Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Elite - Part 3
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The Elite - Part 3 11/06/2007 - 8:00 PM

Rafanole_2In two earlier posts on the elite men players of the Open Era, I mostly looked backwards.  Now it's time to bring the story to the present day.  As I write this, the last Masters tournament of 2007 has gone into the record books - and once again, David Nalbandian has felled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on his way to taking the title.  Nalbandian secures the no 9 slot in the Race - one spot from the top 8 invited to compete.  No question who has a bullet right now - but how do we place his performance in context?  And how can we place the elite of this decade, now with just over two years to run, among those who came before?

I'll cover the top eight in the ATP race, plus four: Nalbandian, and three players who early in the decade were Tier I players or candidates: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin.

As in the last post, I've embedded charts as thumbnails: click on a chart to see it in a larger pop-up window.

I've discussed Federer in my earlier posts.  From the vantage point of late 2007, his domination of the middle part of the decade may look like a given.  But compare his career arc with that of Andy Roddick:

Federer_roddick_2I'm fascinated by the thought that the two mens' careers diverged at a precise moment: 1 set all, 4-2 with Roddick leading, when it began to rain during the Wimbledon final of 2004. Famously, Federer regrouped and went on to win his third Grand Slam; but for an English shower, might the Texan have claimed his second major, and used that as a springboard to several years at the 4000-5000 level or higher?  Possibly he did this in a parallel universe...

BTW, all the data in this post is actual ATP data, rather than estimates based on tournament records.  The scales are the same to give you a feel for the relative levels of the players (and can be compared with the charts in the Elite - Part 2 post).

Now to two of the current young guns, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.  In my earlier posts, I pointed out two features of the elite - the 5000 point level as marking the entry point for multi slam winners, and the "take off" pattern when an elite player makes himself known.  See this chart:

Nadal_djokovicHere I'm showing the two players' points against their ages: you can see that Djokovic's rise came in two stages, a nine month climb up to the high teens in the rankings, then the explosion from Indian Wells through to the US Open final.  Nadal just seems to have burst out of nowhere: I think the moment he announced himself on the world stage was his defeat of Roddick in the December 2004 Davis Cup final.   In April 2005 when he was within two points of beating Federer in straight sets in Miami, Nadal was ranked 31 in the world; by June, after his victory at Roland Garros, he was No. 3, and his Montreal win over Andre Agassi took him to the number 2 spot, which he has not relinquished in nearly two and a half years.

Given how used we are to seeing Nadal as the world No. 2, it's quite something to realize that Djokovic has now reached the same level in ATP Ranking points that the Mallorcan had from 2005 through to the end of 2006.  And Djokovic has points to gain in Shanghai, and likely at the Australian Open where he took a straight sets loss to Federer in R16 in January.  In March of this year, Pete dubbed Djokovic "the perfect player."  I'm not sure that even Pete saw how quick his rise would be.

In his last three Grand Slam finals, Federer has played Nadal twice, and Djokovic once.  Well before these two came on the scene, it looked as though the decade might belong to two other men: the mercurial Marat Safin, and the pugnacious Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt_safinSafin's take off came in 2000, and he was hailed as the future after famously taking out Sampras in straight sets in the US Open Final.  But the mid 4000s was as high as he would go: Hewitt would peak at a slightly higher level, just breaching the 5000 threshold.  Both men, I think, can be rightly called Tier I players, but neither seems likely, on current form, to challenge at the majors.  Safin's last data point, by the way, isn't actually zero, but in the latest rankings he drops to No. 58, which takes him out of my database.  Can either stage a miraculous revival?

That's a pretty obvious segue to our current miraculous revival case, David Nalbandian.  Obviously, he has to be a Tier I player now, having shown Nadal and Federer (and Djokovic in Madrid) the exit sign?  Well, not so fast.  Let's compare Nalbandian, No. 3 in the world for much of 2006, with the current No. 3, Nikolay Davydenko:

Davydenko_nalbandianNeither man has got above the 3500 level in his career.  Nalbandian has the one Grand Slam final (and four semifinals) to his name, Davydenko 4 semifinals.  Davydenko's best chance at a final might have been his 5 set loss to Mariano Puerta at Roland Garros 2005, but had he won he'd have come up against Nadal - and not even Davydenko partisans would have made him favorite for that encounter.

For his part, Nalbandian has been on the cusp of breaking through several times in his career.  Hewitt in 2002 may have been too steep a hill, but Nalbandian nearly took out Roddick in the 2003 US Open semifnal, had a 2 sets to love lead over Marcos Baghdatis in the Australian Open 2006 semifinal, and led Federer by a set and a break in the Roland Garros 2006 semifinal.  Since retiring in that match with a pulled stomach muscle, Nalbandian hasn't threatened the top players - until his performance of the last three weeks.  The pedigree is undoubtedly there, but the results simply have not been.  But for 2008, who knows?

When you talk about pedigree, Richard Gasquet's name has to be considered.  He and Fernando Gonzalez make up the 8 and 7 spots on the Shanghai roster.  But neither player has yet hinted that they have what it takes to graduate to the elite:

Gasquet_gonzalezGonzalez qualifies for Shanghai on 1905 points, Gasquet with 1830.  Last year these points totals would have earned them 11th and 13th spots in the Rankings.  (A trivia note: Davydenko qualifies this year with the same amount of ATP Ranking Points as he did last year, 2725. In 2006 he was third in the Rankings, but this year he's fourth, over 1700 points behind Djokovic).

