland Garros points come off though. Otherwise you might get stuck overpaying for him.

@LangTennis: Should I go with my head or my heart?

I'm not sure this was a serious question, but I was honored to be tweeted at by one of American tennis' greatest fans. The answer to that is that it depends on if you are betting money on this game. If not, have fun. Otherwise, make sure you read each part of the series so you don't miss an opportunity to buy an under-priced player.

@megandmur: what about @geniebouchard @CoCoVandey

For Genie Bouchard, I would sell her right now if you have her. She didn't defend her quarterfinal appearance last year, meaning her value is about to drop. She might be someone you want to buy right back though for Indian Wells. She has a ton of points to defend this year though between Nurnberg and Wimbledon make sure you don't own her during those events. At the same time though, don't make the mistake of leaving her off your roster before the Roger's Cup. She will likely be No. 1 on my top prospects list that week.

As for Coco Vandeweghe, if you have the money, she might be a good player to buy right now. She performed well in Melbourne, meaning if you don't buy her now her price will go up. However, this is likely just a short-term buy, because you don't  want to see her value drop after Miami. If you get her now and she does do well at Indian Wells, then you have a keeper on your roster. It isn't a buy that is guaranteed to work out, but it is a buy that has the potential to yield some very good results. 

*All photos are from the site and are credited there.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Impact of Federer loss on GOAT debate

The 2015 season saw its first real shock yesterday afternoon in Melbourne, when world No. 46 Andreas Seppi ended a 10-match losing streak to Roger Federer, sending the No. 2 seed packing in just the third round. Prior to the match, Seppi had won just one set in 22 tries against the Swiss, who hadn't lost in the first week of the Australian Open since 2001.

I have Federer ranked No. 1 on my Open Era GOAT list (by a large margin), and the 17-time grand slam champion has earned it. One of the big reasons he is atop my list is that he has spent more time as the world No. 1 than any player in tennis history. However, there are two other active players in the top 10 of my list, and Federer's loss has left the door open for the other two to make up some ground.

The loss particularly benefits current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who not only saw his biggest threat for the Australian Open title bow out, but also his biggest threat for the top ranking.

With a mountain of points to defend between Indian Wells and Wimbledon, Djokovic's top ranking is vulnerable in the middle of the summer, and Federer was the prime candidate to take it from the Serb. Djokovic has currently spent 130 weeks as the world No. 1, which is far behind Federer's 302. However, because of Rafael Nadal's injury in 2014, he won't be back in contention for the No. 1 ranking again until after the US Open at the earliest, so the weeks could start piling up for Djokovic.

2015 is the third year in which Djokovic has started as the World No. 1 and each year, the Serb has lost that spot in the rankings at some point. Now, Djokovic has a golden opportunity to maintain the world No. 1 ranking all year, which only five players have ever done. However, Federer is one of those five and he did it three years in a row.

Simply with the lack of challengers for his ranking, Djokovic could easily add another 30 or 40 weeks, which could push him as high as No. 5 on the list, passing John McEnroe. Still, I think Djokovic lost his chance at ever being the GOAT when he lost to Nadal in the 2013 Roland Garros semifinals. That loss cost him likely the title, but also the No. 1 ranking, and forced him into a bit of a slump for the next four majors.

The opportunity is there now for both Nadal and Djokovic to make up some ground, but the loss hardly did anything to hurt Federer's GOAT credentials. Sure, his winning percentage will drop slightly, but that is the only statistical loss he really suffered. Everything else is simply a missed opportunity - missed opportunity to continue his streak of reaching the second week at the Australian Open, missed opportunity to return to No. 1 this summer, and a missed opportunity to end a five-year drought from finals at a hard court major or even his 18th major title.

Federer is already the GOAT though. Anything at this point is just gravy. A lot of his records are already out of reach. But it is still worth noting that whatever glimmer of hope there was for Djokovic or Nadal to ever truly enter the GOAT debate just grew a tiny bit.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Racket Rally Fantasy Insider: Australian Open

This is my first installment of a new series, which will feature fantasy tips and rankings for the new fantasy game Racket Rally created by Jeff Sackmann and Ben Rothenberg. You can find a complete article here explaining what this series will be about, and also includes five crucial tips to having a successful roster.

