Article - Which Young ATP Players Can Make It? - Part One

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What I thought I’d do for my next article is to look at some up and coming young players, ranked inside the top 400, with a view to establishing some future stars which we can make money on in the future.  Furthermore, we may be able to establish which young players may be over-rated, and look to oppose them in the future…

The particular age category I want to look at is under 23 – so a player should have lots of improvement still in them, and ranked outside the world’s top 50 – so they will be less heralded than the 4 players under 23 inside the top 50 (Milos Raonic, Jerzy Janowicz, Grigor Dimitrov and Bernard Tomic).

I looked at players over 21, ranked inside the top 200, and players under 21, ranked inside the top 400.

I will be comparing their serve and break statistics, for the last 12 months, on the Challenger Tour.  The reason why I’m using the Challenger Tour only is because I can get consistency with my results, instead of mixing tours.   To get a decent sample size I will use ‘all surface’ stats as opposed to specific surface stats


Stats are correct at 24th July, 2013.

Federico Delbonis, age 22, rank 65.  40 matches, won 25 (63%).  Service Hold 78.8%, Opponent Break 31.6%, Combined 110.4%

Andrey Kuznetsov, age 22, rank 82.  27 matches, won 22 (81%).  Service Hold 81.1%, Opponent Break 36.9%, Combined 118.0%

David Goffin, age 22, rank 86.  20 matches, won 16 (80%).  Service Hold 83.5%, Opponent Break 32.0%, Combined 115.5%

Denis Kudla, age 20, rank 93.  44 matches, won 30 (68%).  Service Hold 71.6%, Opponent Break 31.9%, Combined 103.5%

Jack Sock, age 20, rank 95.  28 matches, won 17 (61%).  Service Hold 82.3%, Opponent Break 23.5%, Combined 105.8%

Jiri Vesely, age 20, rank 98.  26 matches, won 21 (81%).  Service Hold 77.6%, Opponent Break 35.1%, Combined 112.7%

Pablo Carreno-Busta, age 22, rank 115.  20 matches, won 14 (70%).  Service Hold 71.1%, Opponent Break 35.2%, Combined 106.3%

Rhyne Williams, age 22, rank 121.  35 matches, won 22 (63%).  Service Hold 82.4%, Opponent Break 23.3%, Combined 105.7%

Gastao Elias, age 22, rank 123.  38 matches, won 25 (66%).  Service Hold 77.4%, Opponent Break 34.3%, Combined 111.7%

Diego Schwartzman, age 20, rank 130.  39 matches, won 22 (56%).  Service Hold 64.6%, Opponent Break 38.2%, Combined 102.8%

Ryan Harrison, age 21, rank 132.  11 matches, won 8 (73%).  Service Hold 81.3%, Opponent Break 27.9%, Combined 109.2%

Marius Copil, age 22, rank 137.  35 matches, won 22 (63%).  Service Hold 85.5%, Opponent Break 16.4%, Combined 101.9%

Bradley Klahn, age 22, rank 154.  41 matches, won 24 (59%).  Service Hold 78.6%, Opponent Break 23.7%, Combined 102.3%

James Duckworth, age 21, rank 167.  28 matches, won 14 (50%).  Service Hold 78.6%, Opponent Break 19.4%, Combined 98.0%

Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, age 22, rank 175.  21 matches, won 11 (52%).  Service Hold 72.4%, Opponent Break 34.1%, Combined 106.5%

Facundo Arguello, age 20, rank 196.  40 matches, won 22 (55%).  Service Hold 72.5%, Opponent Break 30.4%, Combined 102.9%

Nick Krygios, age 18, rank 214.  4 matches, won 3 (75%).  Service Hold 85.1%, Opponent Break 31.9%, Combined 117.0%

Guilherme Clezar, age 20, rank 216.  40 matches, won 20 (50%).  Service Hold 76.9%, Opponent Break 22.6%, Combined 99.5%

Jozef Kovalik, age 20, rank 246. 20 matches, won 8 (40%).  Service Hold 72.6%, Opponent Break 23.3%, Combined 95.9%

Lucas Pouille, age 19, rank 247.  6 matches, won 2 (33%).  Service Hold 76.3%, Opponent Break 16.5%, Combined 92.8%

Benjamin Mitchell, age 20, rank 254.  16 matches, won 5 (31%).  Service Hold 72.1%, Opponent Break 25.3%, Combined 97.4%