Gasquet will be 21 years and 7 months at the start of the 2008 Australian Open, a little younger than Federer when he took his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.  It's possible that he'll be a late(ish) bloomer, as the Swiss has been.  Gonzalez appears to have been running on fumes since his Australian Open final, with the exception of a Rome final and a win in Beijing.  It's hard to see him as a multiple Slam winner.  But of course, you never know.

Have I left anyone out?  [OFF CAMERA: Snoo Foo: Ferru, Ferru, Ferru is on fire!}

Ah, yes.  David Ferrer.  Let's compare Ferrer with his compatriot Ferrero, who (like Roddick) seemed poised to challenge for the No 1 spot in 2004:

Ferrer_ferreroFerrero, like Roddick, appears to be a Tier 1.5 player: 1 Grand Slam title, 2 finals, peaking at 4570 ATP Ranking Points.  He was defeated by Federer in the 2004 Australian Open semifinal, after which Federer went on to take the No. 1 ranking.  It would be the last Grand Slam semifinal reached to date by the Mosquito.  Ferrer reached his first Grand Slam semifinal this year at Flushing Meadows - he's an extremely tough opponent on his day, but to my eyes nothing suggests that he'll end up among the game's true elite.

So there you have it - this year's top 9, and three players who aspired to the summit in the first half of the decade, but came up short.  All these charts, like the ones before, have been backward looking - they tell us where this decade's elite have been.  There may be clues to where they're going - or a player may promise, as Safin, Roddick, Hewitt and Ferrero did, but not make it through the gateway to Tennis' Valhalla.

When Sam and I originally ran with Pete's distinction between Tier I and Tier II players, it was by no means obvious who'd be the next player to join Nadal and Federer in the top tier.  Although he didn't win a major, Djokovic was the one man to clearly separate himself from the pack in 2007.  I can see Murray, who missed about one third of the season but came within a match of making the Tennis Masters Cup being the next.

2007 began with a question in the men's game - who could catch the top two?  The old Roman Empire was divided in two, and it stood for decades, but eventually the barbarians poured in, and the Emperors fell.  Perhaps some day a traveller will happen across a memorial to Roger Federer - "look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair" - and see that ,like Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras before him, the time a player spent among the Elite seemed glorious, but proved fleeting.  New empires rise on the ruins of the old.

-- Andrew

(As before, thanks to Rosangel for picture selection and friendly counsel)

UPDATE: as an experiment, I'll add some charts suggested by comment posters.  This one, Roddick/Djokovic vs age, was suggested by Sher:

Roddick_djokovic

And one of Murray - Baghdatis: Baghdatis_murray_2

My sense of Murray is that he is very close to the take off point: he essentially missed 3 GS tournaments this year (I don't think he was fully recovered by late August).  2008 may be his breakout year.  Baghdatis is locked in the 1500-2000 point range, and will have to step up a gear to break out.


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Posted by Andrew 11/06/2007 at 08:16 PM

Not sure if it's kosher to be first on your own post, but what the hey...

Posted by rogermustwin 11/06/2007 at 08:18 PM

First!

Posted by rogermustwin 11/06/2007 at 08:19 PM

Andrew that was cheating.. very nice post though..

Posted by Andrew 11/06/2007 at 08:23 PM

Hey rogermustwin, I lurked for a quarter hour, then couldn't resist.

Posted by Aneirin 11/06/2007 at 08:32 PM

Very nice to actually have a tangible comparison. Great work !!!

Posted by CL 11/06/2007 at 08:34 PM

Andrew - you need a tip jar.. I'm not 100% certain how it works either, but I think you need one anyway.

Now I have to go find my magnifying glass and study on oyur charts for awhile.

Posted by Sher 11/06/2007 at 08:40 PM

Hmm, curious!

What about a comparison between Roddick and Djokovic, against their ages?

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/06/2007 at 08:44 PM

I think one thing your analysis hints at is how hard it is to stay on top. Over the years, we have heard two things from players (directly or indirectly):
a) "I did not want to put in the time and psychic energy to stay #1."
b) "It is just a bit more comfortable moving between #5 and #20 or so."

Under category a, I have heard Wilander say that he did not have the will after his glorious year with three majors. McEnroe talked about the burder and he never approached 1984 after that. Borg walked off into the horizon at age 26. Compare that with the tenacity of a Sampras, Connors, or Lendl, and now Federer.

Under category b, we have people like Safin (who had the talent and body to be a force at least until now) and Gonzales.

I guess there could be a 3rd category represented by Hewitt. He liked being the man and he certainly put in the effort and still does minus some down time to injury. But his game lacked real firepower and others figured him out. Compare that with Federer who can beat anyone on any surface with any game if he is on. And Nadal who keeps working on his game for all surfaces and who almost never lets up (except for last set against Nalbandian and Youzhny in USO of 06). Hard to imagine an easy match against Rafael unless you are playing out of your mind like Nalbandian was.

Billie Jean King used to say there were two kinds of players--those who were afraid to win and those who were afraid to lose. She was the latter and so it seems are Federer, Nadal, and apparently Djokovic. None of these three will be happy being #2. I think the burden of being #1 and trying to nail down GOAT is wearing on Roger, but he clearly likes being #1 and a peer of Tiger Woods. You don't get that if you are $5, even #2.

So, thanks, Andrew. I think you have given us a litmus test about greatness and it consists of consistent high performance. Many players can put together a great day or great tournament. As a sports psychologist I wonder why they can't keep it up. Concentration? Sure. Talent? Sure, the best players have an extra gear that they usually can call on and do more than others. But I think it is whether they can stand the scrutiny. Look at what Federer goes through for the losses he has had this year. He has lost fewer matches this year than Sampras did in his best year and has 3 majors, but many have indicated he has lost his edge and is over the hill at age 26. Some wrote Nadal off last fall when he was still 20. Is it worth it? Not to many.