Tip of the Week: Diversify. The same principle for buying stocks works in buying shares for Racket Rally. There are up to 20 players that can be bought, so it is a good idea to have around 15. You don't want to have all 20, because then you can only add as many players as you drop, which is just one. Still, having a lot is always good. First, it reduces the damage done by one of your players getting upset. In other words, its safer to have many players on your roster, while it is much riskier to have just three players.

The second reason diversifying is a must do is that it dramatically increases your chances of owning an MVP. If you do own the MVP, you get 10 courtcoins, which is a huge advantage. Having more players requires buying cheaper players, which are the ones more likely of being named MVP. Predicting the MVP is nearly impossible, so it's better to cast a large net rather than trying to fish with a sniper.

2015 Australian Open: Top Prospects vs. Drop Prospects
Top Prospects
1. Viktor Troicki, 28, Serbia
Price per share: $564
Upcoming Tournaments: Australian Open
The Serb is taking all of the next month off unless he is looking for a wild card, so this is a buy for the long term. Troicki reached the final of Sydney as a qualifier, benefitting from a weak field. However, he has won 50 matches in the six months of his comeback, playing enough tournaments for him to avoid getting protected points. Because of that his price per share is much lower than his actual value. After this week though, his price per share will go up at least $162, so this is the time to buy shares on the Serb. He has nothing to defend for the next six months, so his price per share will only go up. It is now or never with Serbia's No. 3.

2. Jiri Vesely, 21, Czech Republic
Price per share: $743
Upcoming Tournaments: Australian Open, Zagreb, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janiero
Vesely is a good buy on many levels. He just won the Heineken Open in Auckland, so like Troicki, it is now or never with Vesely. His price per share is only $743, and he is just 21, meaning his value will likely go up as the year goes on. The most points he has to defend all year is just 125, so there won't be another chance to buy him at this price. Troicki and Vesely may be playing each other in the first round of the Australian Open, but buying both of these guys now before their value goes up from what they did this week is a good idea. You would be buying them each for the long term - not just what they do in Melbourne.

3. David Goffin, 24, Belgium
Price per share: $1,669
Upcoming Tournaments: Australian Open, Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai
After the first two players, there are no obvious players that are "must-buy," but Goffin is a safe reliable buy. All his points are back-loaded for the season, so his value can only go up. Meanwhile, he is busy for the next few months, and could have a great spring on clay. He will be seeded higher than anyone else at his price per share in the following months, so he will get some relatively decent draws, which means consistent results. Money spent on Goffin won't go to waste. Just be sure to sell him immediately after Wimbledon, because his value will begin to drop after that.

4. Novak Djokovic, 27, Serbia
Price per share: $11,405
Upcoming Tournaments: Australian Open, Dubai
In general, I think it is a good rule to never spend much more than $2,000 on a single share, and Djokovic costs over $11k, but everything works out perfectly to buy Djokovic just this once. The world No. 1 is the clear favorite in Melbourne, and the draw only strengthened that. Although the Serb has a tough draw, Murray and Federer (the other two favorites) were drawn together, so Djokovic's chances of winning go up by virtue of theirs going down. On top of that, Djokovic is only defending 360 points in Melbourne, so his value is about to go up. Still, it is a huge risk and immediately after the tournament, Djokovic must be sold. He takes three weeks off after the first slam and also has a ton of points to defend for the next four and a half months. He won't be worth owning again at least until the week before Montreal.

5. Vasek Pospisil, 24, Canada
Price per share: $785
Upcoming Tournaments: Australian Open, Zagreb, Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai
Buying a player, who is under 27-years old and not at their career-high ranking is always a good idea. In theory, players should reach a new career-high ranking every year until they are 27. Pospisil is healthy, so there is every reason to believe this will be a good year for him, and he comes at a steal of a price. On top of that, he is busy. The Australian Open will be the second of eight consecutive tournaments without a break for the young Canadian. That means non-stop points from his shares as long as he wins once per week. And if he goes on a run, which he is capable of doing, you score big time! He has 90 points to defend in Melbourne, so you might want to wait until after the tournament to buy Pospisil, and try to get him at a better price in a couple weeks.