Roberto Carballes Baena, age 20, rank 257.  11 matches, won 6 (55%).  Service Hold 68.3%, Opponent Break 33.9%, Combined 102.2%

Taro Daniel, age 20, rank 265.  22 matches, won 8 (36%).  Service Hold 65.8%, Opponent Break 29.3%, Combined 95.1%

Suk-Young Jeong, age 20, rank 285.  24 matches, won 11 (43%).   Service Hold 69.5%, Opponent Break 24.8%, Combined 94.3%

Dominic Thiem age 19, rank 286.  4 matches, won 2 (50%).  Service Hold 71.8%, Opponent Break 21.6%, Combined 93.4%

Marco Cecchinato, age 20, rank 296.  14 matches, won 6 (43%).  Service Hold 74.3%, Opponent Break 22.5%, Combined 96.8%

Alex Bolt, age 20, rank 304.  6 matches, won 1 (17%).  Service Hold 79.2%, Opponent Break 10.7%, Combined 89.9%

Thiago Monteiro, age 19, rank 311.  12 matches, won 5 (42%).  Service Hold 74.5%, Opponent Break 17.4%, Combined 91.9%

Bjorn Fratangelo, age 20, rank 336.  3 matches, won 0 (0%).  Service Hold 78.8%, Opponent Break 11.1%, Combined 89.9%

Luke Saville, age 19, rank 345.  8 matches, won 2 (25%).  Service Hold 69.9%, Opponent Break 16.3%, Combined 86.2%

Aslan Karatsev, age 19, rank 361. 2 matches, won 0 (0%).  Service Hold 72.0%, Opponent Break 16.0%, Combined 88.0%

Christian Harrison, age 19, rank 373, 14 matches, won 6 (43%).  Service Hold 68.5%, Opponent Break 26.6%, Combined 95.1%

Gianluigi Quinzi, age 17, rank 384.  5 matches, won 1 (20%).  Service Hold 67.2%, Opponent Break 25.4%, Combined 92.6%

Robin Kern, age 19, rank 386.  3 matches, won 0 (0%).  Service Hold 65.5%, Opponent Break 10.0%, Combined 75.5%

Mate Delic, age 19, rank 399.  1 match, won 0 (0%).   Service Hold 80.0%, Opponent Break 0.0%, Combined 80.0%

Top 10 21/22 year olds, ranked by combined statistics:-

Andrey Kuznetsov – 118.0%

David Goffin – 115.5%

Gastao Elias – 111.7%

Federico Delbonis – 110.4%

Ryan Harrison – 109.2%

Cedrik-Marcel Stebe – 106.5%

Pablo Carreno-Busta – 106.3%

Rhyne Williams – 105.7%

Bradley Klahn – 102.3%

Marius Copil – 101.9%

Top 20 year  olds, ranked by combined statistics:-

Jiri Vesely – 112.7%

Jack Sock – 105.8%

Denis Kudla – 103.5%

Facundo Arguello – 102.9%

Diego Schwartzman – 102.8%

Roberto Carballes Baena – 102.2%


From these stats we can infer a variety of things. 

Firstly, it’s apparent that the lower the ranked player, the less matches they have played at Challenger level.  This is logical because the players’ ranks are too low for direct entry into those events. 

Secondly, we can see that age has a big effect on that.  Generally the higher ranked player is over 20, which again is logical.  The player is still developing, in their teens and early twenties, and improvement is realistic.

Thirdly, it’s clear to see that there isn’t a huge amount of difference between 20 year olds and 21/22 year olds in terms of combined service hold and break combined statistics.  Looking at this, it’s reasonable to assume that a lot of improvement has already been done by the time a player is 20 and at that age, the battle for a player is to improve their ranking enough to compete regularly at ATP level.  This then would give them more experience, enabling further improvement.

Fourthly, it appears that a lot of development is done at ages 18-19.  This is logical, players are getting more experience, are still developing their game and it seems clear that this is a great age to start picking out good future prospects.  Sample size is very small for the vast majority of players 19 or below, but clearly Nick Krygios, Christian Harrison and Gianluigi Quinzi appear very good future prospects.  Lucas Pouille, Dominic Thiem and Thiago Monteiro also appear to have chances of a good career.

There are a few players on the list with a reasonable sample of ATP matches in the last 12 months.  It’s very interesting to see how different players have coped with the step up to ATP level in different ways. 

