New method for ranking NCAA tennis players

Ed note — the full article (with rankings) is posted here, http://texascollegetennis.com/2016/12/13/a-new-approach-to-ranking-singles-players-in-the-fall/. I will get more technical below.

I decided awhile back that the way players are ranked in the fall by the ITA is a bit arbitrary. I am not trying to be critical of the ITA, because trying to rank singles players across the country before they’ve played a single match is not only extremely difficult, not only from a pure mechanical standpoint, but also politically.

There are kids now who don’t even play ITA tennis in the fall and stick to the plethora of Futures and Challengers that make up the Oracle USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series. Some don’t play at all at are busy either catching up on studies or rehabbing (or both). My idea was to create a system that uses only results between college players for the school year and that’s it. If you are ranking players and this determines whether they get into the NCAA’s or not, that should be the only thing that matters.

With that in mind, I decided to create my own ranking system for the men. Here was my criteria:

  1. Any and all players who played a D1 match this fall were eligible, as were any D1 known players who played on the Pro Circuit from the last week of August until last week in Tallahassee.
  2. Only matches between D1 players were eligible. I know this limits the number of matches that counted on the circuit, but that’s the only way to be consistent.
  3. To maintain some baseline consistency, I used my system for the 2015-16 school year (applying the same rules) and created prior rankings for those returning this fall. I felt that this was important to give upperclassmen more weight. I did not use any previous year Pro Circuit matches, only NCAA D1 matches.
  4. Matches were weighted. Regular matches were standard weight, while Futures and USTA/ITA Regionals matches counted a little more and Challengers, The All-American and Indoors counted a little more.

This system is not perfect by any means but with the limited data so far this season, it seems fair.

From Saidkarimov to Djokovic in 11 easy steps — Or How a player with 1 ATP Point has an Indirect over the World Number One

We’ve all played that game I beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so, so by the transitive property, I also beat that player.

Yesterday I wrote about the path from Australian Chris Fletcher’s indirect win over the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic. I was knee-deep into the research on that when I discovered it counted walkovers.

I rewrote a little code and today I top that. No walkovers, longer paths.

Our journey this time starts in Uzbekistan where 18 year old Saida’lo Saidkarimov defeats Sarvar Ikramov in the second round of the Tashkent Challenger. Saidkarimov is a wild card and only garners one main draw victory this year (at Uzbekistan F4) and sits appropriately ranked 2150.

Ikramov is a former top-600 player. In 2012, he reached a high of 535. In 2015 at the Samarkand Challenger, he defeated another fellow Uzbek, Anton Djamalov, 61 62 in the first round of qualifying.

Djamalov is currently unranked and has only ever reached a career high of 1849, back in 2014. He has 60 60 losses in two recent Futures this Fall to such luminaries as Pavel Tsoy and Peter Bothwell. But at the Fergana Challenger he got a first round qualifying win over another Uzbek, Azizbek Lukmanov, 64 64.

Lukmanov is another guy who has fared poorly on the pro circuit (he has a single Futures main draw win this year), but can get direct entry into just about any Uzbek challenger. At Karshi, he defeated Timur Khabibulin, 64 36 63 in first round qualifying.

Khabibulin is a top-900 player from Kazakhstan, who has at least won a handful of matches. Heck, he’s even reached the final of a pair of double Futures this season. At the Astana Challenger in August, he defeated Djurabeck Karimov, 62 64.

Karimov, whose first name is recognized as Djurabeck by the ATP, but Jurabek in the ITF database, is a 17-year old Uzbek, who has risen into the top-800 this year. Karimov beat Divij Sharan of India, 46 64 76, at the Samarkand Challenger.

Sharan, a former top-500 player is now more of a doubles specialist with over 20 titles to his name and also reached the round of 16 at the US Open in 2013. At that same popular Samarkand Challenger, Sharan defeated Denis Matsukevitch, 61 36 62, in third round qualifying.

Matsukevitch is another of those players who is recognized by the ATP and ITF by different names. The ATP spells his last name without the ‘t’. The Russian is also a former top-300 player, but at the Cherbourgh Challenger he defeated Frederik Nielsen, 76 62.

Here’s where we get into familiar territory. Nielsen, the 2012 Wimbledon Doubles champion took down Ryan Harrison at the Manchester Challenger, 61 57 62. Then Harrison tops Dr. Ivo in Acapulco, 46 76 76. This brings us all the way home to the Karlovic win over Djokovic in Doha early in the season.

So there you have it. Eleven matches to get from an 18-year old Uzbek player with one ATP point all the way to the best player in the world without a single walkover.