Drop Prospects
1. Stan Wawrinka: He has 2000 points to defend in Melbourne. Wait a couple weeks and get him at a better price.
2. Rafael Nadal: The No. 3 player in the world will be able to be bought at a much better price following Roland Garros. Wait for that and he will be an absolute steal.
3. Roger Federer: He is only worth buying if he wins the title in Melbourne. That's simply too high of a risk. Federer may never be a good buy in 2015. If you want to win a league easily, join a Fedfan league. His fans are only hurting themselves by buying his shares.
4. Tomas Berdych: Noticing a theme? Another top player, who has a lot to defend at the Australian Open. He could be a good addition right before Monte Carlo, but any sooner than that would be a mistake.
5. Juan Martin del Potro: One of the genius parts of this fantasy game is the addition of protected points. It prevents a player who is very good, but has been injured or suspended from being too valuable. It applies to Del Potro because he hasn't played enough tournaments, but not to Troicki. Therefore, Troicki is a steal and Del Potro is slightly overpriced for someone who still isn't 100%. Wait until the protected points go away for Del Potro, and then he will be right at the top of my list for Top Prospects. It's just a waiting game here.

Racket Rally Fantasy Insider

When I first started following tennis, I thought it could never be a legitimate fantasy sport, because the most important part of fantasy sports can't be done in tennis: the draft. However, I have been proven wrong on that front yet again, as Ben Rothenberg and Jeff Sackmann combined efforts to create a tennis fantasy salary game called Racket Rally that is both beautifully constructed and a tennis fans' dream.

Like every good fantasy game, Racket Rally needs its own "Fantasy Insider," and if there are no objections, I'll appoint myself. What I want to do is create an incomplete fantasy ranking here. Unlike fantasy ranking in baseball or other sports, which essentially serve as a positional ranking, the emphasis on my rankings will be fantasy.

Tennis already has its own rankings, but what I will do with my rankings is look at who has the most value relative to their price. Basically, I will look at how can you maximize the value of those $100,000 that you get to start the game.

The other thing is to cover some basic strategies that will lead to winning your league. The idea is that my fantasy insider posts will be a tool for the games most serious players, particularly those who are betting money in their fantasy leagues (which I highly recommend if you are a serious player).

Later tonight, I will release my first set of rankings to get ready for the Australian Open. For this post, I want to just share five basic strategies that will make any Racket Rally competitor a winner.

1. Don't just choose your favorite players: I'm starting with an obvious one, but it is worth sharing. My first instinct when I saw the game was to buy all the Serbs, but that isn't a legitimate strategy to win a league. Many leagues are built from fans of a similar player, so actually not buying that player has clear advantages. Also, it is not a good idea to only buy players from the WTA or the ATP, but instead have a mix of both. My rankings (at least for now) will only include the ATP, because that is what I know best, but there is certainly a lot of value in players from the WTA.

2. Pay attention to ranking points rewarded for each round: The ATP and WTA do have slight differences in what percentage of the total points go to players in particular rounds. Be aware of those differences and try to exploit them. A third round loss in a grand slam for the WTA is worth 130 points, while it is worth just 90 on the ATP. If you can pay the same for a third round appearance on the WTA as on the ATP, go with the player from the WTA.

3. Don't buy players the week before they defend a lot of points: The goal of the game is to pay as little for a player as possible. If you buy a player right before they go to a tournament where they are the defending champion, you are wasting your money. Wait until the tournament is over and buy them at a potentially much lower price.

4. Pay attention in general to where players have to defend points: It is not a bad idea to sell a player right before they have to defend a title, because you can just buy them right back for a lower price and use the extra money elsewhere. Also, buy in on a player that has little to defend over a long stretch of time. The idea is to buy a player when they are at their cheapest value. If you wait for a player to reach a career-high ranking to buy them, you are spending money that isn't necessary.

