Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Follow-up II: Djokovic as GOAT? (III) and COVID distortions

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Disclaimer: Proof-reading the below, I realize that I have neglected to give the other players their lost Wimbledon points in the comparison—the text was simply thrown together a little too haphazardly. I will not redo the text, but I note that Alcaraz, per Wikipedia, went out in the fourth round, which is peanuts, comparatively speaking. Runner-Up, Nick Kyrgios, is too far down on the ranking to make a difference. Etc. The details of the below change a little to Djokovic’s disadvantage, but the main idea holds. (The overall comparison is also complicated by some opting not to participate in the Wimbledon to begin with, or being banned from doing so, like Medvedev. This could conceivably have had a larger pro-Djokovic effect.)

In a recent text, I discussed the artificial handicap given to Djokovic compared to e.g. Nadal in GOAT discussions through political meddling. The corresponding distortion through this year’s U.S. Open was lesser than I had feared, as Nadal neither won nor managed to get back to number one on the ranking. However, there is still a severe ranking effect:

The official ATP ranking currently* has a top-7 of:

*Note that this page is regularly updated. Data used represent the current state.

1 Carlos Alcaraz 6,740
2 Casper Ruud 5,850
3 Rafael Nadal 5,810
4 Daniil Medvedev 5,065
5 Alexander Zverev 5,040
6 Stefanos Tsitsipas 4,810
7 Novak Djokovic 3,570

Djokovic a lowly 7, even worse than before? Give Djokovic his 2,000 points for winning the Wimbledon, as he is already at 4, needing only 280 points to tie for second. What are the chances that he would have failed to gain more than 280 points combined over the Australian Open and the U.S. Open? Slim indeed. Getting to 1 is harder, as he would be missing 1,170 points. However, this could be achieved just by reaching the final (1,200 points) in one of the two majors, or by reaching the semi-final in both (2 x 720 points)—and we are talking about a man who won the one last year and reached the final in the other. (And this not counting any other tournaments in which he might have been disadvantaged, be it directly or through an artificially worsened seeding, cf. below.)

Of course, this ranking disadvantage does not just prevent him from improving his “days at number 1” statistic, it also implies a handicap in future tournaments, as he will be seeded worse than if he had been at 1 or 2. Then, again, we have the issue of the ATP Finals: his margin to remain in the top-8 is small indeed—and that is if he is even allowed to play, should he qualify.*

*I have not looked into details, but I would suspect that Djokovic has a larger number of points to defend during the autumn than most of the competition, which makes his chances even smaller.

All in all, this is just bullshit.

Looking at the current actual/official/whatnot number 1, Carlos Alcaraz: At 19, he is apparently the youngest in history and has, at least to me, come up out of nowhere.* In contrast, Félix Auger-Aliassime, who was hailed as a new superstar since his mid-teens, is old enough, at 22, to be at or shortly before his prime by historical standards, but he has achieved less, and appears to have just dropped from 8th to 13th on the ranking. The new number 2, Casper Ruud, is 23 and has also torn ahead relative Auger-Aliassime. Using the likes of the Big-3 as a comparison for Auger-Aliassime shows that he could have a great many years to prove himself; however, he is slowly reaching an age at which only a minority of the best-of-the-best, the Big-3 included, has failed to have a larger or considerably larger success. (Ages and ranking-drop according to the above rankings page.)

*But note that I have not followed tennis particularly closely the last few years.

Interestingly, members of the Big-3 have won three out of four majors this year, but we might still have seen the end of the Big-3 era. Federer is unlikely to ever make it back to the top and even Djokovic and Nadal must be approaching a day when age and accumulated wear-and-tear prove problematic. Going down the list, the next player of the same or higher age relative Djokovic/Nadal is a mere 32nd (Gael Monfils, at age 36).

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Written by michaeleriksson

September 12, 2022 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

3 Responses

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  1. […] the previous follow-ups (cf. [1], [2]), I noted that “The arguably best tennis player in the world, right here, right now, is […]

  2. […] to revisit an older rankings discussion, we then had a ranking that made Djokovic a strong candidate for the true number one (see there for […]

  3. […] I have argued repeatedly in the past (cf. [1], [2], [3], [4]), Djokovic is the true number-one player in the world, only failing to be so officially […]


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