Have you ever looked at the ATP and WTA rankings and wondered: “how can that player be where they are?”
Whether underachieving or overachieving, players’ numeric standing in the game may not necessarily match up with their perceived level.
So we put the question to our Tennismash editorial panel – which male and female players do you think are ranked well below where they should be? And vice versa?
There were a couple of criteria. Firstly, players who have spent large chunks of the past 12 months on the sidelines with injury or illness were discounted – of course Juan Martin del Potro is better than his ranking of No.418 suggests, yet given he’s played just two tournaments in the past year, it’s understandable he’s ranked where he is. We’ve also stuck to players in the world’s top 200.
We plan to check in on all of these players over the coming weeks and months to see whether they begin to move in the direction our panel believes they should be going in.
Todd Woodbridge – 22-time Grand Slam champion
Vivienne Christie – editor, Australian Tennis Magazine
Paul Moore – head content producer, Tennismash
Matt Trollope – staff writer, Tennismash
Leigh Rogers – staff writer, Australian Tennis Magazine
Which men are ranked too low?
TW: Ryan Harrison (No.168) – He’s 23 years of age, yet was once touted as one of the best young guys with his big serve and forehand. Still hasn’t come to grips with what his game style is or needs to be, but he’s too athletic and too talented to be outside world’s top 100. He should be top 30 and seeded at slams.
VC: Grigor Dimitrov (No.26) – The sense that Dimitrov has plenty of time to reach his highly touted potential has diminished but there are at least signs of progress in 2016. Alongside a finals run in Sydney, there was a semifinal in Acapulco, suggesting that new coach Franco Davin can help arrest a slide that started in 2015.
PM: Ernests Gulbis (No.72) – Nobody wants to play Ernests Gulbis. Nobody. Why? Because he’s a mercurial genius. Of course, he has a tendency to implode – often spectacularly – mid-match. But on those days when he holds it together and focuses on his game he’s got weapons that can frighten the bejeezus out of any opponent – Novak included. And now, with training BFF Dominic Thiem setting the ATP alight, Ernests has more reason than ever to step it up.
MT: Jerzy Janowicz (No.96) – He is wildly inconsistent, but the Pole is blessed with one of the biggest serves in the game, incredible back-court power and impressive mobility for a man of his size. Plus he’s been a Grand Slam semifinalist and an ATP Masters finalist. All of this points to a player who should be ranked higher than what he currently is.
LR: Pierre-Hugues Herbert (No.110) – The Frenchman has proven his ability on the doubles court, teaming with countryman Nicolas Mahut to win the US Open in 2015 and breaking into the world’s top 10. It is time for the 24-year-old to emulate this form in singles. He is much better than his current mark and with added confidence from his doubles success, it won’t be long until he begins to quickly climb up the singles ranks too.
Which women are ranked too low?
TW: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No.26) – I look at her and think she’s wasting her talent and ability. She had a great junior career. Her fitness is her Achilles heel and doesn’t match her ball-striking abilities. Also ranked too low – Kristyna Pliskova, Ajla Tomljanovic.
VC: Urszula Radwanska (No.111) – With career wins over Simona Halep, Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic, you expect more than the current ranking for the talented younger sister of world No.3 Agnieszka. Injury has been a persistent factor for the 25-year-old – despite the fact she played a full schedule in 2015 – and she has struggled to gain either momentum or consistency throughout her career.
PM: Elena Vesnina (No.89) – What happened to Elena Vesnina? A couple of years ago she was winning Grand Slam titles in doubles and was a mainstay on the WTA Premier circuit (with a career-high ranking of No.21). And now? Now she’s plying her trade in Internationals and fighting through quallies to reach the main draw of bigger tournaments. Injury niggles undoubtedly played their part, but a lot of it simply seems to be a loss in form. Results in 2016 suggest that the turnaround is on.
MT: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (No.85) – Here’s a player who possesses all the shots and can command any part of the court. Mattek-Sands has the experience, racquet skills and CV of a top 30 player, but currently languishes much lower. She is a frequent – and excellent – doubles player but that still hasn’t stopped her playing nearly 20 singles events in the past 12 months. No player wants to see her unseeded name floating in the draw.