5. Pay attention to entry lists: This is a useful practice for good tennis fans in general, but particularly for Racket Rally. One of the rules many will miss if they don't make sure to read them carefully is that you can only sell one players' shares per week. That means that you don't want to have 10 players on your roster that all are taking the next three weeks off from the tour. A lot of players decide to treat February as an offseason for example. Don't get more than a couple of those players right before the mini-offseason or you will get stuck with them.

There will be more tips to come with each of my rankings. I will post the rankings going into the Australian Open later tonight.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Australian Open Draw: Murray and Nadal land on Federer's side

The Australian Open men's singles draw has been released and Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer all got lined up on the same side of the draw. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka are on the same half of the draw, setting up a potential rematch of last year's quarterfinal, which for many was the match of the year.

Before the draw, the most anticipated part was where Juan Martin del Potro would land and it didn't disappoint, playing another one of the dangerous unseeeded players in Jerzy Janowicz and has a potential second round match with Gael Monfils in the same part of the draw as Milos Raonic and Lleyton Hewitt, which is all in Djokovic's quarter of the draw.

Most exciting potential match ups per round
1st Round: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Jerzy Janowicz
2nd Round: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Gael Monfils
3rd Round: Rafael Nadal vs. Lukas Rosol
4th Round: Andy Murray vs. Grigor Dimitrov
Quarterfinals: Andy Murray vs. Roger Federer
Semifinals: Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka
Final: Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

Toughest Path: Andy Murray
The Scot is going to have to pay the price for dropping out of the top four, receiving a difficult draw, most notably facing Roger Federer in the quarterfinal round. Getting there won't be that easy though. He opens with a qualifier followed by Marinko Matosevic, which he shouldn't have any problems with. However, the third round match is against an in form Martin Klizan. The left-hander can be a tricky opponent and when he is in form is capable of pulling off this kind of an upset.

The first real test though is against Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Murray twice last year, including in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. This time though, it will be in the fourth round. Then in the quarterfinals Murray will likely face Roger Federer, who is the No. 2 overall seed and has never lost in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, reaching at least the semifinals every year since 2004.

In the semifinal and final, he could face any number of players, so the big test is just getting there. Murray was also my pick for toughest draw at this past US Open.

Easiest Path: Stan Wawrinka
Could have gone with several people for this one. Both Nadal's quarter and Wawrinka's quarter of the draw are fairly weak. The defending champion opens with Marsel Ilhan followed by the winner of a qualifier and Pablo Andujar. It would be a bigger upset than his first round loss at Roland Garros if Wawrinka doesn't get through that.

In the third round he will face Pablo Cuevas, who is seeded because of what he did at two clay court 250 events last year. Just over a month ago Cuevas was playing a challenger on clay. The only times he has played in the Australian Open were 2010 and 2011 and he lost both times in the first round.

After winning his first nine sets easily, Wawrinka will play either Fabio Fognini or Alexandr Dolgopolov. Fognini would be an easy matchup for Wawrinka, while Dolgopolov could be tricky. However, Dolgopolov pulling off that upset would require him getting to that match and still being healthy enough to play in the form it would take to knock off last year's champion.

Then in the quarterfinals, he could face Kei Nishikori or David Ferrer. Nishikori has the ability to beat Wawrinka. However out of anyone seeded between five and eight, Nishikori was the best possible draw since he is susceptible to big upsets or injury. That is about as easy of a path to the semifinals as Wawrinka could ask for, but there is no such thing as an easy semifinal or final. He will have to play well at some point to defend his title.

Other impressions: 
-Djokovic reminded everyone that he does not like playing big servers following a three-set loss to Ivo Karlovic in Doha. He could have to face John Isner and Milos Raonic in consecutive rounds though at this year's Australian Open.

-Great chance for Tomas Berdych to make it to a semifinal. It is so hard to know how Nadal will do this fortnight, but he is the most vulnerable of the top four seeds. Before the potential match-up with Nadal, Berdych's biggest test is probably Viktor Troicki, who hasn't played a best-of-5 match since 2013.

