A Difference That Makes -- A Little Difference (TennisOne, November 26, 2007) [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

A Difference That Makes -- A Little Difference (TennisOne, November 26, 2007)

smucav
11-27-2007, 07:15 PM
http://www.tennisone.com/magazine/larson_news.phpMonday, November 26

A Difference That Makes -- A Little Difference

For the last several years, at the end of the year, we sat down and compared the final Race and Entry rankings. That's less important now; the Rankings are the Rankings and the Race is the Race and the ATP no longer tries to blur the distinction. But they are still distinct, so it's interesting to ask how different they are.

In theory, the Race was supposed to predict the year-end Rankings. It frequently fails in this, of course, because of the "front loading" -- allowing busy players to stack up a lot of optional events when others have very few. (One might almost call it the "Make Nikolay Davydenko look better than he is" system.) It's just a report of what has happened so far, with no accounting for how many events a player has played, let alone a surface control. The leader a week into the season almost certainly will not be the year-end #1, and even after a month or two, the predictive value of the Race is probably worse than just taking last year's entry rankings and repeating them.

But at least the final Race and Entry rankings agree, right?

Nope.

In 2001, the discrepancy reached all the way into the Top 15: Roger Federer ended the year #12 in the Race, but Goran Ivanisevic was #12 in the Entry Rankings. In 2002, there were no changes in the Top 15, but three changes in the Top 20. In 2003, we again had a difference at #12. 2004 had relatively small differences: Nicolas Kiefer was #20 in the Race, Andrei Pavel had that spot in the rankings. Again in 2005, the difference was at #12 (don't ask us why that seems to be a magic number for the first rank/entry difference): Mariano Puerta (prior to his suspension) had the #12 spot in the Entry rankings, Marat Safin has the #12 spot in the Race.

2006, for whatever reason, had the smallest difference in the history of the systems. The first change was at #24. Below the Top 25, though, almost every player had distinct rankings in the two systems.

Why the difference? Challengers, mostly, plus qualifying results where the player did not make the main draw. Some pretty big players were in Challengers in 2007 -- we saw Guillermo Canas in a Challenger just two weeks ago!

It turns out that Challengers did affect Canas. He ends the year #15 in the rankings, but a mere #18 in the Race; Marcos Baghdatis, #16 in the rankings, has the #15 Race spot. That is, this year, the first spot where the two do not agree.

There are plenty of others, though. So what we're going to do is take every player who is Top Hundred, in either Race or Rankings, and compare where they ended up. That turns out to be 112 players (i.e. there are 12 players who are Top Hundred in the Race but not the Rankings, and vice versa). The list below shows all of them, in ranking order, The first column in the table below is the player's name, then his ranking, then his race position. (At least, this year, every Top Hundred player has a Race position. There was a situation, a few years ago, when a Top Hundred player had no Race points at all!) The final column, "Diff," is the difference between the two. If the Diff is a positive number, the player's Race position is higher; if it's negative, the player's ranking is higher.