This research has also prompted me to think of a deep dive into the apparent weakness of the Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Challengers. I’ve known for awhile they were weak, but just how weak may be a topic for the future.

THE PATH FROM SAIDKARIMOV TO DJOKOVIC
Saida’lo Saidkarimov (UZB) d. Sarvar Ikramov (UZB) — Tashkent Challenger
Sarvar Ikramov (UZB) d. Anton Djamalov (UZB) — Samarkand Challenger
Anton Djamalov (UZB) d. Azizbek Lukmanov (UZB) — Fergana Challenger
Azizbek Lukmanov (UZB) d. Timur Khabibulin (KAZ) — Karshi Challenger
Timur Khabibulin (KAZ) d. Djurabeck Karimov (UZB) — Astana Challenger
Djurabeck Karimov (UZB) d. Divij Sharan (IND) — Samarkand Challenger
Divij Sharan (IND) d. Denis Matsukevitch (RUS) — Samarkand Challenger
Denis Matsukevitch (RUS) d. Frederik Nielsen (DEN) — Cherbourgh Challenger
Frederik Nielsen (DEN) d. Ryan Harrison (USA) — Manchester Challenger
Ryan Harrison (USA) d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) — Acapulco
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Novak Djokovic – Doha

Ed Note: there is a slight possibility that this can be accomplished in a shorter path from Saidkarimov to Djokovic with the imperfect issue of ATP vs. ITF naming recognition.

Remember that time in 2015 when the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic lost to unranked Australian Chris Letcher?

Remember that time in 2015 when the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic lost to unranked Australian Chris Letcher? You don’t. Well it could’ve happened.

In doing some research on the 2015 season, I decided to jump down the wormhole of who would have the worst possible indirect win over Djokovic. These types of path or graph theory problems are fun to explore. What is the simplest, longest past over a certain player? And along the way, can we find the ‘worst’ or lowest-ranked player…

Letcher, who reached a career-high 508 in 2012, played one tournament this year. In Leon, Mexico he defeated Mexican Mauricio Astorga in the first round of the Challenger’s qualifying, 76 61.

Just two weeks later, Astorga defeated Bolivia’s Alejandro Mendoza in the first round of qualifying at the Guadalajara Challenger, 60 75.

Medoza, currently ranked 801, beat Chilean Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz, currently ranked 534, in the second round of the Bogata Challenger qualifying by walkover.

At the same Bogata Challenger in May, Rivera-Aranguiz defeated Facundo Mena of Argentina in the second round, 16 63 62. Mena in turn, twice defeated Ecuador’s Ivan Endara in 2015, once at the Medellin Challenger and once at Colombia F5.

Then, at the San Luis Potosi Challenger, Endara defeats Rogerio Dutra Silva, 75 61. Dutra Silva defeats current top-20 player, Benoit Paire of France at the Milan Challenger, 64 64.

It can take several paths from here on in, but I try to follow them in some order.

Paire takes down Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the ATP event in Tokyo, 36 64 61. Twice during the 2015 season, Kyrgios defeated Ivo Karlovic (Kuala Lumpur and at the Australian Open).

Which brings us to last January in Doha when our big-serving friend from Croatia topped the top-ranked Djokovic, 67 76 64.

To be fair, Letcher did have a few points from 2014 and actually finished the year ranked 999, but still quite a remarkable story.

Amazingly, this isn’t the most outrageous path. If you eliminate all walkovers, you get a new longest path. But to see it, you will have to stay tuned until tomorrow.

THE PATH FROM LETCHER TO DJOKER
Chris Letcher (AUS) d. Mauricio Astorga (MEX) — Leon Challenger
Mauricio Astorga (MEX) d. Alejandro Mendoza (BOL) — Guadalajara Challenger
Alejandro Mendoza (BOL) d. Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz (CHI) — Bogata Challenger
Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz (CHI) d. Facundo Mena (ARG) — Bogata Challenger
Facundo Mena (ARG) d. Ivan Endara (ECU) — Medellin Challenger and Colombia F5
Ivan Endara (ECU) d. Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) — San Luis Potosi Challenger
Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) d. Benoit Paire (FRA) — Milan Challenger
Benoit Paire (FRA) d. Nick Kyrgios (AUS) — Tokyo
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) — Kuala Lumpur and Australian Open
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Novak Djokovic (SRB) — Doha

July ITF Futures Round-up

As we have now moved into August and it is officially the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to do a quick review of July’s Best and Worst performances on the ITF Futures Circuit. First we need to define July. I have defined July as being any tournament played in July, specifically the week of 29 June-05 July through last week, 27 July-02 August.

