Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Measuring Major Dominance

Comparing the greatest tennis players from each era is always very hard to do, but in the Open Era of tennis, one thing has remained consistent - the four grand slam events. Those four events give analysts the best measuring stick for comparing players who never played against each other.

Rather than simply counting how many majors a player has won, a more complete picture can come from finding the total number of ranking points earned at grand slams in a career. Since the ranking system has gone through various changes over the years, I used the current system (W-2000, RU-1200, SF-720, QF-360, R16-180, R32-90, R64-45, 1R-10) to analyze the results of the players.

This is hardly a definitive way to say who is the GOAT, since it completely ignores non-major events. The other issue with this stat is that the importance of the Australian Open has grown over time, while decades ago some of the best players skipped the event. Still, it serves as a good starting point for analysis.

Let's get into the various lists that came out of this study now:

Career Total Grand Slam Ranking Points Earned:
1. Roger Federer 60,235
2. Novak Djokovic 45,080
3. Rafael Nadal 41,115
4. Jimmy Connors 40,480
5. Pete Sampras 40,385
6. Ivan Lendl 39,890
7. Andre Agassi 37,675
8. Bjorn Borg 31,015
9. John McEnroe 28,760
10. Stefan Edberg 28,490
11. Boris Becker 26,490
12. Andy Murray 26,655
13. Mats Wilander 25,025
14. Guillermo Vilas 20,630
15. John Newcombe 18,210
16. Ken Rosewall 17,715
17. Jim Courier 17,620
18. Arthur Ashe 16,295
19. Lleyton Hewitt 15,975
20. Andy Roddick 15,690

This graph shows how many ranking points each player has.
Each box is 1000 points and each color represents one of the four slams.
Career Average Points Earned per Major
1. Bjorn Borg 1148
2. Novak Djokovic 939
3. Rafael Nadal 893
4. Roger Federer 885
5. Rod Laver* 851
6. Ken Rosewall* 805
7. Pete Sampras 721
8. Jimmy Connors 710
9. John Newcombe* 700
10. Ivan Lendl 699
11. John McEnroe 639
12. Andy Murray 619
13. Andre Agassi 617
14. Boris Becker 575
15. Mats Wilander 568
16. Stefan Edberg 547
17. Arthur Ashe* 479
18. Jim Courier 429
19. Guillermo Vilas* 421
20. Jan Kodes* 344
*Includes only results starting in 1968

Most Points Earned at one tournament
1. Roger Federer 19,475 (Wimbledon)
2. Jimmy Connors 18,720 (US Open)
3. Rafael Nadal 18,630 (Roland Garros)
4. Roger Federer 15,730 (US Open)
5. Pete Sampras 15,370 (Wimbledon)
6. Pete Sampras 15,230 (US Open)
7. Roger Federer 14,870 (Australian Open)
8. Ivan Lendl 14,080 (US Open)
9. Jimmy Connors 13,995 (Wimbledon)
10. Boris Becker 13,365 (Wimbledon)

Career Points Earned at the Australian Open
1. Roger Federer 14,870
2. Novak Djokovic 13,280
3. Stefan Edberg 10,715
4. Andre Agassi 10,160
5. Ivan Lendl 9380
6. Mats Wilander 8345
7. Pete Sampras 7640
8. Andy Murray 7460
9. Rafael Nadal 6840
10. John Newcombe* 6820

Career Points Earned at Roland Garros
1. Rafael Nadal 18,630
2. Bjorn Borg 12,540
3. Roger Federer 10,160
4. Ivan Lendl 9825
5. Mats Wilander 9715
6. Novak Djokovic 9335
7. Guillermo Vilas 8095
8. Andre Agassi 7580
9. Gustavo Kuerten 7155
10. Jim Courier 6560

Career Points Earned at Wimbledon
1. Roger Federer 19,475
2. Pete Sampras 15,370
3. Jimmy Connors 13,995
4. Boris Becker 13,365
5. Bjorn Borg 12,010
6. John McEnroe 11,345
7. Novak Djokovic 10,125
8. Andy Murray 9070
9. Stefan Edberg 8215
10. Rafael Nadal 8015

Career Points Earned at the US Open
1. Jimmy Connors 18,720
2. Roger Federer 15,730
3. Pete Sampras 15,230
4. Ivan Lendl 14,080
5. Andre Agassi 13,295
6. John McEnroe 12,450
7. Novak Djokovic 12,340
8. Rafael Nadal 7630
9. Lleyton Hewitt 6640
10. Stefan Edberg 6630

One of the problems with looking at totals is that have been presented so far is that they reward players for playing many tournaments just as much as actually doing well in those tournaments. However, looking at averages doesn't solve the problem, because someone like Bjorn Borg, who retired at his peak, or players like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who are still active, have an unfair advantage.

Of all the players I looked at, the average amount of points earned per tournament was about 475. Instead of looking at totals or averages, this time what I did was take off 475 points from the total for every event played. Therefore, any result that is less than a semifinal result will earn negative points. So a player must play a lot of events to do well, but also must do well in those events or else they are going to lose points.

Career Points Earned Adjusted
1. Roger Federer 27,935
2. Novak Djokovic 22,280
3. Rafael Nadal 19,265
4. Bjorn Borg 18,190
5. Pete Sampras 13,785
6. Jimmy Connors 13,405
7. Ivan Lendl 12,815
8. Andre Agassi 8700
9. John McEnroe 7385
10. Ken Rosewall 7265
11. Andy Murray 6230
12. John Newcombe 5860
13. Rod Laver 5650
14. Boris Becker 4640
15. Mats Wilander 4125 
16. Stefan Edberg 3790
17. Arthur Ashe 145
18. Jim Courier -1855
19. Guillermo Vilas -2645
20. Jan Kodes -4705

There are a lot of different ways of analyzing all of the data here, but one thing is for sure, and that's that the ATP World Tour is certainly in a Golden Era. Right now, three of the top four players in that final stat are all active and have all been at their peaks for the better part of the last decade.

In the list for totals, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych finished 25th and 31st respectively despite having zero combined major titles and only one final each. However, they have done well enough against everyone other than Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer that they did better than players like Thomas Muster, Gustavo Kuerten and Sergi Bruguera in several categories. If it weren't for Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, players like Ferrer and Berdych would be first ballot Hall-of-Famers most likely.


  1. Great job Jared. I too have my own Ranking


    Greetings from Madrid

  2. We had crunched numbers along similar lines a few years ago :)


  3. This is a great effort! I wonder if you can account for the tennis era-related discrepancies (like the one you describe in reference to Ferrer and Bird) by normalizing for the quality of opponent a player lost to at each tournament. Each player could have a "weight", based on past performance at a particular tournament (or performance till date), which could be used to "weight" the points for each player they beat. For example, if player X lost to Djokovic at the finals of the French, he would gain 1200 points. On the other hand if the lost to Rafa in the finals, he would gain 1200 * (18225/6360) = 3439 points. Probably a pain to calculate, but it would be interesting to see how these lists change :)

  4. Well done, Jared. Very interesting.

  5. Lendl and Connors puntuation is incorrect.

    Lendl earned 39890(9380+9825+6605+14080)

    Connors 40480(3200+4565+13995+18720)

    Greetings from Madrid.

    1. Thanks, I will look into that. I have a different total for Connors at Roland Garros and Lendl at Wimbledon. I'll double-check my math.