Posted by Robin Pratt 11/06/2007 at 08:46 PM

CL,

Just click on the graphs in the article and you can see them on a much bigger scale. AT least this works on my browser.

Posted by Andrew 11/06/2007 at 08:53 PM

Robin Pratt: thanks for the thoughts. Federer's last four years bear comparison, I think, with any achievement in the Open Era.

CL: Robin is right. Click on a chart and you'll see (literally) the bigger picture.

Sher: ask and thou shalt receive. Roddick - Djokovic chart added.

I'm off for a beer, but will be back later this evening (Calgary time).

Posted by Sam 11/06/2007 at 08:59 PM

Andrew: Excellent work! That graph of Federer and Roddick is quite interesting, watching how Federer took off in mid-2004. Nadal's early take off point also stands out.

Posted by Sam 11/06/2007 at 09:07 PM

Robin Pratt: Good thoughts. I like the way you broke the players up into different categories. Sustained excellence is something on a select few can achieve. I marvel at how those players can keep themselves motivated for the long haul, while many of their peers go through peaks and valleys or just fade away after a great season.

Posted by AmyLu 11/06/2007 at 09:24 PM

Andrew, great work. Thanks so much for sharing.

With regard to Rafa's rise, I've always thought that if he hadn't been injured for most of the claycourt season in 2004, he suffered a stress fracture in his left ankle during a match against Gasquet in Estoril that year, that he would have started to rise more in the rankings in 2004 than he did. He didn't play again in 2004 until Bastad so he not only missed Barcelona, Rome, and Hamburg, but also the French Open and Wimbledon. As evidenced by the past three seasons, the spring is where Rafa does he best. So I think that factor needs to be taken into account when looking at how Rafa shot up the rankings in 2005.

Posted by codepoke 11/06/2007 at 09:27 PM

Hehehe. My eye is irresistibly drawn to the graphs still rising.

It's funny how seeing what you already know in clear graphical form can be so enlightening. We all watched Roddick smack into Federer and then try to muscle past him, but seeing the damage in red and blue is stirring. And the gradual fruit Nadal's unyielding push against the glass ceiling bears month by month is downright dramatic.

Very cool. Thank you, Andrew.

Posted by Rosangel 11/06/2007 at 09:31 PM

Andrew, thanks. The charts work from where I am.

And, Robin Pratt, thanks for your thoughts. Nice to see you back here:)

Posted by RedClaw 11/06/2007 at 09:32 PM

Oh man, Andrew. More great stuff.. That's a really cool read.

Really sends you off in to the land of what if.. (And it makes you wonder, sometimes, to what extent have players themselves gotten worse and to what extent has the game moved on past them..)

Exciting stuff. :)

How about a graph or two with Murray in them?
I know as a dedicated Murray fan it'll mostly make me sad to see his fall away after injury (if he had gone to and LOST in the first round of the French, Wimbledon, and I think ONE of the Masters Series he missed, he'd be in the YEC. That's how close he was.), but it'd still be cool stuff.

Posted by CL 11/06/2007 at 09:37 PM

Aw - yuze guys- I actually did stumble on to the click and enlarge magic act.

Very interesting as always, Andrew..

Robin - wonderful insights into the land of red and blue lines. And what goes on between them.

Posted by Sher 11/06/2007 at 09:38 PM

Oh, thank you Andrew! I was really curious to see how Djokovic's meteoric rise compared to other top players than Rafa. He's young enough to have had essentially no let downs yet.

And it's funny but just yesterday I was thinking of that quote by Shelley and how applicable it is to King Roger. It was really "strange" to read it here in exactly the same context!

Posted by abbey 11/06/2007 at 09:38 PM

andrew, thanks for the 3-part series. very interesting.

djokovic's ranking points is very impressive considering that he hasn't won a slam. shows how consistently well he performed throughout the year. and the fact the he only lost in the slams to either federer or nadal...well, he could have already won a slam if it weren't for those two. now it would be interesting to see how consistent he would be for much of his career. will he be a federer or a ferrero?

Posted by Sher 11/06/2007 at 09:39 PM

Much as I'd love to see Murray's graphs, I think he's missed too much of the year with his injury to really make a judgement based on the ranking points.

Posted by Sage Hall 11/06/2007 at 09:56 PM


Nadal serving, 4-6, 0-4, 15-30 at Bercy Final.

The battle of extremely sharp angles with Nalbandian.

The most magnificent point played in the last three years!!

I kowtow to the Majesty of King David.

Posted by Rosangel 11/06/2007 at 10:00 PM

Yes, it was a terrific point, by both players, though obviously David emerged the victor there with that amazing angle off an angle - when we were leaving the arena after the final, that point kept being replayed on all the TV screens.

Posted by ndk 11/06/2007 at 10:09 PM

Andrew- nice!
TMF brings up that final as a turning point as well- he says that things could have gone either way if Roddick won that 2004 Wimbledon final..

Posted by Sam 11/06/2007 at 10:19 PM

That 2004 Wimbledon final made me notice how good Federer is at playing defense. Roddick was crushing the ball for much of the match, and often Federer was able to hang in the point until he got an opening.

Posted by FoT 11/06/2007 at 10:28 PM

Great job Andrew!

