Wednesday, June 10, 2015

ATP Power Shift

A week ago Jonathan Kelley (@jokelley_tennis) from On the Rise (a tennis blog)  wrote about what he perceives to potentially be the end of European dominance, which got me thinking about other ways in which we can measure the kind of power shift that Kelley described in his post.

I've touched on similar topics in the past, ranking the top tennis countries in the world. I also played the tennis stock market with 40 tennis countries predicting if they would be better, worse, or the same after Wimbledon 2019.

Since I have regularly ranked tennis countries, I wanted to go back in time to see where tennis countries rank now compared to before, using the exact same formula. The formula is simple: A country's points is equal to the sum of ranking points earned by each of the country's players in the top 140 in the world. Why 140? I have no good answer to that, but that's what I decided almost three years ago, so I'm sticking with it.

Here are the current rankings for the 43 countries with representatives in the top 140. In parenthesis is the ranking of each country in 2013.

1. Spain 20,821 (1)
2. Serbia 16,168 (3)
3. Switzerland 15,250 (7)
4. France 14,453 (2)
5. Great Britain 8712 (10)
6. United States 8203 (6)
7. Czech Republic 7183 (8)
8. Japan 7068 (16)
9. Argentina 6915 (4)
10. Croatia 6226 (15)
11. Australia 6116 (13)
12. Canada 5335 (11)
13. Italy 4625 (12)
14. Germany 4365 (5)
15. Belgium 3630 (31)
16. Bulgaria 2760 (24)
17. Austria 2562 (17)
18. Russia 2460 (9)
19. Brazil 2150 (27)
20. Slovakia 2088 (22)
21. Ukraine 2061 (19)
22. South Africa 1880 (21)
23. Colombia 1752 (20)
24. Kazakhstan 1635 (26)
25. Uruguay 1502 (NR)
26. Slovenia 1202 (22)
27. Netherlands 1054 (18)
28. Uzbekistan 1045 (30)
29. Portugal 1043 (32)
30. Dominican Republic 945 (NR)
31. Poland 895 (14)
32. Luxembourg 880 (NR)
33. Chinese Taipei 789 (33)
34. Cyprus 787 (35)
35. Korea 676 (NR)
36. Turkey 647 (NR)
37. Tunisia 620 (NR)
38. Israel 607 (34)
39. Latvia 600 (25)
40. Bosnia & Herzegovina 583 (NR)
41. Finland 568 (29)
42. Lithuania 567 (37)
43. Moldova 421 (NR)

One of the biggest changes from the 2013 year-end rankings is that there are now 43 countries represented in the top 140 instead of just 37. In fact, there are 42 countries just in the top 100. However, the changes go far beyond that.

What Kelley did in his post was talk about how Europe will get worse, while the rest of the world will get stronger. I would argue that this has already started to take place. Since the end of  2013, Europe as a continent is now 6473 points worse than before, while the rest of the world is 7396 points better.

Obviously, Europe is still dominant with all of the top five countries coming from that continent, but there is no denying the change that is happening. And it is going to get worse with Spain really not having any stars on the horizon and replacing Novak Djokovic will be basically impossible for Serbia.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most improved and "not-so-improved" countries in the last year and a half:

