Djokovic’s Millions: Adjusting For Inflation But Not For Excellence - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic’s Millions: Adjusting For Inflation But Not For Excellence

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In 2015, Novak Djokovic won USD 21.6m in prize money, the most any one player has won in a single year. To some this is an astonishing figure, underscoring Djokovic’s current dominance – he won 3 of the 4 slams. To others USD 21.6m loses some of its significance given recent increases in ATP prize money and how financial inflation makes comparison between different years more difficult.

However, research of prize money data, including adjusting for inflation, shows that Djokovic’s prize money earnings this year (particularly in comparison to 2011, where Djokovic also won 3 slams) are the product almost equally both of sustained tennis excellence, at the slams and in the post-US Open period, and of large “real terms” increases in prize money at the slams.

Djokovic prize money – 2011 and 2015 seasons (actual amounts and adjusted for inflation)

50-Djok-2011-2015

As in 2011, Djokovic’s 2015 season was founded on winning 3 slams: Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open. 2015 highlights also included 6 Masters 1000 titles and the World Tour Finals title; and a win-loss record of 82-6 including an astonishing record of 30-5 against top 10 players.

Djokovic’s playing stats translated to earning USD 21.6m, more than players ranked 2 to 4 combined (Murray, Federer and Wawrinka), an achievement with only 1 precedent since 1985 (the first year that the ATP publishes season-by-season prize money totals), in 2006 when Federer himself won 3 slams.

Previously, Djokovic’s season in 2011 was considered to be a career year and yet Djokovic won just (ha!) USD 12.6m that year.

There are two principal reasons why Djokovic earned USD 8m more in 2015 than in 2011:

  • In 2011, despite putting together a 41 match win streak and putting together a win-loss record of 70-6 in 2011, he went 6-4 in the autumn after his US Open victory and did not win a tournament .

Fast forward to 2015 and Djokovic’s excellence was sustained throughout the year. This included going 19-1 after the US Open winning Beijing, Shanghai and Paris Masters 1000s as well as the World Tour Finals losing a single match at the Tour Finals to Federer.

The difference in post-US Open performance between prize money earned in 2011 (inflation-adjusted) and 2015 was worth USD 3.9m to Djokovic (see table).

  • However, tennis excellence does not explain all of Djokovic’s record prize money haul in 2015. For the rest, we need to look into decisions made in the last few years by the ATP tour and the different grand slam tournaments to raise prize money.  The upshot of these decisions has been to vastly expand the potential of leading players to earn prize money. (This also has troubling implications for the enlarged gap between tennis’s haves and have-nots – but this is not today’s story.)

Although much has been made of the ATP’s announcements to raise prize money (for example at Masters 1000 events), it is at grand slam events where the heaviest increases have been seen. In recent years, grand slam tournaments have in general sought to increase prize money in the lower rounds (R128, R64, R32) at an equal or marginally higher percentage than for the later rounds.  However, despite the fairness this implies, the tournaments’ winners were even more heavily compensated: a second round loser at the US Open in 2015 banked their 14% rise in prize money of a shade over USD 8,000 (total USD 68,600), while the winner had to make do with only a 10% rise – but from USD 3m to USD 3.3m.

Here’s how  grand slam prize money increases worked for Djokovic between 2011 and 2015:

    • In both 2011 and 2015, Djokovic won 3 grand slams – the Australian and US Opens and Wimbledon. In 2011, this was worth a shade over USD 6m (in 2015 dollars, adjusted for inflation). However, in 2015, these three titles were worth USD 9.3m, an extra USD 3.2m, an inflation-adjusted increase of 53% in only 4 years (see table).

While this article has sought to break down Djokovic’s earnings in 2015 only, research shows that over the last 5 years Djokovic has been the dominant earner of prize money in the men’s game (almost superior to Federer and Nadal combined). Prize money may only be an indicator of the game’s preferred currencies – grand slam titles and weeks holding the number one ranking – but it is another data point that helps to support Djokovic’s putative and eventual inclusion in the debate about the game’s greatest player: that is the subject of the next article in this series.