Posted by Fleaman 11/06/2007 at 10:35 PM

Thanks, great job.
Any projections on whether it'll be easier or harder for Federer to hold the number one spot in 2008, now that Djokovic and possibly Nalbandian are in the mix at the top? I would guess it'll be easier or at least not too hard, even if he loses more often , since the points should get shared more evenly all around. However, Nadal's number 2 looks less save now, or at least the great margin he's had over the number 3 spot for the past two years. Any thoughts?

Posted by Sage Hall 11/06/2007 at 10:45 PM


Murray will take down Federer before he can reach GS semifinals in 2008, thus paving the way for Nalbandian, Nadal, and Djokovic.

My words are prophetic.

Posted by Ryan 11/06/2007 at 11:04 PM

Nice Andrew--the most startling chart is the one comparing Mr. Consistent, Lleyton Hewitt, and the supposedly "mercurial" Marat Safin. Quite ironic, the way their paths mimic each other...

Posted by Pete 11/06/2007 at 11:24 PM

Andrew - fantastic work, I can't say it strongly enough, hoss!

Posted by JVC 11/06/2007 at 11:44 PM

Interesting analysis.
The first 2 quarters of 2008 will be crucial for Nadal and Djokovic. they might switch positions with Nadal having to defend points earned from the first 2 master events and the clay court tournaments. as for Fed, he'll gain more points if he progresses to QF, SF and F rounds with his early losses to virtually unknown players earlier this year.Of course, he must do well at AO.

Posted by Andrew 11/06/2007 at 11:45 PM

Pete: thanks.

Fleaman: I think I'll just tweak Sam a little and say it partly depends on who Federer selects as a coach.

If you look at Federer's season on the results, who'd argue with 3 GS titles? But if you look at his overall level of play, it seemed to me to dip from the heights he played at towards the end of 2006. With a pack of challengers like Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, a resurgent Nalbandian and others, Federer will need to step up a gear in 2008. A top coach - Annacone, Cahill, A N Other - may make the difference, provided the chemistry is right.

Posted by Vishal 11/07/2007 at 12:11 AM

Classic eaxmple of "Paralysis by Analysis" . Bore read

Posted by Sherlock 11/07/2007 at 12:23 AM

Well, Vishal, thanks for stopping by and providing that welcome addition to the discussion. :)

Andrew, that was truly awesome. You are the GOAT of tennis statistical analysis.

Posted by Andrew 11/07/2007 at 12:28 AM

Sherlock: that would be the male version. Rosangel has the female crown, I think.

Posted by Genuine Realist 11/07/2007 at 12:33 AM

Re Nalbandiam, are there any rumors that he's juiced?

Posted by Sherlock 11/07/2007 at 12:35 AM

Excellent point, Andrew. My bad. Sorry, Rosangel!!

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 12:46 AM

"I think I'll just tweak Sam a little and say it partly depends on who Federer selects as a coach."

:-)
BTW, per marieJ's post on MNP, Annacone is not an option: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/7080753.stm

In terms of Federer's results in 2006 vs. 2007, he was 12-4 in finals last year (4 Masters Series titles), and 7-4 this year (2 Masters Series titles). Despite the slip (relatively speaking), he still excelled in the Slams, losing just 9 sets overall. In the best of 5 format and in the crucible of Slam pressure, I still think he will be very tough to beat heading in to 2008.

Posted by VE 11/07/2007 at 12:59 AM

I think I'm still the only one who thinks Heinz Gunthardt would be a good choice for Fed....

Posted by Matt Zemek 11/07/2007 at 01:23 AM

Andrew:

Thanks.

Your superb work offers the best proof to date that the 2004 Wimby final will go down as the most significant men's tennis match of the decade, alongside Sampras' win over Rafter in 2000 and Fed's win over Rafa in the 2007 Wimby final.

Posted by Ray Stonada 11/07/2007 at 01:46 AM

Andrew, your work makes me want to learn every in and out of Microsoft Excel. I don't know if I can offer higher praise.

PS Your idea that the hinge between Federer and Roddick was that exact moment in the Wimby 2004 blows my mind. Mind-blowing!

Posted by fastbowler 11/07/2007 at 02:15 AM

I love when Ray Stonada makes like Yogi Berra.

That was spoken well! And well said! :)

Posted by chrisauhc 11/07/2007 at 02:36 AM

It take a lot to be the world's elite tennis players, within which confidence / Eqn quotients are two of them. Others include talent, health, the desire to succeed, the ability to perform under pressure.

While A single match may not have much impact the latter ones, it will certainly affect confidence / EQ if we are talking about a Grand Slam final.

In that 04 final, Roddick was in control before the rain, after that Federer changed strategy by attacking the net, turned the match around and the rest is history.

While it may be too much to say that:

1) Federer won't win that match if there was no rain, or

2) if Federer lost that match, he won't win the other 9 grand slams after,

I think it is fair to say that Roddick will be in a much better position to keep himself closer to Federer in the past 3 years. Instead of 9-0 in slam, it could very well be 6-3? 7-2?

Since the rise of Nadal in 05, Roddick is no longer considered in the short list of elite players. This is even more true now with Djorkovic, Murray, Gasquet, Baghdatis.

Roddick's focus in the past few years has been 'How to overcome Federer', so he hired Connors as his coach and added some new elements to his game. To his credit, he came close by reaching US open final last year but lost his show down with Federer once again.

But with the development this year, Roddick's focus should change to 'how to stay in top 5' since he does not just lose to Federer anymore, but to some half a dozen of players on a consistent basis, even on hard court or grass. If his tactics is not adjusted, I am afraid he will lose his footing even more as he ages.

