An Interesting Stat re: Zverev

Discussion in 'Pro Tennis (Mens)' started by El Dude, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    There seems to be a growing worry, or at least mild questions, about Zverev as a top player - due to his weak end to 2017, and his inability to make it past a Slam 4R. I personally am not too worried about him and still see him as a future multi-Slam winner and #1.

    Sascha reached #3 briefly back in November, which got me thinking: How many 20-year olds have reached the top 3? And what were their careers like?

    I did some research and came up with 47 players who had reached #3 within in the ATP rankings era (1973-present). Of those 47, only 14 reached #3 before turning 21 years old. Those 14? In reverse chronological order:

    Alexander Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Bjorn Borg.

    Just missing the cut were Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, and Jimmy Connors - all of whom reached #3 within weeks of turning 21.

    Conspicuously absent are Andy Murray and Roger Federer, both of whom reached #3 after turning 21 - along with everyone else not listed above.

    So that's some pretty good company for Sascha. Of the other 13, 10 won 6+ Slams. The other three--Hewitt, Safin, and Chang--won either 1 or 2 Slams. In other words, 77% of the previous 20-year old #3s won 6+ Slams, and all won at least a single Slam. Furthermore, of those 13, Chang is the only one who never reached #1.

    This is a precedent, mind you, and doesn't mean that Zverev has a 77% of winning 6+ Slams or 100% chance of winning a Slam. But it does mean that 77% of previous ATP era players who reached #3 before 21 ended up being 6+ Slam winners.

    Take this for what you will. It does give some weight to the idea that Alex Zverev is still probably headed for greatness.
     
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  2. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    EDIT: Michael Chang didn't reach #3 until a few years later, so the numbers are actually 10 of 12 (83%) and every player winning at least 2 Slams and being #1. So that's a pretty nice historical precedent for Sascha.
     
  3. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    That's very interesting. Now, before someone else says it, it is arguably the case that Sasha was artificially elevated to #3 this year. But who knows the circumstances that got all of those others up to #3 by barely 20, so I got that out of the way.

    As you say, it doesn't guarantee anything, but I do think he has so many ticks in the plus column, not least of which are his ambition and competitiveness, and a solid group around him to block out the nonsense.
     
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  4. mrzz

    mrzz Multiple Major Winner

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    Yes, and if you consider those circumstances this argument could be even reversed, at least historically speaking: Why would one say "artificially"? Because a lot of players were injured? Well, 20 years ago most of those players would be retiring, there is a reason why we discuss a shift in peak age. The three players he most benefit from the absence, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka, are above 30. I bet if you check the list above, the dominant "over 30" players in each case were already non factors. The other two guys out worth mentioning, Raonic and Nishikori, are obviously good players but it is not a given that they would stay ahead of him -- maybe the opposite.

    So, while I still don't see Zverev as a "great" player, "just" a very good one, I think this is a very impressive stat, even more impressive than it looks.
     
  5. Federberg

    Federberg Grand Slam Champion

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    It's the ongoing narrative on this board mate. Players supposedly only do well because others are injured. We had it when Roger first started coming into his own, the narrative was that the field was weak. Now I don't know what Zverev's future holds, I rather like the fight and shot making of Shapovalov, but Zverev is a baller, and the guy knows how to win. Reminds me of Delpo when he was on the come up. He was a prolific winner of 250s. This is what sport is about, learning how to win and the boy certainly knows how to do that. I rather prefer to look at how he's been able to develop that killer instinct and feel comfortable that he's going to be a top player. Forget about asterisks, if you work hard enough I'm sure they could be applied to anyone in history
     
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  6. Denis

    Denis Multiple Major Winner

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    ^DP did do well at GS early though. Even won one at age 20 or so.
     
  7. Federberg

    Federberg Grand Slam Champion

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    Very true, but my point is that he started off by focussing on tournaments where the big players didn't compete. And he accumulated wins. No doubt there were some who were saying he was only winning because the top guys weren't there. It depends on the player of course, but making winning a habit can be very important for some players. Zverev isn't even doing this, he's played in some of the toughest tournaments and still won. And here we are, trying to qualify his wins. Makes no sense to me at all
     
  8. El Dude

    El Dude Grand Slam Champion

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    @mrzz makes a good point. In a way, the current context--despite injuries to top players--is more challenging because older players are sticking around longer. We haven't seen a context like this since the 70s, when you had multiple generations, from Ken Rosewall (born 1934) to Bjorn Borg (born 1956) in the top 10 at the same time. During the 80s-00s this equalized, so you generally had a tighter range. But now it is expanding, with Federer (born 1981) and Zverev (born 1997) both top players. That increases "generational density."
     
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  9. Moxie

    Moxie Multiple Major Winner

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    All good points. For the record, I think you can tell I only threw it out there because I've heard it muttered about, a bit, and I thought it would come up. Personally, I think if you get a ranking you deserve it. But the Top 10 on the men's side hasn't been this shaken up in years.
     
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