The Elite, Part 4

Tuesday, January 05, 2010 /by

FedSampras1
By TennisWorld Contributing Editor Andrew Burton

Two years ago, I posted a three part series on the career arcs of the Open Era ATP Elite.  Today, I'd like to update and extend some of that work, now that the full shape of the decade from 2000-2009 is known.  (NB: elsewhere, Pete points out that decades really ought to begin in years with a "1" at the end, but I'm going with the normal popular culture here).

In my day job, I build large spreadsheets for a living.  It turns out that this is useful for keeping track of the ATP top 50, via the ranking tables published at the ATP site.  I've compiled a database of all the players who made the top 50 from Jan 2000 to Dec 2009, which gives us (I think) a fascinating way to look at the players of this era.  (For those interested, I've put the wonky stuff at the bottom in a footnote.)

Elite_41 

The table above will expand if you click on it, so don't feel hampered by the small print.  It's sorted by maximum adjusted ranking points (see wonky footnote at the bottom of this post), based on points which showed in the rankings in the last decade (ie Andre Agassi's maximum points included points from tournaments in 1999).

All the tables are also consistent with the ATP Ranking Points in the earlier posts, ie they aren't New Improved Supersized Double Your Ranking Points awarded after 2008 - so this is why Nadal's maximum shows up as 7000 or so, not 14000 or so.

No surprises about the two players at the top of the list.  As we'll see shortly, Nadal's maximum ranking points (estimated at >7800 points) is the second highest in the Open Era, and fully 2000 points above the next player (this is  > 4000 points if you're more familiar with the current ATP Ranking Points numbers).

Player 3 may be surprising - Andy Murray, who by my calculations is by some margin the highest ranked player not to win a GS title.  Murray is the only player in the above list not to have at least one major under his belt.

In earlier posts, I proposed that the Elite in the Open Era had either won, or had the potential to win, at least two GS titles and had reached 5000 ATP Ranking Points or above.  If you go strictly by this (arbitrary) definition, Gustavo Kuerten, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Marat Safin don't make the cut.  I suspect many people would put at least two of these names into the Elite - what do you think?

A number of players were successful in the last decade, but also had success in the 1990s.  So I took a look at players who were both active in the 2000s and who achieved the no 1 ranking at some point in their career.  I also show majors won in their career, and those won in the last decade.

Player Majors Dec Majors DoB Max points Max date Max age
Patrick Rafter 2   12/28/1972 4030 7/26/1999 26.57
Roger Federer 15 15 8/8/1981 8370 1/1/2007 25.40
Andre Agassi 8 3 4/29/1970 6770 9/15/1995 25.38
Yevgeni Kafelnikov 2   2/18/1974 4225 3/5/1999 25.04
Gustavo Kuerten 3 2 9/10/1976 4750 9/24/2001 25.04
Juan Carlos Ferrero 1 1 2/12/1980 4570 10/20/2003 23.69
Pete Sampras 14 2 8/12/1971 7265 8/8/1994 22.99
Rafael Nadal 6 6 6/3/1986 7828 4/20/2009 22.88
Carlos Moya 1   8/27/1976 3600 3/15/1999 22.55
Marcelo Rios     12/26/1975 4230 3/30/1998 22.26
Andy Roddick 1 1 8/30/1982 5185 8/2/2004 21.92
Lleyton Hewitt 2 2 2/24/1981 5205 8/26/2002 21.50
Jim Courier 4   8/17/1970 5590 2/10/1992 21.48
Marat Safin 2 2 1/27/1980 4300 3/12/2001 21.12

The table is sorted from oldest to youngest (see the max age column at right): ie Marat Safin reached his peak at the youngest age (just above 21), while Rafter reached his peak at the most advanced age, 26 and a half.

Six GS titles between 2000 and 2009 were won by players who did not, or have not yet, reached the no 1 ranking - Del Potro, Djokovic, Gaudio, Costa, Johansson and Ivanisevic).