-Qualifiers have little to work with. There are no matches between two qualifiers and almost every one of them is set to face a top 8 seed in either the first or second round. The coveted spot for a qualifier is the one right next to Pablo Cuevas. Potential easy third-rounder if it goes to the right player.

-This draw will solidify Djokovic as the favorite to win the tournament, since the other favorite, Federer, has it even worse than he does, but both guys have some tricky matches along the way.

-Adrian Mannarino has a great draw. Just two weeks ago he was in a challenger and he could soon be into the third round of a grand slam. He has two winnable matches to start, but Feliciano Lopez is always tough. He has played in over 50 slams in his career.


Melbourne's Most Dangerous

The draw comes out this afternoon and for every player on the draw there are a few people they definitely don't want to be drawn next to. For the seeded players, there isn't as much to worry about because they are guaranteed not to face another seeded player until the third round. However, there is a group of unseeded players that nobody wants to see in the first round. These are the ten most dangerous unseeded players in Melbourne.

1. Juan Martin del Potro (338) - This is the most obvious one. The 2009 US Open champion has been out with a wrist injury and certainly won't be at his best in Melbourne, but would still be a horrible draw for anyone. The Argentine is a two-time quarter finalist at the Australian Open and has a career record of 17-8 at the tournament. He is also undefeated in first round matches there winning 24-of-27 sets. Del Potro reached the quarterfinals of Sydney in his comeback to the ATP World Tour, which is the ideal result for getting enough match experience and having plenty of time to get settled in at Melbourne Park.

2. Nick Kyrgios (50) - The teenage Australian is already making his second main draw appearance at the Australian Open. Last year in the first round, he claimed a four-set victory over Benjamin Becker, who went on to have an incredible year. Kyrgios defeated Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon later on last year, showing how dangerous he can be against the top players, especially when playing in front of a big crowd. Kyrgios will definitely feed off the crowd at his home slam, and the schedulers will look for every opportunity to get him in front of a big crowd on a show court. He has the tools to hit anyone off the court. When he is playing his best, there are few players in tennis who can hang with him.

3. Viktor Troicki (92) - It has barely been half a season since Troicki began his return to tennis with nothing next to his name and he is already in the top 100 despite having to play in qualifying events just to get into challengers. He has compiled a record of 49-12 during his comeback and just reached the semifinals of Sydney as a qualifier. The Serb is playing with a chip on his shoulder and finding the best form of his career, which has already seen him to the No. 12 ranking in the world. He isn't the most capable player of pulling off big upsets, but he is certainly capable of making a run if he avoids the top 10 players early in the tournament.

4. Lleytong Hewitt (86) - The former world No. 1 isn't someone I mention a lot on my blog, because he already gets a lot of press for someone outside the top 50, but it would be a huge mistake to leave him off this list. Hewitt peaks in two places: in Australia and at grand slams. The Australian Open just happens to be both those things. In 2012, Hewitt defeated Andy Roddick and Milos Raonic to reach the second week in Melbourne, where he took a set off No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic. Then in 2013, he defeated No. 10 seed Stan Wawrinka in straight sets in the first round of Wimbledon. The following grand slam, he defeated No. 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro in Flushing Meadows to reach the second week. Then last year, he defeated Roger Federer in the Brisbane final, so there is no doubt that 33-year old Lleyton Hewitt is still dangerous. His results are less consistent than in his younger days, but nobody is safe from Rusty in the draw.

5. Bernard Tomic (71) - This is becoming just a list of Australians, but there is no denying that they play well in their own country. They are prepared to handle the heat, and the crowd support is never in question at their home tournaments. Tomic in particular peaks at this time of year. He has wins over Lopez, Chardy, Querrey, Dolgopolov, and Verdasco in the Australian Open and even took eventual semifinalist Marin Cilic to a fifth set when Tomic was just 17-years old. In his young career, he already has two titles and three wins over top 10 players as he continues to develop his game.

