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 Prospects1. 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 Prospects1. 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.
@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 racketrally.com site and are credited there.