 

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Belinda Bencic stuns Simona Halep to set up semifinal against Elina Svitolina in Dubai

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Unseeded player Belinda Bencic rallied from one set down to claim a 4-6 6-4 6-2 win over former world number 1 and 2018 Roland Garros champion Simona Halep securing her spot in her ssecond semifinal of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, where she will face Elina Svitolina, who beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3.

The Swiss player has reached her first Premier-level semifinal since her run to the St. Petersburg final in 2016 and has scored her first back-to-back wins against top 10 since Tokyo 2015 after saving six match points in her win over Aryna Sabalenka yesterday.

Halep hit eight aces to build up a 6-4 4-3 lead before dropping nine of the last games of the match.

Bencic got an early break  and held her serve in a four-deuce second game. In the following game Bencic earned her chances for a double break, but Halep held her serve before breaking back to draw level to 2-2. Halep broke serve in the eighth game to open up a 5-3 lead, but she dropped her serve with a double fault, when she was serving for the set. Halep broke back in the 10th game to close out the opening set 6-4 when Bencic netted a forehand.

Bencic went up an early break in the first game of the second set, but Halep broke straight back in the second game to draw level to 1-1. Halep earned a break point at 2-2 and another chance at 3-3, but Bencic won three consecutive games and got a crucial break in the eighth game at 4-4, when Halep sent a backhand long. Bencic hit a service winner, when she was serving for the set in the next game.

Bencic went up a double break to build up a 3-0 lead. Halep pulled one break back and held her serve to close the gap to 2-3. Bencic broke again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead, but had to save three break points before sealing the win on her third match point.

“It feels great. I am just really happy to be back. I knew it was still in me even after the injuries. You cannot just come back like this and play right away. Otherwise, it would not show how good tennis is. Players are playing two, three years at this level. They are playing semifinals, finals. You cannot just expect to be back after the injury and play like this. I had no problem with being in the shadow. Actually it felt really good, playing 25ks where there is no one there, just you. There is no stream. There is just a live ticker. You can play free. There is no expectation, no attention. It felt good. I did not even take the protected ranking. I started in the lower tournaments. I tried to build my confidence up”,said Bencic.

Bencic set up a semifinal against 2017 and 2018 Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, who beat Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2 6-3 after 78 minutes. The first set went on serve in the first five games, before Svitolina rallied from 30-40 down to break serve on her second opportunity at the fourth deuce for 4-2 in a seven-minute game. The Ukrainian player sealed the first set with a double break in the eighth game after just over half an hour.

Suarez Navarro converted her second break point chance in the first game and held her serve at deuce after saving a break point to take a 2-0 lead. Svitolina broke back on her second chance in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Suarez Navarro rallied from 15-40 down to break serve at the third deuce for 3-2, but Svitolina reeled off the final four games with two consecutive breaks in the sixth and eighth games and closed out the second set 6-3 on her fourth match point with a forehand winner.

“I am going to give everything to play my best tennis. This matters the most for me. I have been working on this for a long time. I want to just focus on what I have to do my next match. The semifinal is going to be another tough one. It’s important to take a match at a time, not to look so much ahead”, said Svitolina.

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WTA Coaching Carousel Continues As Daria Kasatkina Splits From Coach

Daria Kasatkina has decided to split with her coach Philippe Dehaes in the latest WTA coaching chaos.

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Daria Kasatkina (@Tennis - Twitter)

Daria Kasatkina is the latest player to split from her coach on the WTA tour as she splits with Belgian Philippe Dehaes. 

The world number 13 decided to split from her coach Philippe Dehaes after a poor start to the 2019 season having only won two matches.

This coaching split is the latest in a whole carousel of changes which has even included the world number one Naomi Osaka splitting from her coach, Sascha Bajin.