6. Sam Querrey (35) - Querrey is the highest ranked player that did not get a seed, so if someone withdraws, Querrey could move into that 32nd seed spot. Outdoor hard courts are where Querrey does best collecting four of his seven career titles in those conditions. He has already defeated 12 top 10 players in his career and even reached a career-high ranking of 17. He has since dropped in the rankings, but is only 27 with no current physical issues, meaning he is capable of producing that level of tennis again. Players with those clear identifiable weapons are always the most likely candidates to pull off an upset and Querrey certainly has those in his forehand and serve. If it weren't for poor results on clay, Querrey would be ranked much higher, but his ability to play on clay isn't a factor in Melbourne, so he will be tough for anyone to beat.

7. Gilles Muller (45) - The lefty has one of the most effective serves on tour and with that alone will get himself into a lot of tiebreakers, meaning every set will be determined by just a few points here and there. Those are the kind of matches where anything can happen, leaving the door wide open to some big upsets if he runs into the right opponent. Muller is into the semifinals in Sydney right now after defeated Tomic in two tiebreaks sets. When he is playing that way, he is tough to put away. He certainly has a lot to play for, trying to earn a seed at Indian Wells to help him defend all his points from the Challenger Tour last year. He could represent the perfect storm for someone in the draw just depending on where he lands.

8. Dominic Thiem (37) - At 21-years old, Thiem doesn't have the fire power to take the match out of his opponents hands, meaning he isn't typically someone who will pull off upsets. However, the Austrian has a very complete game and if his opponent is not at their best, he will be there ready to take the match. Among the young players, he has established himself as one of the most consistent and reliable players. That showed in Madrid, when he took out Stan Wawrinka, who wasn't at his best. He also had wins over Feliciano Lopez and Ernests Gulbis in the US Open last year, and even beat this year's No. 32 seed Martin Klizan in straight sets in the final round of qualifying last year.

9. Jerzy Janowicz (42) - Dangerous is just about the one word that everyone can agree upon to describe Janowicz. He has had very inconsistent results that have led to a lot of debate about what can be expected of him. But where he is good or not, there is no denying that he is at least dangerous. At 6-foot-8 with a huge serve, frequent on-court outbursts, and inexplicable drop shots, Janowicz represents an opposing coaches' worst nightmare, because there is no way to tell their player what to be ready for. When playing Janowicz, you have to go in with several game plans and be ready to change them. Murray was a master of that en route to his 2013 Wimbledon title, beating Janowicz in the semifinals after losing the first set. Yes, Janowicz who has never been in the top 10 and never won 30 matches in a season was two sets away from the Wimbledon final. He has five wins in his career against top 10 players and many more against players in the top 20. When he is on fire, he is unstoppable.

10. Jiri Vesely (63) - The 21-year old Czech is into the semifinals in Auckland, which isn't ideal the week before a slam to be in a different country, but there's nothing wrong with being in form going into the first big tournament of the year. Last year, he had a five-set epic with Kevin Anderson in the first round and just missed out on scoring a big upset. Being able to go five sets with the conditions the way they were in the first round last year shows he isn't afraid of a little heat. That could be a key advantage, especially if he is playing on the outer courts.

Other notable unseeded players: Steve Johnson, Nicolas Almagro, Benjamin Becker, Denis Istomin, Vasek Pospisil, Marcos Baghdatis, Sam Groth, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Borna Coric, Ricardas Berankis, Dustin Brown, Aljaz Bedene and Peter Gojowczyk

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 YTD Rankings

We are just one week into the 2015 ATP World Tour season, but it is never to early to check who is winning the Race to London, is it?

These are the rankings for all players who earned points this week at any level.

*Those who are in bold are so because they have earned points in a tournament in which they are still participating. The + next to their ranking is how many points they would earn by winning their next match.

