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