Most Improved
1. Switzerland 7315 - The most improved team is from Europe, which certainly doesn't help what I'm trying to argue with this post. The 2013 season was one of the worse season's in Roger Federer's career, and even though Stan Wawrinka finished in the top 10, it doesn't compare to where he is now as the No. 4 player in the world. Still, this upward trend in the last year and a half does not mean the future is bright for Switzerland in any way. Both players are over 30 years old and will be retired five years from now, meaning Switzerland will go from the No. 3 country in the world to possibly not even making the list. If it weren't for this misleading rise from Switzerland, the drop for Europe as a continent in the last year and a half would have been more than double.
2. Japan 4610 - This is more of the kind of country I expected to find on this list. Kei Nishikori has really broken through in the last year and a half. Japan also has teenager Yoshihito Nishioka on the rise. Japan is currently No. 8 in the world, and those two players on the young end of the spectrum create a good base for Japan to continue making strides forward.
3. Croatia 3259 - The third ranking for Croatia, though it is a European country, is no fluke. Marin Cilic won the 2014 US Open crown, and though injuries have hurt him since then, Borna Cilic has picked up the slack. He is one of the most promising teenagers, and even though talent is leaving Europe in many ways, Coric is around to stay.
4. Great Britain 2922 - Aljaz Bedene recently decided to be a Brit, which is certainly part of the reason Great Britain made this list. Also, Murray has had solid results since late in the 2014 season. The future of this country's success lies solely on the shoulders of Kyle Edmund. Hard to see him replacing Murray, though.
5. Belgium 2695 - David Goffin went on a run around this time last year, and is about to have to defend a mountain of points. With Steve Darcis and Ruben Bemelmans getting older and Xavier Malisse retired, Belgium will soon drop down to below their 2013 year-end level.
6. Australia 2521 - Along with the United States and Russia, Australia is one of the three countries that will make up the future of the ATP. With players like Nick Kyrgios, Bernard Tomic, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, Australia could be very good for a long time. The 2521 points in the last year and a half really is just the tip of the iceberg.

Biggest Drop
1. Spain 10764 - The recent drop has been catalyzed by the injury issues of Rafael Nadal in the last 12 months, but this is only the start of the drop for Spain. Juame Munar and Pablo Carreno Busta are the only hopes for Spain, which is to say there is no hope. In August of 2014, there were 15 Spaniards in the top 140. There is no chance that two players can replace 15. Even the combined total points of Djokovic and Federer is more than 6000 points less than what Spain had just 10 months ago. This is going to get ugly quickly for what is currently the best men's tennis nation in the world.
2. Argentina 4925 - Argentina's drastic drop can be easily explained away by the injuries of Juan Martin del Potro. He was 5255 of their points at the end of 2013, so aside from the injury of Del Potro, Argentina is actually 330 points better than they were a year and a half ago.
3. Germany 4437 - The worst part of Germany's dropped has already come, but it will get worse before it gets better as Philipp Kohlschreiber, Benjamin Becker, and Dustin Brown start to descend in the rankings with age. However, Germany's future isn't as dark as Spain's with Alexander Zverev and Jan-Lennard Struff on the rise. Zverev in particular has the potential to be a top 10 player.
4. France 4170 - France certainly has some upcoming stars on the way, but the question is whether they can replace players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon. I wrote about the future of French tennis a little over a weak ago. In short, France's future is not bad, but things won't be like how they have been for the past five years for France.
5. Russia 3995 - This is as bad as it gets for Russia. They can only go up from here and all signs say that they will. Although, Roman Safiullin has been out with an injury since February, I still believe in his ability, and Andrey Rublev is finally starting to turn heads like I predicted he would almost a year ago. Those two along with Andrey Kuznetsov, Aslan Karatsev, and Karen Khachanov represent a very bright future for Russia. However, Russia is the exception, not the rule, in Europe.
6. Poland -2136 - Jerzy Janowicz has not panned out so far like many tennis fans thought he would after he reached the Wimbledon semifinals. I called Janowicz overrated after that happened, but even I didn't expect him to drop in the rankings like this. He will come back, but likely will never be a top 10 player. Like Janowicz's peak ranking, Poland is a table standing on one leg. Other than Janowicz Poland really doesn't have much representation on the ATP.

In general, the countries with the brightest futures are the United States, Australia, Chile, Korea, Japan, and Russia. Only one of those countries is from Europe. France and Serbia also have bright futures, but those two countries still won't be as successful in the future as they are now. Other countries outside of Europe that should continue to get better are Argentina, Canada, Brazil and India. Europe has only Sweden to counter that last group of four countries.

Meanwhile, the main countries that have nothing but doom and gloom on the horizon are Spain, Switzerland, and Czech Republic. Outside of Europe, only South Africa doesn't really have a future to be excited about, but it's not like that is one of the best countries in the world right now anyways.

Kelley was definitely onto something with his prediction that the future for Europe is not a good one, and he has been hinting at this for a long time. I think the shift will really be into full-swing in five years time when Djokovic, Nadal, Berdych, Ferrer, and Murray are wrapping up their careers and Raonic, Nishikori, Kyrgios, and Jared Donaldson start dominating the tennis world.

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