Rank Name Country Points
1 David Ferrer ESP 250
1 Roger Federer SUI 250
1 Stan Wawrinka SUI 250
4 Aljaz Bedene SLO 162
5 Tomas Berdych CZE 150
5 Milos Raonic CAN 150
7 Steve Darcis BEL 100
8 Ivo Karlovic CRO 90
8 Andreas Seppi ITA 90
8 Grigor Dimitrov BUL 90
8 Kei Nishikori JPN 90
8 David Goffin BEL 90
8 Roberto Bautista Agut ESP 90
14 Ryan Harrison USA 80
15 Adrian Menendez-Maceiras ESP 60
16 Marcos Baghdatis CYP 48
17 Novak Djokovic SRB 45
17 Dustin Brown GER 45
17 Richard Gasquet FRA 45
17 Ivan Dodig CRO 45
17 James Duckworth AUS 45
17 Martin Klizan SVK 45
17 Sam Groth AUS 45
17 Bernard Tomic AUS 45
17 Gilles Muller LUX 45
17 Andreas Haider-Maurer AUT 45
17 Yen-Hsun Lu TPE 45
17 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ESP 45
29 Adrian Mannarino FRA 35
29 Jimmy Wang TPE 35
31 Jiri Vesely CZE 32 +20
31 Andrew Harris AUS 32
31 Nikoloz Basilashvili GEO 32
31 Blaz Kavcic SLO 32
31 Michael Berrer GER 32
31 Lukasz Kubot POL 32
37 Alex Bolt AUS 29
38 Joao Souza BRA 26 +6
38 Jarkko Nieminen FIN 26 +6
38 Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ 26 +6
41 Geitherme Clezar BRA 23
42 Sergiy Stakhovsky UKR 20
42 Fernando Verdasco ESP 20
42 Jan-Lennard Struff GER 20
42 Simone Bolelli ITA 20
42 John Millman AUS 20
42 Jeremy Chardy FRA 20
42 Alexandr Dolgopolov UKR 20
42 Thanasi Kokkinakis AUS 20
42 Steve Johnson USA 20
42 Borna Coric CRO 20
42 Elias Ymer SWE 20
42 Ricardas Berankis LTU 20
42 Pablo Carreno Busta ESP 20
42 Peter Gojowczyk GER 20
42 Tatsuma Ito JPN 20
57 Maxime Authom BEL 18
57 Bradley Klahn USA 18
57 David Guez FRA 18
57 Chase Buchanan USA 18
57 Mick Lescure FRA 18
57 Shuichi Sekiguchi JPN 18
63 Mitchel Krueger USA 15 +12
63 Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA 15
63 Andrey Kuznetsov RUS 15
63 Aleksandr Nedovyesov KAZ 15
67 Stephane Robert FRA 14 +6
68 Bjorn Fratangelo USA 13
69 Rhyne Williams USA 12
69 Denis Kudla USA 12
69 Marius Copil ROU 12
69 Luca Vanni ITA 12
69 N Vijay Sundar Prashanth IND 12
69 Viktor Troicki SRB 12 +6
75 Ilya Ivashka BLR 10
75 Hugo Nys FRA 10
75 Christian Lindell SWE 10 +8
75 Julian Lenz GER 10 +8
75 Andrew Whittington AUS 10
80 Taylor Fritz USA 8 +7
80 Jason Jung USA 8 +7
80 Dimitar Kutrovsky BUL 8 +7
80 James McGee IRL 8
80 Horacio Zeballos ARG 8
80 Vincent Millot FRA 8
80 Ti Chen TPE 8
80 Johan Sebastien Tatlot FRA 8
80 Jarmere Jenkins USA 8
89 Blaz Rola SLO 7
89 Liam Broady GBR 7
89 Matteo Viola ITA 7
89 Marton Fucsovics HUN 7
89 Jurgen Zopp EST 7
89 Wayne Odesnik USA 7
89 Tim Puetz GBR 7
96 Uladzimir Ignatik BLR 6
96 Tom Jomby FRA 6
96 Alexey Vatutin RUS 6
96 Riccardo Bellotti ITA 6
96 Deiton Baughman USA 6