Sorting the table in terms of points gives us this picture:

Player Majors Dec Majors DoB Max points Max date Max age
Roger Federer 15 15 8/8/1981 8370 1/1/2007 25.40
Rafael Nadal 6 6 6/3/1986 7828 4/20/2009 22.88
Pete Sampras 14 2 8/12/1971 7265 8/8/1994 22.99
Andrew Agassi 8 3 4/29/1970 6770 9/15/1995 25.38
Jim Courier 4   8/17/1970 5590 2/10/1992 21.48
Lleyton Hewitt 2 2 2/24/1981 5205 8/26/2002 21.50
Andy Roddick 1 1 8/30/1982 5185 8/2/2004 21.92
Gustavo Kuerten 3 2 9/10/1976 4750 9/24/2001 25.04
Juan Carlos Ferrero 1 1 2/12/1980 4570 10/20/2003 23.69
Marat Safin 2 2 1/27/1980 4300 3/12/2001 21.12
Marcelo Rios     12/26/1975 4230 3/30/1998 22.26
Yevgeny Kafelnikov 2   2/18/1974 4225 3/5/1999 25.04
Patrick Rafter 2   12/28/1972 4030 7/26/1999 26.57
Carlos Moya 1   8/27/1976 3600 3/15/1999 22.55

Where points are in blue, they're my own estimates of points that would have been gained had the system from 2000-2008 been in place.

Arranging the table like this highlights the extraordinary achievements of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  The two men have the two highest peaks, in terms of ATP Ranking Points, of any players since the Open Era began (with the possible exception of Laver's 1969 GS season, which predates the modern ATP points system.)  Note that even had Borg or John McEnroe at their peaks travelled to, and won, the Australian Open, they would not have exceeded Nadal's or Federer's high points.

For grins, I also looked at the 179 players by country, to find which countries had most representatives, and then looked at Davis Cup winners for the decade:

1    Spain (23)   - 4 Davis Cups (2000, 2005, 2008, 2009)

2    France (20)   - 1 DC (2001)

3=  USA, Argentina (15)   - USA 1 DC (2007)

5    Germany (10)

6    Sweden (9)  *waves to Samantha Elin*

7    Russia (8)  - 2 DCs (2002, 2006)

8=  Czech Republic, Italy (7)

10= Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Belgium (5)   - Australia 1 DC (2003), Croatia 1 DC (2005)

Other notables: Switzerland (4), Great Britain, Serbia, Chile (3). 

Here are the rest of the players who made the top 50 during the last decade, grouped into digestible chunks:

ATP1150 

ATP51100 

ATP101plus

Andrew

Wonky footnote:   What are adjusted ranking points?  Well, in their wisdom, the ATP changed the way they awarded ranking points at the start of 2000, and again at the start of 2009.  The first change made it much easier to see how points were awarded, based on players' results in tournaments.  For example, losing in the final of a GS was worth 700 points; winning got you 1000 points, losing the SF 450 points, and so on.  For Masters Series tournaments, the points scores went 500, 350, 225 and so on.

In 2009, the ATP did three things.  First, it cleaned up the maximum points awarded to a tournament winner (250, 500, 1000 and 2000 points).  Second, it doubled the winner's points allocations for the big tournaments - so GS went from 1000 to 2000, Masters from 500 to 1000 and so on.  Hence there was a "point inflation" at the start of the year.  Finally, as a way of making stats geeks' lives difficult, they adjusted the relative value of the W, F, SF, QF, R16 etc points.

Confused much?

When Roger Federer was defeated by Rafael Nadal in Melbourne at the AO F 2009, he received 1200 ATP Ranking Points for his efforts.  All points awarded in the previous year had been doubled at the start of the year, so Federer gained 300 points in the rankings (900 for a SF loss to Djokovic).  However, the year before he'd have gotten 700 points for making the final (or 1400 points with the new inflated currency).

In other words, if you make a correction (as I have) for the "multiply by 2" factor at the start of 2009, there's still a devaluation for points earned in 2009 relative to those earned in 2000-2008.  So I've corrected points earned in 2009 to allow for the changes in the allocation of points.

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