LR: Naomi Osaka (No.106) – An up-and-coming Japanese player, Osaka has a powerful game and the potential to be a future star of the game. The 18-year-old might lack consistency, but this will improve with experience. With her high self-expectations, it won’t be long before she is a top 50 player.
Which men are ranked too high?
TW: Teymuraz Gabashvili (No.48) – He’s top 50 but game wise nothing stands out, with the exception of his competitive spirit. He’s played 30 events to be ranked where he is – that’s a lot of tournaments.
VC: Gilles Simon (No.19) – The hardworking Frenchman clearly does enough to earn his place in her upper echelons but when names like Grigor Dimitrov, Jack Sock and Nick Kyrgios follow behind him, the natural order somehow seems skewed.
PM: Thomaz Bellucci (No.33) – It’s hard to ‘get’ Thomaz Bellucci. Obviously he’s got a solid claycourt game – really solid, in fact. But that’s just it: it’s solid. Where’s the pizazz? Where’s the weapon? Sure he’s been a Top 30 player before, but looking at the names above him now (Dimitrov, Kyrgios, Dolgopolov, etc) it’s hard to see him leapfrogging any of them.
MT: Pablo Cuevas (No.25) – When Cuevas first cracked the top 30 in late 2014, I must confess I’d never seen him hit a ball. Then he rose to a peak of No.21 in March 2015 – having never been beyond the second round at a Grand Slam event. He since bettered that at Roland Garros when he reached the third round – his best ever major result. It’s the same story at ATP Masters events; just twice in 20 appearances has he gone beyond the second round. A handful of ATP 250 titles at far-flung claycourt events do not justify his lofty status.
LR: John Isner (No.11) – The big-serving American recorded a career-best year-end rank of No.11 in 2015, helped by wins against Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. Consistency is something the 30-year-old has struggled with throughout his career and the decision to play South American clay events post-Australian Open rather than on American hard courts was bamboozling – and produced two first-round losses. Inconsistency and poor scheduling will see his ranking drop quickly in 2016.
Which women are ranked too high?
TW: Timea Bacsinszky (No.14) – I look at the WTA rankings and it shows how the points allocation is skewed. She had a terrific run in 2015 and a couple of wins over Kvitova but otherwise didn’t really beat many big names. She’s taken advantage of open draws and inconsistency at the top level of the game.
VC: Jelena Jankovic (No.21) – Love JJ and the entertaining drama she brings to a court but consecutive match wins are increasingly rare. Already this season, she’s lost to Monica Niculescu, Laura Siegemund (ranked No.97) and Sara Errani. With points from her 2015 Indian Wells final run to defend, expect her current ranking to slip away.
PM: Carla Suarez Navarro (No.6) – Nobody is disputing that Carla Suarez Navarro is a fantastic athlete and incredible shotmaker (with the most beautiful one-handed backhand in the women’s game). But a world No.6?! Sure, she has a brilliant counterpunching game, but as the big hitters inside the Top 10 (and beyond) show time and time again, it’s not that tricky to wallop her off the court.
MT: Angelique Kerber (No.2) – “It sounds crazy to be the No.2 player in the world,” she recently told WTA Insider. Couldn’t agree more. No disrespect to Kerber – she played incredibly well to hoist her first major trophy in Melbourne and has been a top 10 force for much of the last four years. But is she really the world’s second-best player? Her standing in the game has been made possible by the parity that exists beneath Serena in the WTA rankings – a player has one good result and suddenly they’re shooting many, many rungs up the ladder.
LR: Lucie Safarova (No.13) – A French Open final was a highlight in a season to remember for the Czech in 2015. The 29-year-old has already slipped out of the top 10 this season, not helped by a delayed start due to illness, and it is not going to get any better. The left-hander does not have the consistency to maintain her current rank and will be out of the top 20 by Wimbledon.
8 February 2016
Negative thoughts and self-doubt can sometimes prove to be tougher opponents than the pers... More
16 February 2016
Caroline Wozniacki has dared to bare pretty much everything for the latest edition of the ... More
11 May 2017
When we look at Rafa Nadal on clay, there are a few key points that make him better than e... More