Comparing the career arcs of five 30-ish players

by thriding

At Wimbledon this year there were a high number of 30-something players in the men’s singles draw, most notably the champion, Federer. When Federer first won Wimbledon in 2003 he played Roddick in the semifinals. During that tournament, at least up until Federer’s straight sets victory, more noise was being made in the media about Roddick than Federer. Roddick was a year younger than Federer, and later that year’s US Open drew himself level with Federer at one slam title each. Briefly, for nine weeks at the end of that year he was world number one, before Federer took over in February 2004. Also in the top 3 then was JC Ferrero, who had won the 2003 French Open, now 32 years old and ranked 37.

Davydenko is a couple of months older than Federer. At Wimbledon 2003 he was the 33rd seed and lost in the first round. Later in the decade he became a permanent fixture in the top ten.

David Ferrer and Nicolas Mahut were both born between Federer and Roddick. Ferrer is now well established in the top ten, regularly reaching slam QFs and winning ATP250 and ATP500 titles. His route to this level has been very slow and steady, with only a slight hiccup. Mahut has never been anywhere near the top ten: briefly he was in the top 50, at his peak in 2007. He took a long time to mature, and his ranking soon fell away again. However he is having something of an indian summer.

The curve of rankings for all of these players has had a double peak. Those of Federer, Ferrer and Mahut are happening right now. Davydenko’s and Roddick’s seem firmly in the past.

Five_30_year_old_players

The interesting moment here is July 2008 when Federer, Davydenko, Ferrer and Roddick were all in the top six, aged about 26. This was the moment when Federer was just about to lose his no.1 ranking to Nadal for the first time, having lost the Wimbledon final. He regained it a year later after winning the French Open, but then had an extended period as first Nadal and then Djokovic occupied the top position. We shall see how long this new reign of Federer’s is. Given that his lead over Djokovic is a tiny 75 points, a period of fluctuation could be reasonably expected.

Roddick hung onto his top ten ranking for another year, but has slipped since then. 2008 was towards the end of his half-decade or so at the top of the game. His peak patch (2003-9) overlapped with Davydenko’s (2005-2010) and only co-incidences with Ferrer’s Sep 07- Oct 08 spurt, which started with his SF at USO 2007 and winning Tokyo the next month, and ended when he failed to defend these points. Ferrer’s position in the top ten since Oct 2010 has been based on solid year round results. Like Almagro, but to an even greater degree, he is a very reliable performer at ATP 250 and ATP 500 competitions at which he is the top seed. 

Roughly speaking Roddick was an early bloomer, and Ferrer a late developer, with Davydenko somewhere in between. This differences perhaps have a parallel in their varying styles of play and approach to the game. Certainly there is a difference in the their accomplishments in the game’s top tournaments:

  • Roddick: 1 GS title, 4 GS runner-up, 5 Masters titles
  • Davydenko: 1 Year End Championship, 3 Masters titles
  • Ferrer: none, as yet: 0-1 in YEC finals; 0-3 in Masters finals; 0-3 in GS SFs

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