Now on to the Winners… Here’s a list of the multi-tournament winners for the month.

MULTI-TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS FOR JULY 2015

CAGNINA, Julien (BEL) 2
EVANS, Daniel (GBR) 2
GRIGELIS, Laurynas (LTU) 2
HORANSKY, Filip (SVK) 2
IGNATIK, Uladzimir (BLR) 2
LI, Zhe (CHN) 2
METREVELI, Aleksandre (GEO) 2
ROCA BATALLA, Oriol (ESP) 2
STRUVAY, Eduardo (COL) 2
VIVERO GONZALEZ, Pablo (ESP) 2

Congratulations.

Of course winning titles in nice, but the key is to get points and move up the rankings. Here’s a list of the top-50 point earners for the month.

MOST POINTS EARNED IN JULY

Name QW QL MW ML PTS Ttitles
EVANS, Daniel (GBR) 0 0 13 1 62 2
LI, Zhe (CHN) 0 0 13 0 54 2
STRUVAY, Eduardo (COL) 0 0 10 0 54 2
GRIGELIS, Laurynas (LTU) 0 0 15 2 53 2
CAGNINA, Julien (BEL) 0 0 14 1 51 2
HORANSKY, Filip (SVK) 0 0 15 3 47 2
IGNATIK, Uladzimir (BLR) 0 0 10 0 45 2
ROCA BATALLA, Oriol (ESP) 0 0 10 0 45 2
KING, Evan (USA) 0 0 12 2 45 1
CHAZAL, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 14 3 44 1
REID, Matt (AUS) 0 0 10 2 43 1
SMETHURST, Daniel (GBR) 0 0 9 1 42 1
NEUCHRIST, Maximilian (AUT) 0 0 12 2 39 1
JANVIER, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 14 3 38 1
METREVELI, Aleksandre (GEO) 0 0 10 0 36 2
VIVERO GONZALEZ, Pablo (ESP) 0 0 10 0 36 2
MICHALICKA, Marek (CZE) 0 0 8 1 35 1
EYSSERIC, Jonathan (FRA) 0 0 8 1 35 1
KOCEVAR-DESMAN, Tom (SLO) 0 0 12 2 34 1
MARTI, Yann (SUI) 0 0 10 3 33 0
BONADIO, Riccardo (ITA) 0 0 12 3 32 1
MENA, Facundo (ARG) 0 0 8 2 31 1
DOME, Andre (USA) 0 0 7 2 30 1
TABATRUONG, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 10 3 29 1
WARD, Alexander (GBR) 0 0 12 3 29 1
GUEZ, David (FRA) 0 0 6 2 28 1
SAKHAROV, Gleb (FRA) 0 0 6 1 28 1
MERTENS, Yannick (BEL) 0 0 6 1 28 1
GRANOLLERS-PUJOL, Gerard (ESP) 0 0 11 3 28 1
JASIKA, Omar (AUS) 0 0 5 0 27 1
RAZBORSEK, Nik (SLO) 3 0 5 0 27 1
HUTA GALUNG, Jesse (NED) 0 0 5 0 27 1
FORTUNA, Claudio (ITA) 0 0 11 3 27 1
SINGH, Sanam (IND) 0 0 5 0 27 1
SAMPER-MONTANA, Jordi (ESP) 0 0 5 0 27 1
GIANNESSI, Alessandro (ITA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
COLLARINI, Andrea (ARG) 0 0 5 0 27 1
VLIEGEN, Joran (BEL) 2 1 5 1 27 1
MMOH, Michael (USA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
GIUSTINO, Lorenzo (ITA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
LAURENT, Yanais (FRA) 0 0 11 4 27 0
RUMENOV PAYAKOV, Georgi (ESP) 0 0 10 2 26 1
SETKIC, Aldin (BIH) 0 0 10 2 26 1
THOMPSON, Clay (USA) 0 0 9 3 26 0
BEGA, Alessandro (ITA) 0 0 11 3 24 1
PAZ, Juan Pablo (ARG) 0 0 8 3 24 1
GOMEZ, Alejandro (COL) 0 0 8 3 24 0
BANES, Maverick (AUS) 0 0 9 4 24 0
TEIXEIRA, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 7 3 23 0
HILTZIK, Jared (USA) 0 0 7 3 23 0

A quick explanation on the table: QW=qualifying wins, QL=qualifying losses, MW=main draw wins, ML=main draw losses, PTS=points earned, Titles= titles won

Several things stick out here.

