The Weak, Weak Newport Field

The ATP 250-level tournament in Newport this week is empty of the game’s best players.  The top seed is John Isner, ranked 46, and the 8th seed is Tobias Kamke, who is barely within the top 100.  This is no surprise.  Newport has one of the weakest ATP fields every year, situated as it is the week after Wimbledon, simultaneous with Davis Cup.

In a little study I did last year, I discovered that at least in 2009, Newport did have the weakest field of any ATP 250 event.  If you click the link, you’ll find a variety of metrics, but I think we can focus on just one: the median rank of main draw players.  By using median instead of average, the numbers aren’t skewed by a lowly-ranked wild card or qualifier.

In 2009, the players in the Newport draw had a median ranking of 125–that is, half the players in the main draw of an ATP event were ranked above 125.  Grand slams usually manage about 110 players below the 125 mark, but Newport only got 16–and most of those were closer to 125 than to 1.  Last year, the median fell to 129.5.  It may be a small consolation that Johannesburg’s field was equally weak.

A glance at this year’s draw can tell you that not much has changed.  Thanks to many late withdrawals, the cut fell to 218, which is considerably higher than the cut at some challengers.  For all that, the field quality has improved somewhat, to a median rank of 111.  That leaves Jo’burg in the dust; the South African event had a median rank of 118.5.

The non-challenger challengers

A few tour-level events–Newport, Jo’burg, and perhaps San Jose–obscure the line between the tour and challenger levels.  In the eyes of the ranking system, they are very different–Newport is worth 250 points to the winner, while no challenger is worth more than 125.  But for all intents and purposes, Newport and Jo’burg are challengers.

Last year, the May event in Bordeaux attracted a field with a median rank of 128–just above last year’s Newport and Jo’burg numbers.  This March, the odd 24-man field at Le Gosier had a median rank of 123.  Already in 2011, six challengers with 32-man fields had median ranks below 150, putting them in the same ballpark as the lowest rungs of the tour.

All of this is another strike against the ranking system, which treats Newport as if it were equivalent to, say, Sydney, where the last direct acceptance this year (#53 Benjamin Becker) was higher-ranked than Newport’s second seed (#60 Grigor Dimitrov).  Bad news for properly ordering second-tier pros, but good news for Isner, who can take advantage of this week’s cupcake draw to bounce back to as high as #36.

7 thoughts on “The Weak, Weak Newport Field”

  1. Great post – that goes a way to explain why historically the winners have always been so lowly ranked e.g. Neville Godwin, Rajeev Ram, the list goes on.

    If Fish and Querry were playing (as they intended to do), then this year might have had the highest median rankings so far in the tournament’s history.

    All that being said, I think the field this year is exciting regardless of the player’s rankings, with Dimitrov, Haas, Isner, Mahut, Ryans Sweeting and Harrison, Donald Young and Bogomolov.

  2. If some tournament needs to have the lowest median entrant ranking, Newport is a perfect candidate, given that it’s grass, which is such an under-valued surface during the calendar.

    The medians aren’t surprising to me, as I’ve taken the one hour drive to the tournie most years, usually for the induction ceremony, and seen the ‘mini-Federer’ Olivier Rochus and the delightful Santoro among the title winners and finalists. I like the fact that it’s a chance to see and enjoy Challenger level tennis on grass, and although one pays for more, it’s the surroundings that deliver a large part of the value (for half the price I paid for 2 face value tickets near the back row in Centre Court last Monday, I’m sitting, literally, on the court at the sideline, under shade – what’s not to like when you’re this lucky!). This year the field includes newcomers like Ryan the senior and junior, though they both lost today along with Karlovic, grass savvy veterans Tommy Haas and Arnaud Clement, and journeymen like Rajeev Ram (age 27, rank 260) whose ranking reached a high point of 78 a year and half ago, partly because of the generous point accumulation from winning Newport in 2009. Most of the singles players also enter doubles, another plus.


    1. Sounds like a great time … probably a lot of similarities between Newport/grass and Houston/clay, in that the field is not very strong, relative to tour level, but it’s a great event for the local fans.

  3. Multiple 2011 Challengers with sub 200 cuts:
    (plus several more in the low 200’s)

    Bordeaux – 146
    Braunschweig – 159
    Prague – 168
    Nottingham two – 169
    Zagreb – 183
    Turin – 184
    Nottingham one – 186

    1. Yeah, the Braunschweig cut was partly what prompted me to write this — very low cut, median entry rank of 130.5, only a week before Newport. Thanks for the list.

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