Stock Watch for Top Tennis Stars After the 2013 French Open

Jake CurtisFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

Stock Watch for Top Tennis Stars After the 2013 French Open

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    With the French Open in the rear-view mirror, we decided to use a Wall Street approach to assess the tennis landscape heading into Wimbledon.

    If tennis players were stocks, potential investors would analyze their recent results and their performance trends to determine their market value. 

    The most important factor in determining a player's market value is his or her current status. However, the probability that a player's value will decline or rise in the short term (the rest of 2013) or over the long term (the next three years) is also significant to investors. With four of the 10 players listed in this article being 31 years old, future possibilities become significant issues.

    Simply put, the two questions being addressed are: Who are the most highly valued players at the moment, and is their value expected to change in the near future?

    We offer our analysis of 10 of the top players, with advice on whether investors should buy or sell stock in that player in the short term and long term.

     

Li Na

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    Li Na's stock has dropped rather sharply since her impressive showing in the Australian Open.

    Since beating Maria Sharapova in the semifinals in Melbourne and losing to Victoria Azarenka in three sets in the finals, Li has reached the finals of only one tournament. She did not get past the second round in any of her past three tournaments, and the second-round loss to 67th-ranked Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the French Open was not encouraging.

    She also was criticized by Chinese journalists for the way she handled the defeat, according to French news agency Agence France-Presse. That probably did not enhance her market value.

    Li is 31 years old, which makes the recent downturn look more like a trend than merely a slump. Unless she turns things around soon, she could find herself out of the top 10 before too long.

    She has never advanced past the quarterfinals of either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, so her chances for a resurgence this summer are limited.

    Short-term investment advice: Sell several shares.

    Long-term investment advice: Sell many shares.

Roger Federer

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    Roger Federer's value is still high, but it is dropping.

    Now 31 years old, Federer has reached the finals of only one tournament in 2013 and has not won any. More telling is that he advanced to the finals of just one of the past 13 Grand Slam events.

    Although clay is Federer's worst surface, his straight-sets loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open quarterfinals suggested a late-career resurgence on any surface is not imminent.

    The one bit of encouragement for prospective Federer investors is that he won Wimbledon last year. Grass is his best surface, and he has won Wimbledon seven times. The upcoming Wimbledon tournament may be his last opportunity to win a major.

    If he gets a favorable draw at Wimbledon, with, say, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both in the other half, his chances of winning another major title increase.

    Federer has won a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and last year the Tennis Channel ranked him the best player of all time. Those accomplishments enable him to retain a relatively high market value for now, but if he falters at Wimbledon, his stock may fall sharply.

    Short-term investment advice: Buy limited stock today, but sell on July 8, the day after the Wimbledon finals.

    Long-term investment advice: Sell.

Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Investment in Agnieszka Radwanska stock does not figure to be a high-yield proposition,

    On one hand, she is ranked No. 4 in the world, and her berth in the 2012 Wimbledon finals bodes well for her chances in that event this year. However, that was the only time she got past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event.

    Radwanska has shown consistency in recent majors. Her quarterfinal loss to Sara Errani at the French Open represented the third time in the past four majors that she's reached the quarterfinals. But getting to the quarterfinals on a regular basis does little for her market value when compared with Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova.

    Radwanska did not beat any of the top seven seeds while reaching last year's Wimbledon finals. In fact, her best performance in that event may have been her final-round loss, when she took a set off Serena Williams.

    At age 24, Radwanska has plenty of time to increase her market value, and her improving results in Grand Slam events suggest it could happen.

    Short-term investment advice: Sell, although a small investment of expendable capital prior to Wimbledon may prove profitable.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy limited shares, while monitoring Radwanska's progress.

David Ferrer

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    David Ferrer's stock creates a quandary for investors. 

    He has never won a major and has reached the final of only one Grand Slam event, so he is not as valued as Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafal Nadal. And, at age 31, you might assume he has already passed his peak.

