Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Aussie tennis and Tomic – let’s take a chill pill

r494482_2580864For some bizarre reason the Australian media has been asking whether 17 year old Bernard Tomic should be selected to play in the Australian Davis Cup team. Before we get to the fall-out over this issue, let’s just take some time to look at where Tomic sits in the pecking order.

Tennis is perhaps the most neurotic inducing sport going around, because at every single moment you know exactly how good you are. Even golf with its world rankings is not as driven by rankings – because there are two main tours in the world – the US PGA and the European Tour - and golf as well is not a head to head contest, so unless you are in the final group on the final day, you’re rarely going to be going toe to toe with the guy vying to beat you into second place. Boxing is head to head, but results can be decided by subjective judges unless someone knocks out his opponent. 

In tennis there is only one main tour – the ATP Tour – and there are no judges, no subjectivity: it’s a zero-sum game every single time. Someone will always win, someone will always lose. And your ranking is all that matters. Want to play in the big tournaments? Get ranked in the top 64. Want to be seeded at the Grand Slams? Get ranked in the top 32. Want to be asked to play in lucrative exhibition tournaments around the world? Get ranked in the top 20.

Every day as a tennis player you will wake up and know your precise place in the world – your opponents know it, your sponsors know it, tournament directors know it.

So when the media starts asking about Bernard Tomic being selected to play for Australia in the Davis Cup; you’d think his ranking must be pretty high – at least such that he is among Australia’s top 3 players – or close to it.

Here’s the top two Australian male tennis players:

Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
22 Hewitt, Lleyton (AUS) 1,600 21
77 Luczak, Peter (AUS) 598 29
OK, so Tomic is not there… but he must be close right? I mean number 77 is pretty low, he must be nearly at that level… Let’s have a look at Australians ranked from 101-200:
OK… so he’s not in the top 5 Australian players, nor in the top 200.
Ah, hang the suspense, let’s see where he sits:
202 Klein, Brydan (AUS) 230 17
247 Jones, Greg (AUS) 184 26
251 Lindahl, Nick (AUS) 179 20
279 Groth, Samuel (AUS) 157 15
285 Ebden, Matthew (AUS) 151 17
286 Tomic, Bernard (AUS) 150 8

Yep, he’s currently the 11th highest ranked Australian male tennis player – number 286 in the world.

So when Lleyton Hewitt was asked about Tomic being picked to play Davis Cup, it wasn’t surprising that he responded:

"Not right at the moment, no. He lost to Nick Lindahl and Matt Ebden in the (Australian Open) wildcard playoffs. These aren't world-beaters. They're solid players. They're tough grinders that have been around and played a lot of Futures and are very hard at it and work extremely hard. But, if you're looking at players at the moment, (Peter) Luczak has had as good a year as he's ever had. I'd definitely want him there with me."

What was more surprising was that the issue even arose in the first place.

Tomic is so far from being in Australia’s top 2 that it is a joke to consider him in that light, and a disservice to Peter Luczak as well.

Now ok, Tomic only played 8 senior tournaments last year, but even if he had played the 29 tournaments that Luczak had, and let’s assume Tomic was able to average the same level of results he did in his 8 tournaments, his ranking points would still only equal 544 – ie still less than Luczak and would have him ranked at number 96 in the world. And that is with a lot of big assumptions, especially when you consider 45 of Tomic’s 150 points came from winning one match at last year’s Australian Open. Should he lose in the first round this year – and remember as an unranked player he could face anyone in the first round – say Federer, or Nadal, or Murray or anyone ranked higher than the number 77 in the world he faced in the first round last year. If he loses those 45 points he drops back to around number 370 in the world.

Such are the joys of professional tennis. You were good last year? Well you better be as good or better this year, or down you go. (And at this point we should note that on Tuesday, Tomic played Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr – number 131 in the world – in the first round of the Brisbane International. Tomic lost.)

The big kerfuffle over Hewitt’s comments were that the media suddenly decided to play up that there was a simmering feud between the Hewitt and Tomic camps. This was inflamed when Tomic’s father, John came out the next day and said ''I think Lleyton had lots of wine during the new year.'' He continued with this pearler of stupidity:

"I will say this . . . Bernard is not a pure Australian, we feel like Aussies, but it is up to them, will they accept us? That is up to them. Probably there is something there. If we were Aussies, there might be different talk, a different attitude."

To which I’d suggest Hewitt (and most of Australia) was left thinking, “huh”? Apparently Hewitt saying that Peter Luczak (who was born in Poland) deserved to be in the Davis Cup more than Tomic, was evidence that Hewitt is racist because Tomic is of Croatian heritage.

Yes, it is that dumb.