From another perspective about the importance of a single game, how about Agassi:

-1990 Roland Garros when Agassi lost to Gomez. Being the one-sided favourite against an old, ordinary Gomez, Agassi simply folded under GS final pressure and lost uglily. If Agassi won, will he become the no 1 player sooner than Sampras and became the leader of that generation? During that time, Sampras was still a relatively unknown (not until he won in Flushing Meadows over...Agassi)

-1991 Roland Garros when Agassi (again) lost to Courier. Agassi was leading 2-1 when it rained. Courier changed tactics after talking to his coach Hingueras during the break. Since that match, Courier was on a row and won 3 other grand slams, became no 1 eventually. It took Agassi more than a year to recover.

-1995 US open final which decided Sampras would retain his year-end no 1 status instead of losing that to Agassi. They played a number of times that year with Agassi having slight edge, but all momentum was lost in that match. Agassi started yet another downturn and did not make it back to Grand Slam finals until Roland Garros 99.

-Roland Garros 99. Agassi out lasted Medvedev depite down 0-2. If Agassi lost this match, no one knows if he will be able to keep it. Instead, he won the last 3 sets, completed his career grand slam and would go on to win 4 more Grand Slams. If he lost that match, prossibly he will just be another under achiever in the class of say, Kafelnikov, instead of being considered as a true great amongst Becker, Connors, Edberg.

Posted by Or 11/07/2007 at 03:47 AM

Oh, my word.

Someone posted the draw on the RF board, it's done with a google translation from Chinese, and while there's some mix re Roger playing doubles, if the draw is correct. Well, it's a good draw, good enough to make me giggle. Poor Rafa.

Roger got Roddick, Kolya and Gonzo.

Rafa got Gasquet, Ferrer and Nole.

http://i20.tinypic.com/33mrako.png

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/07/2007 at 04:21 AM

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Some of the best, most objective analysis I've read.

Completely agree that Ferrer and Ferrero have little in common, except for names and both being Valencian. Ferrero was a legitimate candidate for a Tier 1 player, and contracted some absolutely brutal injuries and afflictions in 2004, and since then, is firmly a top 25 player, but no longer has what it takes to breach top 10--much less return to the status he had in 2002 to early 2004: spoken in the same sentence as Federer, Hewitt and Roddick. And yes, Federer is the only one left there. Ferrer, on the other hand, is a humble, hard-working athlete with significantly more modest skills. And he's a terribly humble guy. He's said that "with my kind of tennis, this may be my only Masters' Cup". And when Djokovic pounded him in the US Open Semis, he said "it's only natural. He has a better serve, better forehand, better backhand and better drop shot than I do." And against Nadal "he'd win nine matches out of ten; I just got that one match".

So I doubt we'll see Ferrer again, but I do applaud him handily for his humility and guts.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 11/07/2007 at 04:25 AM

andrew: great great work. Tennis needs more people who love and understand the game like you!

(PS:I saw your post the other day after the Bercy final. "Entente cordiale" it is! -although I swear there never was any "perfide albion" moment for me...) :)

Posted by felizjulianidad 11/07/2007 at 04:43 AM

Oh, and not that it matters much to me (I don't care at all for Andy Roddick), but is it accurate to say he's a Texan? He does currently reside there and spent a chunk of his childhood in Austin, but he was born in Nebraska and went to middle and high school in Florida.

This upcoming year does seem interesting. For me, the only given is Federer's continued supremacy. However, that is mostly based on a hunch: the numbers tell quite a different story. It seems a lot of us feel (including his coach Toni) that Nadal may be burning out (he's explicitly said that while he still loves tennis, he doesn't play with the same happiness that he used to when he first started) and that he's closer to losing the number 2 than regaining the number 1, the truth is, he's never been as close to Federer as he is now. It's below 1000 points. Djokovic sometimes seems unstoppable, but he's deflated a little bit since the US Open and we don't know how well he'll defend his points. I believe Davydenko is set to lose the number 4 spot unless there's simply no one better, and that we'll see quite a shake-up of the top 10, with likely exits from Ferrer and Robredo, and other former top 10's like Haas, Blake, Ljubicic depart even further. González will hang in there, Roddick's rank will dip but will probably stay within the top 10. Gasquet and Murray will make their presence felt, but Berdych will be a flop. Baghdatis will also fail to make an entry.

Nalbandian's the wild card.

Posted by Or 11/07/2007 at 05:47 AM

When did Rafa say that? About not playing with the same kind of happiness?

That's just sad to me.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 11/07/2007 at 05:51 AM

hei, I just realized how short in comparison to Rafa, Ferrer is (syntaxxxx- but y'all know what I mean). It's insane, he looks like a garden dwarf !!! (sorry snoo, you know I'm right)

http://www.davidferrer.com/fotos/david72.jpg

Posted by Papo 11/07/2007 at 06:00 AM

Here's a link to the groupings for the YEC on their website:

http://tinyurl.com/2me6mn

Posted by Papo 11/07/2007 at 06:16 AM

So let me get this straight:

If a singles player loses a round robin match in Shanghai, but ends up winning the YEC he gets $700,000. If the player is an undefeated champion he gets $1,520,000.

Singles players gets $120,000 for each round robin win.

If a doubles team loses a round but ends up winning the YEC they get $100,000. Undefeated doubles champions get $250,000.

And people wonder why top singles players don't give a **** about playing doubles.

Posted by Papo 11/07/2007 at 06:20 AM

I overstated how much undefeated doubles champions get. It's actually $220,000.

