When following this week’s ATP 250 tournament in Winston-Salem and seeing Andrey Kuznetsov in the quarterfinals the following question arose: Will he finally make it into the first ATP semifinal of his career? As shown here Andrey – with a ranking of 42 – is currently (by far) the best-ranked player who has not reached an ATP SF. And it looks as if he will stay on top of this list for some time longer after losing to Pablo Carreno Busta 4-6 3-6 on Wednesday.
With stats of 0-10 in ATP quarterfinals, he is still pretty far away from Teymuraz Gabashvili‘s streak of 0-16. Despite having lost six more quarterfinals before winning his first QF this January against a retiring Bernard Tomic, Teymuraz climbed only to a ranking of 50. Still, we could argue that the QF losing-streak of Teymuraz is not really over after having won against a possibly injured player.
Running the numbers can answer questions such as “Who could climb up highest in the rankings without having won an ATP quarterfinal?” Doing so will put Andrey’s number 42 into perspective and will possibly reveal some other statistical trivia.
Player Rank Date On Andrei Chesnokov 30 1986.11.03 1 Yen Hsun Lu 33 2010.11.01 1 Nick Kyrgios 34 2015.04.06 1 Adrian Voinea 36 1996.04.15 1 Paul Haarhuis 36 1990.07.09 1 Jaime Yzaga 40 1986.03.03 1 Antonio Zugarelli 41 1973.08.23 1 Bernard Tomic 41 2011.11.07 1 Omar Camporese 41 1989.10.09 1 Wayne Ferreira 41 1991.12.02 1 Andrey Kuznetsov 42 2016.08.22 0 David Goffin 42 2012.10.29 1 Mischa Zverev 45 2009.06.08 1 Alexandr Dolgopolov 46 2010.06.07 1 Andrew Sznajder 46 1989.09.25 1 Lukas Rosol 46 2013.04.08 1 Ulf Stenlund 46 1986.07.07 1 Dominic Thiem 47 2014.07.21 1 Janko Tipsarevic 47 2007.07.16 1 Paul Annacone 47 1985.04.08 1 Renzo Furlan 47 1991.06.17 1 Mike Fishbach 47 1978.01.16 0 Oscar Hernandez 48 2007.10.08 1 Ronald Agenor 48 1985.11.25 1 Gary Donnelly 48 1986.11.10 0 Francisco Gonzalez 49 1978.07.12 1 Paolo Lorenzi 49 2013.03.04 1 Boris Becker 50 1985.05.06 1 Brett Steven 50 1993.02.15 1 Dominik Hrbaty 50 1997.05.19 1 Mike Leach 50 1985.02.18 1 Patrik Kuhnen 50 1988.08.01 1 Teymuraz Gabashvili 50 2015.07.20 1 Blaine Willenborg 50 1984.09.10 0
The table shows career highs (up until #50) for players before they won their first ATP QF. A 0 in the last column indicates that the player can still climb up in this table, because he did not win a QF, yet. There may also be retired players being denoted with a 0, because they never managed to get past a QF during their career.
I wonder, who had Andrei Chesnokov on the radar for this? Before winning his first ATP QF he pushed his ranking as far as 30. He later went on to have a career high of 9. Nick Kyrgios could also improve his ranking quickly without the need to go as deep as a SF. His Wimbledon 2014 QF, Roland Garros 2015 R32, and Australian Open 2015 QF runs helped him to get up until #34 without a single win at an ATP QF. Also, I particularly would like to highlight Alexandr Dolgopolov who reached #46 before having even played a single QF.
Looking only at players who are still active and able to up their ranking without an ATP SF we get the following picture:
Player Rank Date Andrey Kuznetsov 42 2016.08.22 Rui Machado 59 2011.10.03 Tatsuma Ito 60 2012.10.22 Matthew Ebden 61 2012.10.01 Kenny De Schepper 62 2014.04.07 Pere Riba 65 2011.05.16 Tim Smyczek 68 2015.04.06 Blaz Kavcic 68 2012.08.06 Alejandro Gonzalez 70 2014.06.09
Andrey seems to be relatively alone with Rui Machado being second in the list having reached his highest ranking already about five years ago. Skimming through the remainder of the table, we would be surprised if anyone soon would be able to come close to Andrey’s 42, which doesn’t mean that a sudden unexpected streak of an upcoming player would render this scenario impossible.
So what practical implications does this give us for analyzing tennis? Hardly any, I am afraid. Still, we can infer that it is possible to get well within the top-50 without winning more than two matches at a single tournament over a duration that can even range over a player’s whole career. Of course it would be interesting to see how long such players can stay in these ranking areas, guaranteeing direct acceptance into ATP tournaments and, hence, a more or less regular income from R32, R16, and QF prize money. Moreover, as the case of 2015-ish Nick Kyrgios shows, the question arises how one’s ranking points are composed: Performing well at the big stage of Masters or Grand Slams can be enough for a decent ranking while showing poor performance at ATP 250s. On the other hand, are there players whose ATP points breakdown reveals that they are willing to go for easier points at ATP 250s while never having deep runs at Masters or Grand Slams? These are questions which I would like to answer in a future post.
Peter Wetz is a computer scientist interested in racket sports and data analytics based in Vienna, Austria. I would like to thank Jeff for being open-minded and allowing me to post these surface-scratching lines here.