The days after Wimbledon have been lull as a tennis fan, with no big tournaments in the last three weeks. My anticipation for Indianapolis was let down by the withdrawal of Andy Roddick and hence I have not watched live tennis during this period.
I did utilize the period to refresh some former U.S. Open memories by watching recordings of Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl, but that is a topic for some other day.
I was more interested in the rankings breakdown for the calendar year, when I decided to look at the ATP World Tour Rankings. A look at the rankings breakdown of the top 15 players was a very good exercise as it provided some interesting facts.
Rafa’s scheduling woes
There has been a lot of talk of Rafael Nadal’s improper scheduling. He has been criticized for participating in a deluge of tournaments right after the two physically and mentally exhausting five setters at the Australian Open and the clay court season.
However, Nadal has played only 18 tournaments in the last calendar year—only one more than Roger Federer, who is praised for his smart scheduling. It would have become 20, had he not withdrawn from Wimbledon and Queens earlier in June.
This number is not high by any means. It is less than any other player in the top 20, except Fernando Gonzalez and Roger Federer. Players like Gilles Simon have participated in as many as 28 tournaments, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, and Robin Soderling are not far behind with 24 tournaments each.
Is Rafa really as dumb in scheduling as he is made out to be? He may spread out the number of tournaments evenly over the year—considering that he goes deep into almost every tournament unlike the players mentioned above—but he is not playing a humongous number.
The race towards the ATP World Tour Finals
It was not an entertaining exercise to look at the Rankings breakdown, even though it was enriching. The website needs a good database system and should allow a wider variety of queries, something like the counterpart in cricket.
There is no provision to look at the tournament breakdown for a player between a specific period of time. With the deprecation of the ATP Race points, I had to manually calculate the rankings points accumulated by each player for 2009, and it was not fun!
This amounted to a significant change in the lower half of the rankings points, as the points all the points accumulated during the later hard court season were excluded, which led to some interesting revelations.
Ranking Points in 2009
Rafael Nadal is not that far behind Roger Federer in terms of ranking points, but the hard court season is more favorable to Federer. Considering Rafa’s injury, the Spaniard will face a tough task if he is to overcome Federer in the rankings in upcoming tournaments.
On a similar note, Novak Djokovic is not in such a disarray as it appears. He is marginally behind Murray and fast hard courts are his strength more than that of the Scot. The current offseason would only help him recuperate his emotional losses at Madrid and Paris, while it remains to be seen Murray’s state of mind after the media pressure post Wimbledon.
The newest entry in the race to No. 1 is the Rafa-killer—Robin Soderling! He may be No. 11 on the ATP rankings, but the indoor season arrives in two months and he is a monster on the air conditioned courts.
The surprise entries of Simon and Tsonga last year are almost sure to be replaced by Verdasco and Soderling.
Outside Looking In
Gonzalez sits at No. 9—not far behind the Swede—but given his inconsistency and lesser preference for the hard courts, Marin Cilic and Tommy Haas have better chances of a breakthrough.
Cilic has been consistent, but Haas has enjoyed better success after missing the Australian Open, with a title at Halle and good runs at Paris and London. His back-to-back victories over Djokovic were promising and he looks ready for a major surprise entry in the World Tour Finals.