Posted by Papo 11/07/2007 at 06:25 AM

The order of play for the first day is out already.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

CENTER COURT start 2:00 pm
R Nadal (ESP) vs R Gasquet (FRA)
N Djokovic (SRB) vs D Ferrer (ESP)

Shanghai Time
- 7 hours for Central European Time
- 13 hours for Eastern Time, USA

http://tinyurl.com/33hmko

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 06:44 AM

How they are planning to finish 18 singles games in 6 days if they play 2 games per day?

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 06:46 AM

or is it 12 games?

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 06:53 AM

It seems like the toughest draw for Nadal (and almost everybody else - look at H2H in Fed group) & the finest to Fed (but it could be worse - Imagine Gonzo also had been with Nadal)

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 06:57 AM

As I understand, Nalby nor Murry went to Shanghai, so who went to see the G8 and get some money for alternate?

Posted by Bismarck 11/07/2007 at 07:14 AM

TF:
it is 12 singles matches in the group phase of the YEC (2x6). then of course the 2 semis and the final, therefore 15 matches in total.

my guess would have been 3 group matches per day on the first 4 days, then the 2 semis on the 5th day and the final on the 6th day, just like in madrid in the women´s YEC.
i´m a bit surprised that there are only 2 matches on the first day.
oh, but now that i checked the date (sunday, 11th) i see that the YEC is spread over 8 days (11th-18th).
so they can play 2 group matches on each of the first 6 days. then the semis next on saturday the 17th and the final on the 18th.

Posted by sophie 11/07/2007 at 07:21 AM

TF:
Gold play Sun, Tues, Thurs
Red play Mon, Wed, Frid
SF on Sat, Final on Sun.

The 2 singles matches are followed by 2 Doubles matches each day.

This is a far better system than the once again unfair scheduling of the women's matches. Not only do these players fight in a Race through the year only to be shafted by Rankings being used to do the groups (JJ should be heading one group now), but today both JJ and Serena are playing someone who has already played a match.

Posted by embug 11/07/2007 at 07:22 AM

WOW... statistics never looked so good or said so much. Nice work, Andrew. Thanks!

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 07:23 AM

Bismark: As you noted at the end, this is the schedule:
http://www.masters-cup.com/2/news/schedule.asp

Posted by Caroline 11/07/2007 at 07:29 AM

Andrew, I found this so interesting. Reference your 11.45 I absolutely agree that TMF does not seem to have been playing as well this year as he did last year judged by win / loss ratio, the players he's lost to, the apparent ease of wins (straight sets / bagels?) and just the slight feeling of tension in his game. Anyway your post prompted me to look at his relative 'efficiency' which I'd sort of been thinking about - it was the eye-popping difference in prize money which first grabbed my attention.

This year he's played 72 matches to date, has 6530 points and $7,411,510 in prize money - that's 91 points per match and $102,937 per match (or $89,048 without the USOpen Series $1m bonus). If he wins the Masters Cup undefeated as last year that would increase to 94 points and $115,994 (or $103,006). The comparable figures for 2006 are 88 points and $87,932. In 2006 and 2007 he didn't have any points from non-countable tournaments.

Rafa's 2007 figures are 81 matches, 5535 points and $4,562,310. That's 68 points per match (Note: I've included his matches from non-countable tournaments, but not the points, which I think you must to calculate 'effiency'?)and $56,324. If he won the Masters Cup undefeated he would improve to 73 points and $70,724. His comparable figures for 2006 are 64 points and $53,325.

Nole's figures are 82 matches, 4470 points and $3,298,625. That's 54 points and $40,227. If he won the Masters Cup undefeated he would improve to 60 points and $54,757. I haven't looked at 2006 for obvious reasons.

I know this is pretty crude and should at the very least wait until after the Masters Cup is over, but I think it shows that 2007 has been an incredibly efficient year for TMF - maybe not quite in the way he intended except for career longevity. Measured by efficiency he is still a very long way ahead of his rivals, actually at this point slightly better than last year.

Hope I've got this right - wouldn't want it to be based on simple arithmetical errors!

Posted by TF 11/07/2007 at 07:30 AM

sophie: sure the Men's schedule is better - it's like a vacation, play best-of-3 match with a day off and a bonus you can lose 1 time and still have chance to qualify (there are a case where you can qualify with 2 loses), not to mention the payment. But they deserve it.

Posted by Bismarck 11/07/2007 at 07:46 AM

agree, sophie, that the schedule of the women´s YEC sucks compared with the men´s.

Posted by Fleaman 11/07/2007 at 07:53 AM

Caroline: Good point, the consistency is what makes the difference, regardless of a few more wins or losses along the way. Also interesting to see will be what happens between TMF's ears should he crack the Sampras-14 next year: One could it imagine new heights once the pressure is gone or a loss of motivation instead, although the latter is hard to fathom with this guy.

Posted by Fleaman 11/07/2007 at 07:56 AM

PS: Or maybe Mirka will put her foot down and ask for some more quality time instead of having to continue spending her life in the player's box.

Posted by Paleochora 11/07/2007 at 08:07 AM

Brilliant stuff - thanks!

I see Nalby has decided not to travel to Shanghai as reserve.

So I guess the Martians who took 'Fat Boy Nalby' and replaced him with 'Angley Nalby' (i.e he of the majestic angled shots) have now returned him to Earth.

Federer will win Shanghai and all will be well with the world again.