At the top, Zhe Li, who went 13-0 for the month, but only won two tournaments. So how did he go 13-0? He was playing in the semifinals of China F9 when the tournament was abandon due to rain in Jinhua.

LI, Columbian Eduardo Struvay, Belarussian Uladzimir Ignatik, Spain’s Oriol Roco Batalla, Georgian Aleksandre Metreveli, and Spain’s Pablo Vivero Gonzalez all went undefeated for the month, winning two tournaments. Slovakian Nik Razborsek, pulled off an undefeated month as well winning Italy F16, but he had to go 3-0 in qualifying to do it.

Lots of current and former US College players in there. I don’t plan on listed them all, but awesome work, fellas.

Looking at the top-50 point-getters, you realize that what Razborsek did was rare. Out of the top-50 only two had to win any qualifying matches. This harkens back to my mention last week about the differences in grabbing points and development. I am planning a discussion on this in the next two weeks to dive into this deeper. It actually ties a little bit into another project I hope to post to the site here this week.

Name QW QL MW ML PTS
LAKAT, Florian (FRA) 12 0 5 5 5
LIZEN, Aswin (GBR) 10 0 2 5 2
ADDISON, Aaron (AUS) 10 1 2 3 2
MEYER, Jan (GER) 10 2 1 3 1
PUTTERGILL, Calum (AUS) 10 2 0 2 0
VON MASSOW, George (GER) 9 0 5 3 8
CAILLEAU, Jolan (BEL) 9 0 3 3 6
VIVES, Jordi (ESP) 9 0 3 3 3
BRAUN, Niclas (GER) 9 2 3 2 3
HUA, Runhao (CHN) 9 0 2 3 2
CANT, Louis (BEL) 9 0 2 4 2
BUTLER, Samm (GBR) 9 0 1 3 1
CHADAJ, Adam (POL) 9 0 1 3 1
DERKAS, Zdenek (CZE) 9 2 0 2 0
GOLUZA, Ivan (AUS) 9 1 0 3 0
PETERS, Flemming (GER) 9 3 0 2 0

Mississippi State’s Florian Lakat of France won the most qualifying matches on the Futures tour in July (one caveat, byes are counted as wins). He won a total of 17 matches last month, which would normally earn him the Grinder of the Month. He did earn five points though.

For the honor of Grinder of the Month, I go with Australian Calum Puttergill. He should win the honor based on name alone, but the fact that poor Calum scraped it out this month, winning 10 matches (ok, one was a bye) and didn’t earn a single point, clinched it.

Calum spent the month in Serbia and Slovakia toiling away. He probably didn’t even get to sight-see. I know nothing of Piestany, Slovakia, but when you Google it, you see nothing but nice photos of the town and people getting massages.

YOU GET NOTHING

POTEMKIN, Grigory (RUS)
FUENZALIDA, Benjamin (CHI)
DAIFALLAH, Taher (AUT)
IVANOV, Klim (KAZ)

These four poor souls went 0-4 this month in the qualies. Better luck next month, guys.

Musing From the First Half of the Year on the Futures Circuit

I decided it would be good to create some awards or recognition (good and bad) for the first half of the year on the Men’s ITF Pro Circuit. I am defining the first half of the year as being from January 1, 2015 to the finals played on July 5, 2015.

Most of these will be straight descriptive lists or players that stand out. I hope to do a deeper dive and analysis once I get everything going. In the future, I intend to include the women’s side and also do awards monthly.

I should probably start with the positive. Obviously the goal is to do well at the Futures level and get into Challengers. There’s also the need for player development at the Futures level. That opens up the argument of whether it is more important to accumulate points and move quickly or prepare yourself for the tougher matches you will eventually face heading up the ladder (i.e., do I play in Turkey or USA). There are obviously plenty of variables and philosophies and that’s for another post, so keep that in mind.

MOST TITLES IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON

Name Titles
BELLOTTI, Riccardo (ITA) 6
NASO, Gianluca (ITA) 6
NOVAK, Dennis (AUT) 5
WEINTRAUB, Amir (ISR) 4
PANFIL, Grzegorz (POL) 4
KING, Darian (BAR) 4
MACHADO, Rui (POR) 4
CREPALDI, Erik (ITA) 4
CHAZAL, Maxime (FRA) 4
HUANG, Liang-Chi (TPE) 4
LINZER, Michael (AUT) 4

The first thing to note is three Italians in the top there. Bellotti is currently ranked 247 in the world and has moved n to Challengers. He grabbed his titles in Croatia and Turkey. Naso is back to 214 in the world. He is obviously playing Challengers and actualy won all of his titles in Italy. The third Italian, Crepaldi hasn’t fared to well at Challengers and is 300 in the world. He bagged most of his points traveling Tunisia, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.

