The Best Tennis Players of the Decade

Ever since sports came into existence, punters have enjoyed the relatively pointless debates surrounding the comparison of different sportspeople’s careers. The endless discussions about who’s better are based upon a myriad of factors, from the contestants’ records, winning percentages, the strength of their competition, and numerous factors related to the comparison-maker’s personal opinion.

These debates will continue into the distance, not that any perceived ranking system will ever be closer to the “Fool-proof” end of the scale than it will be to the “Subjectively Estimating” end. That being said, though, I suspect I may have fallen over a system that may serve us well into the future to compare men’s tennis players who have been in the game since 2001.

In 2001, I became the founder of a new Fantasy Tennis competition: the Champions Race. The rules are simple: each contestant can select one player each week of the ATP calendar, but they are not permitted to select the same player more than once during a calendar year. Contestants are awarded with the wins and losses of the player who they’ve chosen for the week, and more importantly they are given the player’s ranking points for that week as well. We score points for the same tournaments that the real pros score points for: the 4 Grand Slams are worth the most, with the 9 Masters Series events and our 6 best-scoring other tournaments making up our final score for the year.

The competition is hugely entertaining not only because of our passion for the sport and its characters, but also because of the myriad Fantasy statistics that, of course, I just can’t help but maintain. You want to know my record on claycourts this year? My lifetime record when playing against Andre Agassi? The last time I won Wimbledon? Yep, it’s all been tallied. (29-7; 3-3; and 2009 for those humouring me by pretending to care and thus reading this bracketed side-note.)

Of course, we find that some tournaments are more entertaining than others. During the past few years, for example, the French Open has been relatively pointless for our competition as we all save Nadal for Roland Garros. However, towards the beginning of our competition all of the Slams were much more difficult to predict, which makes the fact that my brother managed to win The Grand Slam in 2003 by selecting Agassi at the Aus Open, Ferrero at the French (for what would be the only Slam win of his career), Federer at Wimbledon (for what was his maiden Slam title), and Roddick at the US (for what remains his only Slam win), all the more incredible.

All of this anal-statistical-material has led to an interesting discovery: our ability to put the players who have scored the most points on our behalf in rank order. While originally it appeared as if this was a good ranking of each player’s Fantasy success, eventually it came to look like an interesting way of ranking players on their real-life success since 2001 – a span that is now a complete decade.

Now, like all systems, we cannot pretend that this one is fool-proof. For example, while Roddick scored points back in 2003 for his one and only Slam win as a few of us had selected him, none of us had Del Potro for his US Open victory in ’09 or even Sampras for his final US Open title back in ’02, and so they weren’t rewarded at all for their biggest victories of the decade. Similarly, while Federer won one Slam this past year, only one of us chose to use him at the Australian Open, with more of us saving him for either Wimbledon or the US Open, both of which he failed to conquer.

But regardless of this point, it’s still a damn good ranking. There are no subjective limitations here – although, I guess one could argue that there are, as our faith in a player’s ability obviously influences our likelihood to use them at the tournaments where they’re able to score more points. Ultimately, though, this is just a pure and simple ranking: how much has each player scored for us in our Fantasy competition over the past 10 years.

Oh, and one last thing: this is an accumulative total. On average, both Agassi and Djokovic have scored twice as much as Roddick per tournament when they have been selected, however Roddick’s longetivity in the decade clearly and reasonably works in his favour. Give Novak another couple of good years and he’s bound to move ahead of Andy.

And so, I offer you the best 50 tennis players of the past 10 years (2001-2010):

1) Roger Federer

2) Rafael Nadal

3) Lleyton Hewitt

4) Andy Roddick

5) Andre Agassi

6) Novak Djokovic

7) Juan-Carlos Ferrero

8 ) Andy Murray

9) Guillermo Coria

10) Gustavo Kuerten

11) Nikolay Davydenko

12) Tim Henman

13) Carlos Moya

14) David Nalbandian

15) James Blake

16) Ivan Ljubicic

17) David Ferrer

18) Tommy Haas

19) Fernando Gonzalez

20) Marat Safin

21) Gaston Gaudio

22) Tommy Robredo

23) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

24) Fernando Verdasco

25) Juan-Martin Del Potro

26) Richard Gasquet

27) Robin Soderling

28) Paradorn Srichaphan

29) Tomas Berdych

30) Gael Monfils

31) Alex Corretja

32) Mardy Fish

33) Radek Stepanek

34) Sjeng Schalken

35) Rainer Schuettler

36) Juan Ignacio Chela

37) Sebastien Grosjean

38) Jiri Novak

39) Mikhail Youzhny

40) Thomas Johansson

41) Yevgeny Kafelnikov

42) Younes El Aynaoui

43) Dominik Hrbaty

44) Mark Philippoussis

45) Pete Sampras

46) Nicolas Almagro

47) Nicholas Massu

48) Guillermo Canas

49) Jose Acasuso

50) Sam Querrey

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3 Responses to The Best Tennis Players of the Decade

  1. I really like the format of your pool, though it seems pretty labour intensive to administer. Do you have a tool of any kind you can share?

  2. edwardpolsen says:

    It’s not overly labour intensive, what with only one result per competitor to add each week…and at the non-Slams/Masters tournaments, not everyone chooses to play each week.

    That being said, each result goes on our scoresheet, the wins/losses spreadsheet and the spreadsheet of how the player’s gone at each tournament throughout history too.

    Don’t have anything especially useful, but if you’re wanting the template for the spreadsheets we use, just ask and I can forward you one via email!

  3. Fastdon'tlie says:

    Safin at #20!!? LOL. What are you smoking pal!? He is behind Ljubicic, Haas, Davydenko, and Henman, who haven’t even been to a slam final?? How?? Safin won 2 slams, been to another 2 finals, won 5 Master Series shields, won 2 Davis Cups, been to all at least the SF at all Slams, was former #1, and at times played some of the best tennis EVER! I mean, nobody can take you serious after reading this list. This is utter nonsense, and Safin’s case, although the biggest, is certainly not the only one! Wake up buddy.

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