Serena versus the world


Above is a graph showing the ranking points by country for the top 100 women players on the WTA tour as of August 10, 2015. As you can see, the United States is the clear #1 with over 25,000 points (for reference, winning a grand slam like Wimbledon nets you 2000 points; a large event like Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Open gives you 900, and an ITF event (the minor leagues) adds around 50-150 points). The WTA uses a rolling 12 month point system so you never reset to zero (the ATP tour, the last I checked, does reset each year in January).

I made some more cool visualizations with Microsoft’s Power BI technology that shows there’s more than meets than eye when evaluating which country is dominating. Continue reading

Tennis- Young vs. Old


Click to enlarge (and if still looks kinda small, try clicking it one more time and it should get bigger- worked for me in Chrome).

After doing my first tennis post and seeing a bunch of American youngsters in the Australian Open women’s draw right now (I’m especially excited about the upcoming Madison Keys versus Madison Brengle match), I wondered- exactly how many up-and-comers do we have? So I ran some stats on young versus older players in each country and the results in the graph above. The first graph is all players in the top 300 and then the bottom two are per gender. The average age of women in the top 100 is 24.8 and it is 27.6 for men, so I changed the age used as the threshold in each graph.  A few things I noticed:

  • Lots of up-and-coming American women! Madison Keys (currently ranked #35), Lauren Davis, Christina McHale, Nicole Gibbs, Taylor Townsend, and Grace Min are all 22 and under and either in or hovering around the top 100. Christina McHale has already been a staple in the draws and seems to be here to stay. There’s also 15-year-old Catherine Bellis, who had a great run at the US Open this past year.
  • Interesting how many European countries like Germany, Spain and Italy currently have lots of older players- this could just be a sign of the game’s increasingly global scale as more Asian and lesser known European nations are taking ranking spots away.
  • Looks like we can expect to see some good Dutch players on the women’s side coming up- can’t think of any good Dutch player since I’ve been following tennis (2001). The men don’t have any young Dutch players right now.
  • The Australian men are doing great- the women, not so much. Someone’s gotta replace Sam Stosur! She’s getting old in tennis years.
  • Surprised to see so many young Japanese women- 11 under 24- but only one is inside the top 100.  Not as many young Japanese men as I thought- there are only 5- but of course Kei Nishikori is one of them and his game has been hot lately.
  • Of course a large amount of young players is just one step in the process of having success- they actually have to rise up in the rankings and play well as they get older and not get burned out
  • Perhaps Roger Federer and Martina Hingis have had some influence on the ladies of Switzerland- there’s 5 under 25 and one of them, Belinda Bencic, is only 17 and ranked #34 in the world!! Impressive. She is the top Swiss right now. Bencic trained most of her childhood at Melanie Molitor’s tennis academy- Melanie is Martina Hingis’ mother!
  • Russians started dominating the game soon after I started following pro tennis in the early 2000s. So since I used to think they were going to completely takeover, I was curious where they stood. This graph tells me that there are 10 women under 24 years old, which is a decent but not super high amount, but only one of these 10 is inside the top 100! (And that one is Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is 23). So I’m thinking Russia might see some loss in its dominance in the upcoming years.

Curious to see how all this plays out because just because a country has a lot of young players in the top 300 doesn’t mean they all have what it takes to move into the top 50 or top 10.

Source: WTA and ATP, data taken in October 2014

Do Americans suck at tennis?

So the talk of the tennis world in the US can often revolve around why there aren’t as many American players anymore. Where are our up and coming superstars? Where did all these Russians come from? Are we not driven enough? Is tennis just not that popular here? People are used to seeing their American favorites (McEnroe, Evert, Austin, Sampras, Roddick, etc) at the top of the rankings and winning grand slams. The game has gotten much more international with players from all over the world. I wondered- where exactly does the United States stand? Are we really doing as bad as everyone says we are? I’m a pretty avid fan and have noticed fewer American men in the top rankings but the women seem to be doing okay to me, but I wonder what will happen when Venus and Serena retire because it does not seem like anyone is close to making themselves at home in the top 10. Several young phenoms are or were close- Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Melanie Oudin, and Christina McHale, to name a few- but no Serenas in the mix just yet (all of the above still definitely have a shot, though, if you ask me). The last American man to win a grand slam was Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open! Before that, guys like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and John McEnroe ruled the roost.

The below graphs are from data for the top 300 tennis players on the men’s and women’s tours from October 2014. In the first graph, showing the number of players per country per gender, you can see that there are more American players than any other nationality, but the second graph, which shows the number of players per million residents, we Americans rank near the bottom! (Note that in the 2nd graph, only countries with at least 2 players were included).

Click to enlarge

As much as we think “The Russians are coming!”, I was shocked to see how low they ranked in the per capita list. Many of the world’s more populated countries- China, India, US, Russia, Brazil- are near the bottom of the list or non-existent (Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria). Small countries like Croatia are tennis powerhouses- 4 out of every million Croatians is a pro tennis player (top 300)- impressive! That would be like the state of Ohio having 44 pro players… insane.*

Some interesting things to note are the countries with big disparities between men and women. China has a ton of female players, but almost no male, and it’s reversed for Argentina. France and Spain have lots of male players, while the Czech Republic, Japan, and Russia have much more females. Both Russia and Czech Republic have benefited from a few past superstars, like Anna Kournikova and Martina Navratilova. I’ve also heard that female tennis players like Li Na are huge in China- major celebrities.

The fact that Luxembourg is 2nd on the list does not mean it’s a tennis powerhouse- they have just two players, one male and one female, ranked inside the top 300. Countries like Serbia and Croatia, with 12 and 17 players respectively- now that impresses me. Is it their underdog status and war-torn history that help give the players drive and determination? Do they dream of money and fame and a mansion in Florida or a sweet pad in Monaco? In a future post, I hope to explore reasons and theories behind why some countries excel and others, like America, are seemingly less successful!

*I think Ohio only claims one player, as far as I know- Nicole Gibbs. We kind of have two if you count Chieh-yu (Connie) Hsu, who plays under Taipei but spent a lot of her childhood in Cincinnati (I played her three times in junior tournaments despite being six years older).

EDIT: March 10: Ohio is also the home state of current top 100 player Lauren Davis!

Sources: WTA, ATP