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January 28th, 2015.
In yesterday's article which focused on player improvement and Nick Kyrgios, I thought it would be interesting to look at some other ATP players aged between 19 and 22 to see where they might be at 25 years of age.
This analysis is very useful to ascertain where a player is likely to be in the future, and I'm very surprised that big companies who sponsor players don't look at this type of data.
This would also be of great interest to companies who may be interested in bankrolling players. I'm shocked that this investment does not happen on a larger scale, with players unable to make a decent living at a young age.
This investment would create a win-win situation - the player would not have any financial worries and this would allow them to invest in a coach/support team, and travel to tournaments which may suit them better, as opposed to having to play events closer to home just to keep travel costs down. This would allow players to reach their maximum potential, as opposed to becoming disillusioned with the sport and failing to justify their talent.
Investors could also benefit from future income of the player in exchange for this initial investment, and assuming they invested wisely, would be in a position to generate strong returns from this initial investment.
This type of investment is rare. From my research, I could only find several examples. Russian WTA player Vitalia Diatchenko was one, at a young age, although injury has caused her problems in recent years. However, she's made great strides recently and has been ranked around the 70-80 mark since November.
Dutch journeyman Thiemo De Bakker was the other example I could find. This investment made little logical sense, with De Bakker being ranked outside the top 100 since September 2013. At 26 years of age, he also has limited upside.
In yesterday's Kyrgios article, we established that ATP players improved to some degree between 19 and 25 with rates going from a 1.7% (Joao Sousa) to 14.9% (Jan-Lennart Struff) combined hold/break, and a 1.02-1.18 improvement multiplication ratio. The mean of my research was 8.7% increase, or a 1.10 multiplication ratio.
Without hindsight, we cannot know, or even estimate, whether a player will improve at a fast or slow rate, so we have to use mean figures to get a realistic expectation of a player's progress.
The following table shows the ATP players in the top 200 in the world currently, who are aged between 19 and 23, their hold/break stats at 19 years of age, and how this translates with mean expectation at the age of 25.
Please note that in some cases, the percentages used were adjusted Challenger Tour percentages.
N/A indicates that the player did not have a big enough data sample to quantify at the age of 19 (minimum 8 matches).
The table reveals an incredible amount of fascinating data.
As can be seen, there is a very strong relationship between the hold/break expectation percentage at 25, from their stats at 19, and the player's current rank. The top six players all are well established inside the top 100 in the world, and five are in the current top 50 - only Bernard Tomic is not.
There are three main players that have failed to realise their potential so far - Stefano Travaglia, Ryan Harrison and Facundo Arguello. Travaglia I can excuse - his sample was the bare minimum 8 matches, but Harrison and Arguello's sample was significantly bigger. They should be ranked inside the top 100 at the bare minimum, currently, if not the top 50. Denis Kudla also should be looking to strongly improve from 123 in the world - I've mentioned he has a lot of upside previously, and an extra week of the Grass season should also be of benefit to the young American.
From the data, we can work out an expected rank of player when 25, based on current hold/break percentages by ranking:-
Rank 5-10: Kyrgios, Thiem, Vesely, Dimitrov
Rank 10-20: Tomic, Sock
Rank 20-35: Harrison, Schwartzman, Arguello, Carreno-Busta, Kuznetsov, Kudla
Rank 35-60: Edmund, Nishioaka, Pouille
Rank 60-100: Daniel, Coppejans
Rank 100+: Cecchinato, Saville
It would be extremely likely that a number of these top potential players would have welcomed some form of funding at the start of their career. With the top 60 potential players in particular, returns for investors would be excellent by the time the player reaches 25 years of age.
I want to finish by looking at the players under 19 who are in the top 200 - Alexander Zverev, Borna Coric, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Hyeon Chung.
Assessing their potential is difficult as I do not have a difference % or a multiplier ratio from the ages of 17/18, but let's just say that assume that they are 19 currently, out of interest. This would give us an almost 'bare minimum' potential level for them, and this would almost certainly improve.
We can see here that Coric at 17 is better than every player in the first table (including Kyrgios, Vesely, Thiem and Dimitrov) at 19. I've made no secret of the fact that I believe Coric will be an elite level player in the future and only a serious injury can curtail that career progression.
The 109.2 expectation mean percentage is based on his 17 year old stats and assume no improvement between 17 and 19, which clearly is highly unlikely - so at 25 he will almost certainly have a hold/break percentage of over 110%.
Thanasi Kokkinakis should also be ranked around the top ten by the age of 25, whilst with some improvement from 17/18 to 19, Alexander Zverev and Hyeon Chung should also be ranked around the 50 level at 25.
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