    However, he continues to improve at an age when most players are declining, and his performance in the French Open was the best example of that. Ferrer did not lose a set in his first six French Open matches this year while reaching his first Grand Slam finals.

    His straight-set loss to Nadal in the finals did not diminish what has been a remarkable rise since 2011. A week after the 2010 U.S, Open, Ferrer was ranked outside the top 10 and had reached the semifinals of only one Grand Slam event. He was 28, three years older than Bjorn Borg was when he retired.

    However, he has reached the semifinals of four of the past five majors, has moved up to No. 4 in the rankings and seems to be getting better despite a limited arsenal.

    His game, which is based on determination and consistency, would not seem suited to grass, and he has fared worse at Wimbledon than the other three majors. But his quarterfinal berth last year was his best Wimbledon result, after getting past the third round in only one of his first seven attempts at Wimbledon.

    Short-team investment advice: Buy, and increase the investment after Wimbledon.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy judiciously, noting anything that suggests a decline.

Victoria Azarenka

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    With just two Grand Slam singles titles, both in the Australian Open, and a loss in the recent French Open semifinals, Victoria Azarenka's stock is not valued as highly as Serena Williams' or Maria Sharapova's. Plus, she has never reached the finals of Wimbledon, so she might not be a good bet to win that major on grass.

    However, her results in recent Grand Slam events suggest her stock is on the rise.

    Despite losing in Paris to Maria Sharapova, Azarenka moved up to No. 2 in the rankings.

    More significant is the fact that she reached at least the semifinals in six of the last eight majors. That's a noticeable improvement, because she had failed to get past the quarterfinals of any major until her semifinal berth at Wimbledon in 2011.

    Taking a set off Sharapova in the French Open semifinals was the latest indication of progress.

    Azarenka is just 23 years old, and recent trends suggest continued upward movement in her stock.

    Short-term investment advice: Buy cautiously.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy.



Andy Murray

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    Andy Murray's absence from the French Open because of a back injury makes him a bit of an unknown. Investors never like to deal with unknowns.

    Murray said on June 7 he feels "real good," according to the LTA,org, the website for Britain's tennis governing body.

    It suggests his injury is no longer a problem. Nonetheless, the status of his health and his game following the layoff will be better known after he participates in the grass-court warm-up events for Wimbledon.

    Generally, Murray's stock has been rising. He has reached the finals of the last three Grand Slam events he's entered, and he won his first major title at the U.S. Open last September. His ranking has risen from No. 5 in March 2011 to its current No. 2 slot, 

    Losses to Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka in two clay-court events this spring were not encouraging, but Murray has always fared better on grass and hardcourts than on clay.

    Assuming the injury is a non-issue, Murray, 26, shows no signs of relinquishing his spot among the game's elite players.

    Short-term investment advice: Buy in small amounts until his health is determined and his tournament toughness is re-established.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy.


Maria Sharapova

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    Were it not for the presence of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova might be the hottest stock on the market.

    Since the Australian Open, she has lost on the court to only one player. However, she has lost to Williams four times this year, including a straight-sets loss to Williams in the French Open finals.

    She has lost 13 straight matches against Williams, although Sharapova seemed encouraged by her performance in her 6-4, 6-4 loss in the French Open finals, based on what she told Reuters:

    "I think getting to the Roland Garros final is not too shabby, so I'd say that's a positive. I can sit here and say that I feel like I'm moving in the right direction in terms of when I'm playing against her. Some of the results against her last year were not so good. But the match in Miami and the match here, I think I'm doing a few more right things than maybe I have done in the past, yet obviously not consistent enough."

    Although Sharapova slipped to No. 3 in the rankings, her 2013 results suggest she is the second-best player in the world at the moment. She has reached at least the semifinals in seven of the past nine majors and got to the finals in four of them.

    At age 26, Sharapova seems to be in her prime, with years of top-flight tennis ahead.