Posted by Mayor ghouliani 11/07/2007 at 08:24 AM

The Fedster is a GOD . Mirka is just another trophy, her feet stuck to a pedestal, in a glass cage( a cage yes, but what a cage!!) , along with his other conquests. She alone cannot deter his Fedness' quest for the holy grail of lawn sports

Posted by Maplesugar 11/07/2007 at 08:28 AM

Andrew, I must reiterate what others have said before---you and Rosangel are terrific, with your grasp of statistics and thoughtful analyses. I appreciate all the time you (both)put into this work and thank you for taking the time to share with all of us. You really should get this stuff published,... no?

To see that famous Fed/Roddick rain delay at Wimbledon pinpointed on a graph is just jaw dropping.

Posted by Andrew 11/07/2007 at 08:33 AM

Mornin' all.

Caroline: great stuff. I wonder how Davydenko would look?

felizjulianidad: nice points about Ferrer. IW this year was the only tournament I attended. The first match I saw was Djokovic - Ferrer, and I was convinced Djokovic would have too much firepower for Ferrer (it went to the Serb in straights). But Ferrer chased and chased - his game isn't beautiful, but he has a big, big heart. My guess is that if they can't go to Shanghai, his peers would be pleased in his success.

*waves to The Original French[ie]*

Posted by sophie 11/07/2007 at 08:41 AM

Ferrero is one I feel paricularly sorry for because of his horrendous 2004 with chicken pox and numerous injuries. In 2003 winning the French and reaching the USO Final (exhausted due to scheduling difficulties) and then AO SF 2004, was a real boost for the "clay courter" to prove how he could do on all surfaces. And he hasn't been too bad on grass either.

Those setbacks in 2004 cut him off in his prime, and he has never recovered. Now that's what I call really bad luck.

Posted by Schwab 11/07/2007 at 08:58 AM

Good job Andrew on the Elite installments.

Thanks Rosangel and Andrew for all the stats analysis on various topics. I appreciate the good work that was done.

Posted by Caroline 11/07/2007 at 09:00 AM

Thanks, Andrew. I wanted to look at Roddick as well as Davydenko but ran out of time. I'm going to try to look later.

Posted by temes 11/07/2007 at 09:03 AM

Auuu, there has been a high school shooting in Finland and I'm a little shocked now.

I predict Serena in two.

Posted by Moderator 11/07/2007 at 09:07 AM

WTA Madrid posts should go to the Crisis Center (Day 2 now up).

Let's keep comments here to the top ATP players, year end championships, stats and the like. Thanks.

Posted by temes 11/07/2007 at 09:09 AM

Ooops sorry Moderator, wrong thread. You can remove my post to the other thread if you want. =D

Nice work Andrew.

Posted by The Original French(ie) 11/07/2007 at 09:10 AM

yes this is horrendous: they say that there was a video on youtube a few hours before it happened.

http://www.lemonde.fr/web/depeches/0,14-0,39-33127543@7-37,0.html

from Finnish main newspaper helsingin sanomat

http://tinyurl.com/2vlrau

Posted by sophie 11/07/2007 at 09:19 AM

"Gonzalez qualifies for Shanghai on 1905 points, Gasquet with 1830. Last year these points totals would have earned them 11th and 13th spots in the Rankings."

Thanks for your work, Andrew, a model of clarity, with extra bits like the above to spark more interest.

Ljubicic has had a stellar drop this year (qualified 4th last year)and I don't think he has been well for some time. I think it's Djokovic's winning lots of points that has made so many other players fight over the scraps left by the top 3 to get to qualify with fewer points than before.

Posted by HansMoleman742 11/07/2007 at 09:30 AM

Roger vs. his draw: 34-1
Rafa vs. his draw: 12-4

Both are probably glad that Nalbandian lost early in Basel.

Posted by Beckham (Ooh look it's Shanghai = Frazzle Time?) 11/07/2007 at 09:56 AM

Puuhlease the Fed is not glad NSF Daveed withdrew from Shanghai or lost in Basel...frankly I was really hoping that Nalby would make it to Shanghai...pffftttt....C'mon Gervasio it's not too late to change your mind...C'mon bring it on...

Posted by Sherlock 11/07/2007 at 10:13 AM

Hmmm. I guess the grand draw conspiracy against Roger took a break for this tournament, eh? :)

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/07/2007 at 10:15 AM

***Puuhlease the Fed is not glad NSF Daveed withdrew from Shanghai or lost in Basel...frankly I was really hoping that Nalby would make it to Shanghai...pffftttt....**

yesssss Gervasio, bring it on.......Andy, shouldn't you be getting ready for the Davus Cup? Davydenko, aren't you tired man? what are you guys doing preventing a Gervasio-Roger match?

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/07/2007 at 10:26 AM

Andrew,
fantastic work as always. graphs add clarity of our understanding of these guys' performances. Each point on that graph is a week of their work. It is amazing how high Fed and Rafa have reached and were able to remain on the top consistently.I am also happy to see that Rafa is still improving. as if he has hit another high after his intial rise.


Djoker's rise is quite amazing too. I think we might see one for Murray this year.


the way you have chosen the graphs are also very interesting. like in Federer, Roddick, as if the rise of Fed coincides with Roddick's fall. or how Safin and hewitt, Ferrero and Ferrer are so comparable.


It is also interesting to see how nalby has always stayed on the lower side of the points until this year! will this cotinue?

what about Gonzo?

may I suggest that you put the graphs per year for all the Shanghai contenders? It will be intersting to see it and use it to predict the outcome.