I found it interesting that the Israeli, Amir Weintraub (a former top-200 player), got all of his points in Israel, then immediately jumped into the Wimbledon qualies, where he was defeated by Bjorn Fratangelo.

Darian King, currently 205, has done well at Futures in the US and Mexico, but hasn’t played in almost a month.

MOST POINTS IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON

Name QW QL MW ML PTS T
BELLOTTI, Riccardo (ITA) 12 0 47 9 140 6
PECOTIC, Matija (CRO) 0 0 27 9 126 3
KING, Darian (BAR) 0 0 34 9 122 4
NASO, Gianluca (ITA) 4 0 40 6 121 6
NOVAK, Dennis (AUT) 2 0 38 7 116 5
SAFWAT, Mohamed (EGY) 0 0 39 7 109 3
SARKISSIAN, Alexander (USA) 0 1 33 10 108 2
SANDGREN, Tennys (USA) 0 0 29 6 107 2
HALYS, Quentin (FRA) 0 0 25 8 105 2
MACHADO, Rui (POR) 0 0 33 4 103 4

Again Bellotti is at the top, which is understandable since he won six tournaments. What was interesting was the fact he had to qualify in the early stages and went 12-0. Also impressive was the fact that Naso won six of the 12 Futures tournaments he entered in this time frame.

Of note to fans of American college tennis is the Croatian Matija Pecotic, who played at Princeton. He’s a great kid (I’m old) who I had the chance to hang out with a bit when his team came to Austin a few years back. He started the year in Georgia (the country), then Turkey, Egypt, and Great Britain before picking up two titles in Nigeria and one in the US (Winston-Salem).

Also making the list are former Pepperdine and Tennessee standouts, Sarkissian and Sandgren. Sarkissian has spent time in the US, Australia, Mexico, Hong Kong and actually won a South Korean Challenger (Gimcheon). Sandgren went to Australia and China as well, but has done most of his playing in the US and Canada, including some Challenger success, reaching the semifinal in Tallahassee.

MOST QUALIFYING WINS

Name QW QL MW ML PTS
SMITH, Raleigh (USA) 37 8 7 9 7
MESQUIDA BERG, Oscar (ESP) 32 7 3 11 3
LIZEN, Aswin (GBR) 27 4 3 11 3
UHLIG, Daniel (GER) 27 7 2 6 2
CHAPLIN, Jarryd (AUS) 26 7 10 10 11
TABERNER, Carlos (ESP) 26 0 6 8 9
MARDONES, Bruno (ESP) 26 11 3 9 3
WAGNER, Hannes (GER) 26 8 2 6 2
KAPRIC, Denis (GER) 26 15 0 5 0

I know 26 matches is just an arbitrary number, but this is the Ultimate Grinder Award. A few years back (over 10), I was 39 and playing a lot. I was also writing some for the USTA and following all of the events in Texas. One year I attended 13 pro events alone. I decided to play a couple of wild card and qualifying tournaments. The guys I met were amazing. I also met some of these grinders. The guys who just want to play, get a point or two and see where it takes them. I’ve known some of these guys who would get a single point and just travel to the ends of the Earth to try and get a second and see the world. I also knew a guy who always seemed to qualify for the main draw, but could never get that elusive point. I envied them. I felt their pain.

Former Northwestern tennis player Raleigh Smith stands out with 37 qualifying wins alone. He’s been grinding mostly in the US, Israel and Turkey. My goal here is to get him to tweet more from the road (@raleighs_myth).

Look out for Spain’s Carlos Taberner. The 17-year old did not lose a single qualifying match and has subsequently broken out with a semifinal appearance this month.

The last guy, Denis Kapric, however, wins the ULTIMATE GRINDER AWARD. Having gone 26-15 in qualifying rounds, he’s 0-5 in main draw appearances. He has two points from last year, but those get wiped out in a few months. His European vacation has taken him to Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania this year alone. This sounds like a great trip for the 20-year old German. I hope he grabs another point or two here soon.

Welcome to The String Theory

Not a whole lot to say just yet, but things are starting to come together, so stay tuned.

Over the next week I should be adding a lot of descriptive statistics I have found on the first six months of the ITF Circuit. I will start primarily on the men’s side, but the tweets will include all matches, as they finish. Essentially those are on a 25 minute loop around the clock.

To stay up-to-date and receive updates as they happen, please follow the twitter account, @th3str1ngth30ry