Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 Year-end Country Power Rankings

I've been doing this series for over three years now. What I am looking to do is rank each country's men's singles players. Most often this is done by counting grand slam titles, but if that is the case, how do you separate Spain and Turkey, which both had zero in 2015. The formula is simple. I add up the singles ranking points of all the players in the top 140 by country. The countries are then ranked by the sum of points.

The fun part of doing this over a three-year span is that you can see the changes over time. In red is the number corresponding to the ranking of the country at the end of the 2012 season three years ago. The main difference is the amount of countries now represented. There are 44 countries represented now in the top 140 compared to 39 back in 2012.

1. Spain (1) -- No surprise here. Spain has never dropped from its No. 1 spot. This was Spain's worst year since Nadal first became a dominant force on the ATP, but being represented by 17 players in the top 140 is more than enough to secure the No. 1 spot. Still, the trend is downward for Spain. Their lead over the No. 2 position has dropped to just over 3000 after being nearly 8000 at the end of the 2012 season and a nearly 13000-point lead after Nadal's dominant 2013 season. The age of Spain's players is higher than any other country's. Could the Spanish reign come to an end in 2016?
2. Serbia (2) -- Serbia has been as low as No. 4 on this list, but like at the end of 2012, it is ranked No. 2. Serbia will be Spain's biggest threat to the No. 1 spot in 2016 with a dominant Djokovic and resurgent Troicki and Tipsarevic joined by a host of young players moving up in the rankings. Djokovic, last year, had the best year in tennis since Rod Laver won the grand slam, so it will be a big challenge to match that. Also Troicki went flat in his second half of 2015 after dominating in late 2014 and early 2015. Meanwhile, Tipsarevic and a lot of the young players are far from entering the top 140. A lot will have to go right for Serbia, but they are within striking distance to surpass Spain. Djokovic isn't getting younger, so this might be the only year to do it.

3. France (3) -- France is back to No. 3 after spending a lot of time at No. 2, but then dropping down to No. 4 in June this year. However, this is a much different No. 3 than it was three years ago when France was the most well-represented country in the top 140. Now, France is bolstered by a strong performance by the four mousquetaires and a surprise season from the once promising Benoit Paire. Tsonga, Monfils, Simon, and Gasquet have all had great seasons in their careers and all been members of the top 10 at one point, but it's been rare that all four peak at the same time. That's what happened in 2015 with Gasquet and Tsonga in the top 10 and Simon at 15 and Monfils at 24. Meanwhile, Paire, who started the year playing futures events, finished the year ranked No. 19. Unfortunately France has lost a lot of depth replacing stalwarts like Llorda, Mahut, Mathieu, and Rufin with players that are just now starting to fulfill their promise.

4. Switzerland (4) -- The numbers in the top four haven't changed at all, but how they got there is not as simple as it might seem. Switzerland dropped to as low as No. 7 at the end of 2013, but as both Federer and Wawrinka rebuilt their ranking, the country surpassed Serbia at the end of 2014 and was ahead of France in June this year. However, Djokovic alone has more points than all of France and all of Switzerland, so it was really just a battle for third place. France edged Switzerland by 264 points. That is the difference of one Ze Zhang or one grand slam quarterfinal. The problem is that the two Swiss men met each other in the Roland Garros quarterfinal, so only one of the two could get those points.

5. United States (6) -- We finally have our first change in our rankings. However, the United States is only some 300 points better than three years ago, so this change can be accounted more to Argentina's massive drop due to the wrist injury of Del Potro. However, the United States now has its highest point total that I have ever recorded and still has a lot of room to improve with plenty of young talent replacing the now retired group of Roddick, Blake, Fish, Russell, and Ginepri. By the end of the 2018 season I definitely expect the United States to be in the top three battling it out against the likes of France and Australia along with maybe even a Canada, Japan, or Korea.

6. Great Britain (8) -- What a year will do. Great Britain was No. 16 in August of 2014 and by June of this year was up to No. 5. It's been a roller coaster and its name is Andy Murray. The Scot faced some injury issues in 2014 and made a strong bounce back in 2015 winning his first clay title and then backing that up with a win in Madrid. The country also won a Davis Cup title, but this list proves that isn't the best way to judge a nation's tennis ability. Great Britain's ceiling is No. 5, but Murray's peak will come to an end in a few years and the whole country, which hosts tennis's most prestigious event, will come crashing down. Unless Kyle Edmund can save the day of course. No pressure lad.

7. Japan (13) -- It is possible to make big jumps forward on this list and it would have been no surprise to tennis fans back in 2012 that Japan would be one of the countries to make such a jump. The country was well-represented with six players three years ago, but none had yet to really break out. The country had been doing well on the tennis scene, so it was only a matter of time and this may only be the beginning. Many believe that Nishikori is a future grand slam winner and Nishioka also has a lot of promise which was seen this year. Kids are picking up tennis rackets in Japan thanks to those two, which will only catalyze the movement of the dominance of tennis from Europe to Asia.