Posted by Beckham (Ooh look it's Shanghai = Frazzle Time?) 11/07/2007 at 10:27 AM

Sherlock: law of averages man...if the Fed had gotten the draw from hail once again...I'd have to believe it's a conspiracy, No? Besides in case you missed the memo the Fed is not so mighty anymore he's shaking in his boots...he doesn't want to face Gervasio ever again!!!

Before I get moderated by the Moderator...let's talk about err the Elite...

Andrew: great job!!! Yeah the Wimby 04 F was the turning point...as Fed says Andy played his best and still lost, gave me the belief that I should be #1...what if it hadn't rained??? Alas we will never know...

OOh and the Fed can't return to his 2004 winners on every point form...much to my dissapointment ;)...everyone brings their best against him now and frankly there are more important things to worry about now i.e. GOAT...but winners every other point would be nice, No? ;)

Posted by zolarafa (formerly just zola) 11/07/2007 at 10:29 AM

sherlock:
**Hmmm. I guess the grand draw conspiracy against Roger took a break for this tournament, eh? :)***

yes, also in Madrid, Wimbledon, US Open, ......

Posted by Snoo Ferroo 11/07/2007 at 10:30 AM

"I do applaud him handily for his humility and guts."

Did you ever know that you're my heeeeerrooooooo....

FERRU! FERRU! FERRU IS HUMBLY ON FIRE!

Posted by Lacrymosa 11/07/2007 at 10:32 AM

Nice link to the poem Ozymandias. Haven't seen that in a long time, a lovely, haunting poem.

Posted by Sherlock 11/07/2007 at 10:48 AM

"law of averages man"

Beckham, that's my point. I'm so tired of the whining around here that poor Roger gets a draw from hell every tournament. Please.

Posted by Christin 11/07/2007 at 11:02 AM

I, for one, am quite glad that Nalby won't be at Shanghai. Happy for 2 reasons:

1. Fed now the odds-on favotite to win his 4th Masters Cup. At this point I just want him to win, period. Once he gets to 15 Slams, 6 Masters Cups, 18 Masters, a career Grand Slam and becomes the Official GOAT, I'll relax and say "Bring 'em on!" Until then, it's just 'Win win win, Roger".

2. Nalby is getting what he deserves, and he seems to know it by not coming to Shanghai as an alternate. If he can play well consistently throughout the year, he'll easily get enough points to join the Elite Eight. He'll deserve it then and will be a great addition to the field. Until then, no flaming supernovas or 3-week wonders need attend, please!

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 11:12 AM

"if the Fed had gotten the draw from hail once again..."

But since Fed is the best player, that shouldn't matter, right? He should be able to take on all comers.

Caroline: Great stuff in your 7:29 post. I like the way you looked at Fed's year from an effeciency standpoint.

Posted by Beckham (Ooh look it's Shanghai = Frazzle Time?) 11/07/2007 at 11:15 AM

Sherlock: lighten up, yeesh...errr there's no whining there's only voices of displeasure...besides Paris was especially bad 'cos everyone capable of winning the tourney save for 1 was in the top half...it was jarring quite like the USO...in any case I'm of the opinion that Paris was a result of bad karma...Paris is cursed for the Fed!!!

Posted by Beckham (Ooh look it's Shanghai = Frazzle Time?) 11/07/2007 at 11:17 AM

Sam: pfffttt did you miss the memo...the Fed is NOT the best player...Gervasio is...tsk tsk tsk...

Posted by Andrew 11/07/2007 at 11:22 AM

I'm not entirely convinced, given the RR format, that the draw for the tournament favors anyone.

If the matches play to seeding, to win the tournament Federer will have to beat players 4, 5, 7 then 3, then 2.

Nadal would have to beat 3, 6, 8, then 4, then 1.

Djokovic would need to beat 2, 6, 8, then 4, then 1.

Each of the top players will need to beat the other top 3.

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 11:28 AM

Andrew: I disagree. The draw is heavily biased against . :-)

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 11:29 AM

Sorry, that should read:
The draw is heavily biased against (insert favorite player). :-)

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 11:32 AM

Christin: Agree with your #2. Nalbandian was 19-17 for the year before going on a 12-1 tear the last few weeks. He is exactly where he should be.

Posted by CL 11/07/2007 at 11:33 AM

Beckham - extra cup of coffee this morning? LOL...

And yes I know all aobut Roger and his almost immaculate work against those on his side of the draw...but let us not forget Roddick's not so little blown overhead last year. He makes that...who knows. He played Roger SO very tight at the USO and the court in Shanghai obvioulsy suits him.

And in any case, which ever way you slice it, whover wins is going to have to beat the best of the best...as ever.

Posted by Sherlock 11/07/2007 at 11:34 AM

By seeds, quite true, Andrew. But looking at the state of things right now, I'd beg to differ. Roddick hasn't played in how long and is totally focused on DC, poor Davydenko's mental state is who knows where, and Gonzales is back to playing clueless tennis while hitting everything into row 10.

Beckham, don't worry, I really don't care a whole lot about this issue. But poking you Fed fans over draws is a whole lot of fun. :)

Posted by Sam 11/07/2007 at 11:46 AM

"Gonzales is back to playing clueless tennis while hitting everything into row 10."

LOL Sherlock.

Difficult draw for Fed = facing Nadal on clay

Posted by Tim 11/07/2007 at 11:59 AM

Why does Roger always end up with such easy draws? DId Mirka slip the organizers a wad of cash?

:)

Posted by MrsSanta 11/07/2007 at 12:01 PM

Fed's draw is comedy. They should have thrown Blake in there just for kicks.

Sveta Sveta Sveta..... At least my hope for Dani to go 0-3 is still alive.

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