96 Gonzalo Escobar ECU 6
96 Filip Krajinovic SRB 6
96 Rajeev Ram USA 6
96 Farrukh Dustov UZB 6
96 Mathias Bachinger GER 6
96 Frank Dancevic CAN 6
96 Marsel Ilhan TUR 6
96 Matt Reid AUS 6
96 Damir Dzumhur BIH 6
96 Vinayak Sharma Kaza IND 6
96 Sasi Kumar Mukund IND 6
96 Illya Marchenko UKR 6
96 Lucas Pouille  FRA 6 +6
96 Alejandro Falla COL 6 +6
96 Kenny De Schepper FRA 6 +6
96 Jules Marie FRA 6 +6
96 Go Soeda JPN 6 +6
96 Alejandro Gonzalez COL 6 +6
96 Igor Sijsling NED 6 +6
96 Teymuraz Gabashvili RUS 6 +6
96 John-Patrick Smith AUS 6 +6
96 Stefano Travaglia ITA 6 +6
123 Jared Donaldson USA 5
123 Marco Trungelliti ARG 5
125 Stefan Kozlov USA 3
125 Frederik Nielson DEN 3
125 Nathan Ponwith USA 3
125 Jacob Grills AUS 3
129 Johannes Haerteis GER 2
129 Peter Kobelt USA 2
129 Yannick Maden GER 2
129 Lukas Ruepke GER 2
129 Cem Ilkel TUR 2
129 Jose Pereira BRA 2
129 Timur Kiuamov RUS 2
129 Dennis Novak AUT 2
129 Markus Eriksson SWE 2
129 Jeff Dadamo USA 2
129 Chuhan Wang CHN 2
129 Nicolas Barrientos COL 2
129 Alexander Ward GBR 2
142 Jan Choinski GER 1
142 Tom Schonenberg GER 1
142 Vadym Ursu UKR 1
142 Pirmin Haenle GER 1
142 Hannes Wagner GER 1
142 Piotr Lomacki POL 1
142 Daniel Baumann GER 1
142 Marvin Netuschil GER 1
142 Thomas Brechemier FRA 1
142 Sami Cagatay Soke TUR 1
142 Vadim Alekseenko UKR 1
142 Vladimir Uzhylovsky UKR 1
142 Arata Onozawa JPN 1
142 Christian Florentin Voinea ROU 1
142 Miki Jankovic SRB 1
142 Leny Mitjana FRA 1
142 Aleksandar Vukic AUS 1
142 Herkko Pollanen FIN 1
142 Florent Diep FRA 1
142 Patrik Rosenholm SWE 1
142 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski USA 1
142 Jaume Play Malfeito ESP 1
142 Aron Hiltzik USA 1
142 Mischa Zverev GER 1
142 Mackenzie McDonald USA 1
142 Clay Thompson USA 1
142 Adrien Puget FRA 1
142 Ernesto Escobedo USA 1
142 Sung Ji Nam KOR 1
142 Eric Quigley USA 1
142 Kyle McMorrow USA 1
142 Eric James Johnson USA 1

This is the breakdown by country:
Rank Country Points
1 Switzerland 500
2 Spain 485
3 Australia 261
4 United States 239
5 France 215
6 Belgium 208
7 Slovenia 201
8 Czech Republic 176
9 Canada 158
10 Croatia 155
11 Italy 141
12 Germany 139
13 Japan 134
14 Bulgaria 98
15 Chinese Taipei 88
16 Serbia 63
17 Brazil 51
18 Cyprus 48
19 Austria 47
20 Ukraine 46
21 Slovakia 45
22 Kazakhstan 41
23 Georgia 32
23 Poland 32
23 Sweden 32
26 Russia 29
27 Finland 26
28 India 24
29 Lithuania 20
29 Luxumbourg 20
31 Belruse 16
31 Great Britain 16
33 Colombia 14
34 Argentina 13
35 Romania 12
36 Israel 8
36 Turkey 8
38 Estonia 7
38 Hungary 7
40 Boznia & Herzegovina 6
40 Ecuador 6
40 Netherlands 6
40 Uzbekistan 6
44 Denmark 3
45 China 2