8. Australia (14) -- Australia was down at 14 at the end of 2012 and dropped to No. 16 just a month later. Since then, Hewitt has announced his retirement, while Matosevic and Ebden suddenly disappeared. However, Ebden has now made an impressive comeback while Australia has developed a feared threesome of Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, and Tomic, which could dominate tennis for the next decade. Australia can only go up with quickly developing Omar Jasika knocking on the door of the top 300, while Thompson and Saville still are far from reaching their peak rankings.

9. Czech Republic (9) -- Stepanek and Rosol have been up and down over the last few years but Berdych has been solid while Vesely has risen quickly, so not a lot has changed for the Czechs. The Czech Republic did win multiple Davis Cup titles, but has never come close to being one of the top countries in tennis in reality. Berdych is a very good player, but it has taken an amazing effort from him to maintain the country in the top 10.

10. Italy (10) -- The 2012 and 2015 year-end rankings are the only times that I have recorded Italy at the No. 10 position. Every other time the country has been between 11 and 14. Only 35 points separate Italy and the No. 12 country, so nothing has really changed for the Italians, who rely on a decent amount of depth and a few good tournaments with some upsets and nothing really changes.

11. Croatia (12) -- Karlovic may be one of the oldest players on tour, but 2015 was one of his best seasons. Cilic had a slightly disappointing season, but expectations were high after winning the US Open. Meanwhile, Coric is the most promising teenager in tennis right now, so the future of Croatia is in good hands.

12. Argentina (5) -- The big drop is due to the loss of Del Potro, but thanks to the depth of the South American country, it only dropped seven spots. If Del Potro makes a strong comeback, the Argentines could get back into the top 10.

13. Germany (7) -- In August 2014, the Germans were No. 6 on this list ahead of the United States and just behind Argentina, but by June of this year, they dropped down to No. 14. Mayer and Haas are injured, Brown and Struff have plateaued early, and Kohlschreiber is now in his thirties. Kamke and Phau have also disappeared. Zverev is the future of German tennis, but they are a long way from being back in the top seven regularly.

14. Belgium (16) -- The Davis Cup runner-ups didn't have a great year outside of Davis Cup. Goffin was on the brink of the top 10 early in the year, but finished at No. 16. Darcis was Belgium's only other representative in the top 100, but Goffin alone secured a top 20 spot for Belgium.

15.. Canada (15) -- Canada looked very promising not long ago with Pospisil, Raonic, and Peliwo on the rise, but injuries and slumps have slowed down that progress. Just five months ago, Canada was ranked No. 12, but Raonic was unable to defend a lot of his points. The future is still bright, but Canada is having to wait longer than it hoped.

16. Russia (11) -- Russia is the ninth most well-represented country in the top 140 of the ATP, but still finds itself in the 16th slot. A lot of that is due to the lack of a true No. 1. Rublev soon will be that true Russian No. 1 and if Saffiullin can recover physically, Russia could actually be in a very good spot.

17. Ukraine (17) -- Not a ton of change for Ukraine. Dolgopolov has a couple good tournaments every year, but never maintains it, which keeps Ukraine from getting much higher.

18. South Africa (27) -- Anderson makes South Africa the best tennis country with only one player in the top 140. The South African reached the top ten in the first time in his career this year.

19. Austria (25) -- If it wasn't official last year, it became clear this year that Thiem has replaced Melzer as the face of Austrian tennis. Like Muster, Thiem prefers the clay, but can play well on other hard courts and is improving on hard courts. He rarely loses to lower ranked players, but hasn't started getting any big wins yet, so it is just a steady climb up the rankings.

20. Slovakia (20) -- The last country left on the list that has three representatives in the top 140. Slovakia has been between 20 and 23 every time I have tallied the ranking points. It's certainly the most consistent nation in tennis.

21. Portugal (28)
22. Brazil (19)
23. Bulgaria (31)
24. Netherlands (18)
25. Colombia (23)
26. Luxembourg (33)
27. Bosnia & Herzegovina (NR)
28. Uruguay (NR)
29. Cyprus (26)
30. Korea (NR)
31. Dominican Republic (NR)
32. Poland (21)
33. Uzbekistan (30)
34. Kazakhstan (35)
35. Chinese Taipei (32)
36. Latvia (39)
37. Lithuania (37)
38. India (NR)
39. Israel (36)
40. Tunisia (38)
41. Georgia (NR)
42. Turkey (NR)
43. Maldova (NR)
44. Sweden (NR)

Countries like Sweden, Korea, and Bulgaria will almost definitely move up on this list in 2016. Meanwhile, Uruguay, Cyprus, and the Dominican Republic will drop in this list if they can stay on it at all.

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