Federico Delbonis – won 65% of Challenger matches, won 61% of ATP matches.

Andrey Kuznetsov – won 81% of Challenger matches, won 31% of ATP matches.

David Goffin – won 80% of Challenger matches, won 33% of ATP matches.

Denis Kudla – won 68% of Challenger matches, won 36% of ATP matches.

Jack Sock – won 61% of Challenger matches, won 48% of ATP matches.

Rhyne Williams – won 63% of Challenger matches, won 36% of ATP matches.

Ryan Harrison – won 73% of Challenger matches, won 30% of ATP matches.

The player that’s obviously coped best with the step up to ATP level is Federico Delbonis.  His win percentage barely changes with the step up, which clearly compared to the other players on the list, is a considerable achievement.  Only Jack Sock comes close to matching his win percentage (ironically with the worst Challenger win percentage on that list).  At the age of 20, that’s a very good achievement from the American.

Is this positive variance for Federico Delbonis and Jack Sock?  I decided to analyse a little further.

Jack Sock saved 69.5% of break points in his ATP matches.  This is well above the 60.5% ATP average, and also above his 64.6% service points won percentage.  For those who are unaware, it’s fairly rare for a player to save more break points than their service points won average.  So we can see Sock has performed excellently when his serve was under pressure.  Furthermore, he converted 41.2% of his break points, above the ATP average of 39.5%, and significantly above his return point won percentage of 34.3%.   From all these statistics, we can see Sock significantly over-performed on key points in his ATP matches.  This would either indicate that he is incredibly clutch in these scenarios, or he has benefited a great deal from positive variance.

The same, to a lesser extent, was true for Delbonis.  His break point conversion stats were also high, 41.8% compared to him winning 37.0% of return points.  He saved only marginally less break points than he won normal points on his serve (64.4% to 64.8%) which despite being lower, is above ATP average for the difference between the two.

It would appear that Delbonis definitely has the tools to succeed at ATP level.

Why have Andrey Kuznetsov, David Goffin and Ryan Harrison not made a successful step up to ATP level?

With Kuznetsov, the answer is fairly simple.  He doesn’t appear currently to have the return game needed for success at ATP level.  He broke 36.9% in Challengers in the last year, but only 17.5% on the ATP tour.  With a hold of 75.4%, that’s not good enough – he’d need a serve hold percentage of at least 80% to have at least a slightly successful career.  However – he hasn’t won nearly his fair share of break points.  He’s won 35.6% of return points, a touch lower than ATP average.  But he’s only won 30.3% of break point chances, 5.3% lower than his return points, and considering that an average player wins more break points than normal points, those stats do not make pleasant reading for him.

The opposite was true for Goffin.  He held 83.5% in Challengers, but this has dropped to 69.1% on the ATP tour.  That’s a huge drop, much bigger than my reduction multiplier to apply Challenger stats for an ATP match would indicate average.  He’s saved below his fair share of break points (53.6% to 58.8% of normal serve points won), but this is made up for with an excellent 45.4% break point conversion.  You can start to see why I love swing trading Goffin.  Breaks and swings naturally occur with stats like these…

The problem Goffin has is he can’t grow.  Tennis Insight has his height at 5’11, which I’m not sure about at all.  He will struggle with his serve in the future due to this – even at 5’11, that’s pretty short for a tennis player.

My thoughts on Ryan Harrison is that his career hasn’t been managed very well.  I’m almost certain that if he played more in Challengers, his rank would be higher.  He has many critics, but at 21, he’s still not as old as some players on the list.  My advice to him would be to get some wins and ranking points in Challengers, which he surely will, and then take that confidence in 6-12 months time back on the ATP tour.  It would also give him a chance to work on some aspects of his return game, which has dropped markedly from a opponent break percentage of 27.9% in Challengers to 13.8% in the ATP. 

It’s interesting to see his brother, Christian, has much more Challenger experience than fellow 19 year olds in the list – perhaps it’s the American way to push young players hard and get them more competitive experience as quickly as possible on a high a level as possible but it’s worth noting they have few successful players at the moment, with only Sam Querrey and John Isner inside the world’s top 50.  It would be a shame for the Harrison brothers' career to take the same direction as Donald Young.

In Part 2 of the series I look at these players and compare them to some current top players, to see where these players might be in a few years time...

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