Too high or too low? Our rankings analysis wrapped

Published by tennismash

Elena Vesnina, seen here at Wimbledon celebrating after securing her first spot in a Grand Slam semifinal, rose from out the top 100 in February to a career-high ranking of 16th by the end of 2016; Getty Images
With the year-end rankings set in stone for 2016, we look back at our rankings analysis from earlier this year to see if we got it right.

In early March, we ran a story asking the question – which players are not ranked where they should be?

Basing our investigation on the rankings released on Monday 29 February, our panel – comprising doubles legend Todd Woodbridge, Australian Tennis Magazine editor Vivienne Christie, tennismash editor Paul Moore and staff writers Matt Trollope and Leigh Rogers – nominated players they felt were ranked too low, and conversely, too high.

Since we published that story, plenty has transpired on the tennis tours.

> Read Part II (April 2016)
> Read Part III (July 2016)
> Read Part IV (Sept 2016)

Let see where those players stand now that the season has concluded.

The men we felt were ranked “too low” in February:

29 Feb 11 April 18 July 26 Sept Year-end
Ryan Harrison 168 161 158 115 92
Grigor Dimitrov 26 26 40 21 17
Ernests Gulbis 72 78 64 104 153
Jerzy Janowicz 96 104 149 177 280
Pierre-Hugues Herbert 110 95 77 107 79

Trollope: “I was sure that I was on the money with Janowicz when I picked him back in February. With his weapons and a history (albeit short) of deep runs at the game’s biggest events, there’s no way in my eyes he belongs at world No.96. But instead, he went completely the opposite way I predicted – much of that because he spent six months on the sidelines dealing with knee issues. He did win an ATP Challenger title in Genoa, Italy a week after pushing Novak Djokovic to four sets in the first round of the US Open. But he played just three more events in 2016 – all Challengers – and went a meagre 2-3. The road back to the top looks like a long one for the former world No.14.”

The women we felt were ranked “too low” in February:

29 Feb 11 April 18 July 26 Sept Year-end
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 26 27 19 17 28
Urszula Radwanska 111 127 156 236 264
Elena Vesnina 89 51 24 20 16
Bethanie Mattek-Sands 85 84 106 131 175
Naomi Osaka 106 94 86 47 40

Moore: “Vesnina was always going to go up this year (unless her leg fell off, or something like that). She started the year at No.111, which was a travesty, and when we started this content piece she was No.89 (again, mildly offensive). Admittedly, I didn’t think she would go top 20, but I was confident that she would be back inside the top 30 before the end of the year. She’s such a genuinely talented player, and she also happens to be a thoroughly nice person to boot. Obviously her Wimbledon semi was a singles highlight, but as always she comes into her own in doubles (Olympic Gold and WTA Finals being her standout results). Will she sustain that ranking in to next year? Probably not, but it was fun while it lasted, Elena.”

Rogers: “I watched Osaka qualify in Hobart early in the season and was impressed with the explosive power of her game. At that time she was yet to break into the top 100 – yet with her talent and attitude, I felt such a breakthrough was imminent. To finish the season at No.40 was an incredible effort from the Japanese teen. Most pleasing about the 19-year-old’s season was how well she performs on the biggest stages. She made the third round at all three Grand Slams she contested, beating a seeded opponent at each. Her Tokyo final run was also impressive – she defeated two top-20 opponents to reach her first WTA final. It will be the first of many I sense.”

The men we felt were ranked “too high” in February:

29 Feb 11 April 18 July 26 Sept Year-end
Teymuraz Gabashvili 48 52 101 108 136
Gilles Simon 19 18 30 29 25
Thomaz Bellucci 33 35 49 81 61
Pablo Cuevas 25 25 20 19 22
John Isner 11 15 16 26 19

Woodbridge: “Gabashvili is a solid player and a good competitor, but lacks a certain something when it comes to feel, touch and creativity. To be ranked where he was, it had to be through sheer determination and he had to be maxing out – evidenced by the 30 tournaments he’d played in the 12 months prior. It was a ranking perhaps based more on quantity rather than quality. And it’s impossible for someone to maintain that schedule without the quality of play slipping at some point. A fall that far in the rankings highlighted an unfortunate loss of confidence and an inability to pull it back.”

The women we felt were ranked “too high” in February:

29 Feb 11 April 18 July 26 Sept Year-end
Timea Bacsinszky 14 17 15 14 15
Jelena Jankovic 21 23 27 39 55
Carla Suarez Navarro 6 11 9 8 12
Angelique Kerber 2 3 2 1 1
Lucie Safarova 13 15 28 43 64

Christie: “I’d love to say that I was relying on instinct developed over many years of tennis analysis, but it didn’t take much expertise to see why Jelena Jankovic would fall in the rankings: defending points from the Indian Wells final the previous year, she was losing to players she’d previously have beaten easily. There were impressive patches from Jankovic in 2016 – like her finals run in Guangzhou – but it’s no longer as easy to sustain it. I’m honestly not surprised; at age 31, it’s natural that she’ll increasingly be a step slower as younger players catch up. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if she climbs back up the rankings either. Expect JJ to feature in an entertaining match or two yet!”

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