Personally I think the time has come for Bernard Tomic to say thanks to his Dad, but that it is time for him to go it alone. That won’t happen soon – but I’m going to put money down that it will at some point, and that it won’t be pretty when it happens…

However what this whole dopey issue hides is that (to quote Jorge Borges in reference to the Falklands War), arguing about the Australian Davis Cup team is like two bald men fighting over a comb.

As you can see from above, Australia has only 2 players in the top 100. Let’s have a look at the number of men from a few other nations.

First let’s go with France:

Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
10 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA) 2,875 26
13 Monfils, Gael (FRA) 2,610 24
15 Simon, Gilles (FRA) 2,275 27
32 Chardy, Jeremy (FRA) 1,102 31
33 Mathieu, Paul-Henri (FRA) 1,080 29
46 Benneteau, Julien (FRA) 924 29
52 Gasquet, Richard (FRA) 850 21
58 Gicquel, Marc (FRA) 744 29
63 Clement, Arnaud (FRA) 667 28
65 Serra, Florent (FRA) 665 33
67 Llodra, Michael (FRA) 649 20
68 Santoro, Fabrice (FRA) 645 28

Yep 12 players (3 in the top 20), all of whom are ranked higher than Luczak. What about the current Davis Cup holders, Spain?

Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
2 Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 9,205 19
9 Verdasco, Fernando (ESP) 3,300 24
16 Robredo, Tommy (ESP) 2,175 27
17 Ferrer, David (ESP) 1,870 26
23 Ferrero, Juan Carlos (ESP) 1,555 25
26 Almagro, Nicolas (ESP) 1,305 26
31 Montanes, Albert (ESP) 1,140 28
41 Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo (ESP) 954 28
47 Lopez, Feliciano (ESP) 905 26
70 Hernandez, Oscar (ESP) 633 36
72 Gimeno-Traver, Daniel (ESP) 613 32
91 Granollers, Marcel (ESP) 553 34

Another 12, this time with 10 above Luczak, and an amazing 4 players in the top 20.

America, like Australia used to be a super power house in tennis. How are they going?

Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
7 Roddick, Andy (USA) 4,410 20
25 Querrey, Sam (USA) 1,320 26
34 Isner, John (USA) 1,067 22
44 Blake, James (USA) 935 21
55 Fish, Mardy (USA) 790 25
76 Dent, Taylor (USA) 602 23
79 Ram, Rajeev (USA) 590 24
83 Russell, Michael (USA) 579 24
100 Ginepri, Robby (USA) 529 23
Nine in the top 100 – so not great with only Roddick in the top 20, but it is still a picture Tennis Australia would be deeply envious of.
Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
18 Haas, Tommy (GER) 1,855 19
27 Kohlschreiber, Philipp (GER) 1,260 28
39 Beck, Andreas (GER) 1,000 27
40 Becker, Benjamin (GER) 986 29
59 Greul, Simon (GER) 739 27
61 Mayer, Florian (GER) 701 25
74 Berrer, Michael (GER) 608 26
78 Zverev, Mischa (GER) 590 26
80 Petzschner, Philipp (GER) 587 30
85 Schuettler, Rainer (GER) 575 31
92 Brands, Daniel (GER) 550 32
Eleven! Yep eleven (remember Australia has eleven players in the top 300). And I bet unless you are a serious tennis watcher, you wouldn’t have been able to name more than Tommy Haas. This is the world of modern tennis – lots of people you have never heard of who can all play tennis better than all but one Australian.
I’ll end with Argentina – another nation that has come to the fore in recent times:
Rank Name & Nationality Points Tournaments Played
5 Del Potro, Juan Martin (ARG) 6,785 22
30 Monaco, Juan (ARG) 1,170 27
45 Zeballos, Horacio (ARG) 934 27
51 Acasuso, Jose (ARG) 870 24
64 Nalbandian, David (ARG) 665 19
66 Gonzalez, Maximo (ARG) 663 22
73 Chela, Juan Ignacio (ARG) 611 26
75 Mayer, Leonardo (ARG) 607 24
99 Vassallo Arguello, Martin (ARG) 535 29

Another nine players in the top 100 – and David Nalbandian has been injured for most of the year, so he should be in the top 20.

The next time the media wonders about who should be playing in the Australian Davis Cup team, they would be better served to ask why we no longer actually have any real difficulty in choosing our squad. Two in the top 100? The issue isn’t who to pick, but why there is no real choice.


Observer said...

Carsten Ball has looked promising over the last 12 months and continuing this week when he took Roddick to a tiebreaker in Brisbane.

The most disappointing player for mine over the last 5 years has been Chris Guccione, beating some big players over the years (especially during the Aussie summers, which hypes him up even more locally) but losing easy matches on the Challenger circuit.

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch US Open Tennis Championship Session 22, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.