    However, she has not won at title at either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open since 2006 and got as far as the semifinals only twice in her 11 appearances in those two events since then.

    Short-term investment advice: Buy in small amounts

    Long-term investment advice: Buy in larger amounts..

Rafael Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal's stock must be assessed on two levels: his 2013 performance and his ranking.

    His 2013 performance is unmatched on the men's tour. He has reached the finals of all nine tournaments he played and won seven of them. That includes his eighth French Open title, which extended his current match winning streak to 22 in a row.

    However, Nadal is currently ranked only No. 5, primarily because he missed the second half of the 2012 season with a knee injury, and rankings are based on a rolling 52-week cycle.

    His ranking is almost certain to rise as his 2012 absences are replaced by his results over the next several months. In fact, he could displace Novak Djokovic at No.1 if he continues his success.

    Whether Nadal will continue to dominate on the grass at Wimbledon and the hardcourts of the U.S. Open is the question. He has won the U.S. Open once and Wimbledon twice, so he is capable of winning those events again, but he is not as effective on those courts as he is on clay. Furthermore, he was not as dominant in this year's French Open as he was in the past, losing a set in his first two matches and being pushed to the limit by Djokovic.

    The other issue is Nadal's ongoing knee problem, which caused him to miss seven months of action before his return in February. USA Today reported that Nadal described his knee condition as "day-to-day," which means it's still a concern. Doctors will continue to check his knee, which could be more vulnerable on the unpredictable grass and the unforgiving hardcourts. "It's not the ideal situation," Nadal said, according to USA Today.

    Short-term investment advice: Buy Nadal's ranking stock, which figures to rise appreciably. Buy his overall stock, but be ready to sell if signs of injury arise.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy, while monitoring his health,

Serena Williams

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    Serena Williams is the Google of women's tennis stock.

    She has won 31 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak on the women's tour in 13 years. She is currently ranked No. 1, with a wide lead over No. 2 Victoria Azarenka. Williams has won three of the past four Grand Slam events, and her dominating victory in the recent French Open came on what should be her worst surface, clay.

    She is playing the best tennis of her career heading into Wimbledon, which she has won five times. She has won the U.S. Open four times, and she is the defending champion at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

    The only reservation about Williams' stock is her age. Williams will be 32 on September 26, suggesting she should be past her prime. After all, earlier this month she became the oldest woman to win the French Open in the Open Era, according to Associated Press.

    Recent results give no indication of decline, however.

    "I want to go out in my peak. That's my goal. But have I peaked yet?" she said according to ESPN,com. 

    Chris Evert was 31 when she won her final Grand Slam singles title and Martina Navratilova was 33. Williams, with 16 major titles, is just two shy of the 18 won by Evert and Navratilova, and six short of the record owned by Steffi Graf, who was a week shy of her 30th birthday when she won her 22nd major title.

    Short-term investing advice: Buy Williams stock in large quantity.

    Long-term investing advice: Buy judiciously, while watching for signs of a downturn or involvement in outside interests.

Novak Djokovic

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    Novak Djokovic is as close as you can get to a blue-chip stock in men's tennis.

    He has been ranked No. 1 every week since last October, and he has a sizable lead over No. 2 Andy Murray at the moment.

    Djokovic has won five of the past 10 Grand Slam events and reached at least the semifinals in 12 straight majors.

    Although he has never won the French Open, he nearly toppled clay king Rafael Nadal in the semifinals this year before losing 9-7 in the fifth. That performance and a clay-court victory over Nadal earlier in 2013 suggest he's getting better on clay, his worst surface. 

    At age 26 with no indications of serious injuries, there is little reason to believe his value will wane any time soon.

    The only concern for investors may be that he has reached the finals in only one of his past six 2013 tournaments and was a finalist in none of his last three. That is offset by his consistency in the majors.

    Short-term invest advice: Buy without hesitation.

    Long-term investment advice: Buy.