PLAYER..........Rank..Race..Diff
Federer,Roger......1.....1.....0
Nadal,Rafael.......2.....2.....0
Djokovic,Novak.....3.....3.....0
Davydenko,Niko.....4.....4.....0
Ferrer,David.......5.....5.....0
Roddick,Andy.......6.....6.....0
Gonzalez,Ferna.....7.....7.....0
Gasquet,Richar.....8.....8.....0
Nalbandian,Dav.....9.....9.....0
Robredo,Tommy.....10....10.....0
Murray,Andy.......11....11.....0
Haas,Tommy........12....12.....0
Blake,James.......13....13.....0
Berdych,Tomas.....14....14.....0
Baghdatis,Marc....16....15.....1
Moya,Carlos.......17....16.....1
Ljubicic,Ivan.....18....17.....1
Canas,Guillerm....15....18....-3
Youzhny,Mikhai....19....19.....0
Chela,Juan Ign....20....20.....0
Hewitt,Lleyton....21....21.....0
Karlovic,Ivo......22....22.....0
Monaco,Juan.......23....23.....0
Ferrero,Juan C....24....24.....0
Mathieu,Paul-H....25....25.....0
Verdasco,Ferna....26....26.....0
Nieminen,Jarkk....27....27.....0
Almagro,Nicola....28....28.....0
Simon,Gilles......29....29.....0
Stepanek,Radek....30....30.....0
Kohlschreiber,....32....31.....1
Andreev,Igor......33....32.....1
Tursunov,Dmitr....34....33.....1
Lopez,Felician....35....34.....1
Wawrinka,Stani....36....35.....1
Starace,Potito....31....36....-5
Fish,Mardy........39....37.....2
Soderling,Robi....41....38.....3
Calleri,Agusti....42....39.....3
Santoro,Fabric....37....40....-3
Volandri,Filip....40....41....-1
Del Potro,Juan....44....42.....2
Kiefer,Nicolas....49....43.....6
Montanes,Alber....46....44.....2
Monfils,Gael......38....45....-7
Lee,Hyung-Taik....51....46.....5
Clement,Arnaud....54....47.....7
Safin,Marat.......56....48.....8
Mahut,Nicolas.....45....49....-4
Grosjean,Sebas....53....50.....3
Koubek,Stefan.....47....51....-4
Bjorkman,Jonas....59....52.....7
Melzer,Jurgen.....60....53.....7
Seppi,Andreas.....50....54....-4
Rochus,Olivier....48....55....-7
Tipsarevic,Jan....52....56....-4
Benneteau,Juli....68....57....11
Gicquel,Marc......70....58....12
Johansson,Thom....62....59.....3
Spadea,Vincent....78....60....18
Querrey,Sam.......63....61.....2
Acasuso,Jose......64....62.....2
Ancic,Mario.......85....63....22
Becker,Benjami....87....64....23
Massu,Nicolas.....79....65....14
Mayer,Florian.....55....66...-11
Horna,Luis........81....67....14
Tsonga,Jo-Wilf....43....68...-25
Dancevic,Frank....73....69.....4
Serra,Florent.....91....70....21
Korolev,Evgeny....83....71....12
Malisse,Xavier...109....72....37
Garcia-Lopez,G....90....73....17
Falla,Alejandr....84....74....10
Pavel,Andrei......76....75.....1
Cilic,Marin.......71....76....-5
Vliegen,Kristo....97....77....20
Berrer,Michael....57....78...-21
Ginepri,Robby....132....79....53
Llodra,Michael....92....80....12
Hernandez,Osca....58....81...-23
Gabashvili,Tei...120....82....38
Hartfield,Dieg....86....83.....3
Hrbaty,Dominik...135....84....51
Vassallo Argue....75....85...-10
Kunitsyn,Igor....125....86....39
Capdeville,Pau...100....87....13
Mirnyi,Max.......151....88....63
Gulbis,Ernests....61....89...-28
Delic,Amer.......136....90....46
Russell,Michae....72....91...-19
Lapentti,Nicol...111....92....19
Roitman,Sergio....69....93...-24
Berlocq,Carlos....74....94...-20
Haase,Robin......112....95....17
Zabaleta,Maria...101....96.....5
Bolelli,Simone....67....97...-30
Isner,John.......107....98.....9
Navarro,Ivan.....114....99....15
Eschauer,Werne....65...103...-38
Sela,Dudi.........66...118...-52
Hanescu,Victor....77...111...-34
Zverev,Mischa.....80...116...-36
Luczak,Peter......82...171...-89
Darcis,Steve......88...101...-13
Ventura,Santia....89...146...-57
Ascione,Thierr....93...142...-49
Fognini,Fabio.....94...113...-19
Pashanski,Bori....95...109...-14
Roger-Vasselin....96...106...-10
Young,Donald......98...150...-52
Vanek,Jiri........99...112...-13

Some analysis....

The twelve players who were Top Hundred in the rankings but not in the Race: Steve Darcis (Race #101), Werner Eschauer (#103), Edouard Roger-Vasselin (#106), Boris Pashanski (#109), Victor Hanescu (#111), Jiri Vanek (#112), Fabio Fognini (#113), Mischa Zverev (#106), Dudi Sela (#118), Thierry AScione (#142), Santiago Ventura (#146), Donald Young (#150), and Peter Luczak (a mere #171 in the Race!)

Typically, players who are Top Hundred in the Race but not in the rankings are guys who have a proven ATP record but have fallen on hard times. This year is no exception, since the list includes Mariano Zabaleta, Xavier Malisse, Nicolas Lapentti, Robby Ginepri, Dominik Hrbaty, and Max Mirnyi -- all of whom, because of their past results, played mostly ATP events (which allowed them to build up a relatively high number of Race points) but performed very poorly. The one major contrary example is John Isner, who would seem to contradcit the rule but who is a special case because he played only part of a year but played frequently at the ATP level when he did. The full list of players in the Race Top Hundred who were not Top Hundred in the rankings: Zabaleta (ranked #101), Isner (#107), Malisse (#109), Lapentti (#111), Robin Haase (#112), Ivan Navarro (#114), Teimuraz Gabashvili (#120), Igor Kunitsyn (#125), Ginepri (#132), Hrbaty (#135), Amer Delic (#136), and Mirnyi (#151).

In total, of our 112 players, only 26 have the same standing in Race and Rankings. What's more, every single solitary one of them is Top Thirty. Below that, not one player has the same position.

If we look at who has the biggest absolute differences, Peter Luczak's ranking is 89 places higher than his Race standing. Santiago Ventur's ranking is 57 places higher. Dudi Sela and Donald Young are 52 spots higher in the rankings than the Race. In total, 15 players are at least 20 spots higher in rankings than Race.

On the other hand, Max Mirnyi is 63 spots higher in Race than rankings, and Robby Ginepri is 53 spots higher in the Race. Dominik Hrbaty is 51 places higher. There are 11 players in our list who are at least 20 places higher in rankings than Race.

The most extreme percentage differences are as follows: Peter Luczak's Race standing is 108% higher than his ranking, Sela's is 79% higher, Ventura's is 64% higher, and Wener Eschauer's and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's are 58% higher. Tsonga is the only Top Fifty player with such an extreme difference.

On the flip side, Mirnyi's ranking is 72% higher than his Race spot, Ginepri's is 67% higher, Hrbaty's 60% higher, and Malisse's and Delic's 51% higher.

It doesn't really matter any more, not now that the Race isn't called a ranking. But it's worth remembering.