In a statement on Instagram Kasatkina expressed her gratitude to Dehaes who lead her to the top ten and won her the Kremlin Cup last year.

However after losing five of her seven matches so far the Russian concluded that it was time to move on “It is with sadness that I am announcing that myself and Philippe Dehaes are parting ways after a very successful partnership,” Kasatkina said.

“I owe Philippe a huge amount for the success I’ve had over the past two years since we started working together but after deciding I need to take control and responsibility for my own tennis, I felt I needed to do this alone and take a break from working with Philippe but as he has a family and children to support, I understand this is not possible for him and it’s best we go our separate way.

“Who knows what the future holds, never say never. I’d just like to go on record as saying thank you again to Philippe, you’ll always mean a lot to me and I wish you the very best. Thanks for everything coach, you will always have a special place in my heart.”

The Belgian coach was known for his motivational on-court coaching timeouts especially his ‘Russian Wall’ comment in Moscow last October.

It will now be interesting where Kasatkina goes from here considering she has final points to defend at Indian Wells in a couple weeks time. 

The tournament in the Californian desert is the next tournament for the Russian, which starts on the 6th of March although Kasatkina won’t play her first match until the 8th of March.

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Hsieh-Su-Wei fights back from 1-5 down to upset Karolina Pliskova in Dubai

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Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-Wei came back from 1-5 down in the third set by winning the final six games to upset 2015 Dubai finalist and number 4 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4 1-6 7-5 reaching the semifinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Only one break point was held by either player until 3-3. Pliskova held serve in the seventh game for 4-3, before she came back from 0-40 down to earn a break point after two double faults from Hsieh.

Hsieh saved the break point with a backhand winner. Pliskova brought up two more break points in the eighth game, but Hsieh saved both chances to hold serve for 4-4.

Hsieh broke serve at love with a a backhand winner in the ninth game and held her serve at love 6-4.

Pliskova broke early in the fourth game of the second set to take a 3-1 lead and held a hard-fought service game at deuce for 4-1. The Chinese Taipei player got a double break in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead. The Czech player earned a set point with an ace and converted it with a backhand winner down the line to win the set 6-1 sending the match to the third set.

Pliskova went up in the third game of the third set with a drop-shot winner to build up a 3-0 lead. The Czech player held her service games to cruise through to a 5-1 lead. Hsieh pulled the break back with a forehand on the break point in the seventh game for 2-5.

Hsieh broke at love in the 10th game to get back on serve to 5-5 and held her serve at love to take a 6-5 lead. She earned her second match point with a backhand down the line and converted it to seal the win, when Pliskova sent her backhand wide. Hsieh scored two back-to-back wins over two top-10 players in two consecutive days.

“The second set was slowing down a bit, so it’s not a good sign. I still make some mistakes, but I am glad I keep trying. Finally it works, so I survive”, said Hsieh.

Hsieh set up a semifinal match against number 2 seed Petra Kvitova, who beat Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0.

Hsieh Su Wei will face 2013 finalist and number 2 seed Petra Kvitova, who cruised past Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4 6-0 following up her hard-fought wins over Katerina Siniakova and Jennifer Brady.

Kvitova saved three of the four break points she faced. The double Wimbledon champion and 2019 Australian Open finalist earned an early break in the second game with a deep return and saved a break point in the next game to hold on her service game for 3-0. Kuzmova broke back in the fifth game, when Kvitova sent her backhand long, and backed it up with a hold of serve for 3-3. Kvitova broke serve at love in the ninth game, when Kuzmova was serving to stay in the set. Kvitova held a tough service game with an ace and a service game before breaking three times in a row to take a bagel win in the second set.

“I am pleased. I did not give Kuzmova any time to do her job, maybe turn the match on her way. Hsieh is definitely a tough and tricky opponent. I played her in Sydney in a really tough match. It will be probably some rallies tomorrow. I need to be ready for every shot what she is going to bring to the game”,said Kvitova.

 

 

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