Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not? - UBITENNIS
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Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not?

An in-depth analysis of the transition from junior to pro competition of the Major winners from 1988 to 2020. Some proved great champions as professionals (like Roddick and Wawrinka), while others dropped out of sight – someone even ended up traveling the world on a sailing boat…

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John Marsh | Credit: EMPICS Sport
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Is winning a Junior Slam the start of a brilliant career or a great delusion? This is the question we are always asking when we see a promising 17-year-old lifting a coveted trophy. Just at that moment, the most delicate phase for a young athlete approaching the professional ranks begins. He or she has to make a lot of changes: to leave the comfort zone of the junior circuit, the familiar faces of peers who have often also become friends, the club that coddle them and the support of their national federation. Once it’s all over, you suddenly find yourself having to face an unknown world, all alone. Many expectations (coming from your family, the media, and even from your own ego) threaten to saddle you with an unbearable baggage of anxiety. And on top of this, the technical transition from the juniors to the pros requires a solid guide to help you work on your game, sacrificing short-term results.

 

EDBERG AND THE OTHERS – Over the years, we have really seen everything, from Stefan Edberg, who achieved the “Junior Grand Slam” in 1983 and then excelled on the ATP Tour, to many players who instead fell into anonymity, sometimes quitting tennis prematurely. Here we certainly won’t try to provide a definitive diagnosis of why this happens – we will simply analyse what has happened in the last 32 years from a statistical point of view. You may wonder why we have chosen a 32-year interval. 1988 was set as the beginning of our research because from that year the Australian Open has been played on hard-court, after already reverting to a January start date in 1987 in an attempt to recover the relevance it had seemingly lost in the previous decade. The tournament had become the least competitive among the Grand Slams, both at the professional (i.e. Borg played the Australian Open only once) and junior levels. The change of date and the surface switch at Flinders Park helped to rebalance the situation and to give equal dignity to the Australian Open.

We also must keep in mind, as an essential premise, that the strongest U-18 athletes often don’t play junior tournaments, either by technical choice or because they are already winning at the higher level. Borg won the French Open when he was 18; Becker won Wimbledon at 17 and Wilander won Paris at 17, not to mention McEnroe who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon starting from the qualifying round when he was 18. Thus, they obviously did not have a junior career, with the exception of Mats Wilander, who won the Junior Roland Garros the year before bagging the real thing – sort of a world record with regards to the speed and seamlessness of the transition from the youth competitions to the pros. More recently, Nadal and Djokovic achieved the semi-final as their best result, respectively at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Federer (Wimbledon champion in 1998 and US Open semi-finalist the same year) and Lendl (Wimbledon and Roland Garros 1978) did better than Nadal and Djokovic. As mentioned, Stefan Edberg took his junior career seriously – in 1983, he achieved the Junior Grand Slam. 

What does this data illustrate? Here you can find the tables that list all the winners of the four junior Slams from 1988 to 2020. Starting from these data, we calculated the ratio of the best ranking reached by the winners once they turned pro. The caveats in this analysis are the following: we excluded from the calculation the worst five performers for each tournament (highlighted in red in the tables) and by default the winners of the two Junior Slams played in 2020, considering that they are still too young. We considered misleading for the purposes of the analysis to include in the dataset the results reached by players who have completely failed, sometimes quitting the game early.

Considering the 27 best results for each Slam, sorting the four Slams from the one with the lowest to the highest average ranking, the following are the results: 

1. US Open: 37.55 (median value 17)

2. Roland Garros: 47.88 (median value 21)

3. Wimbledon: 63.85 (median value 39)

4. Australian Open: 77.29 (median value 83)

It seems clear that the US Open’s young winners are likelier to have a better career. On the other hand, the Australian Open is the only Grand Slam whose median value is higher than average: it means that those who have obtained a worse than average best ranking outweigh those who have obtained a better one.

THE COACHES’ OPINION

Coach Simone Tartarini pictured with Lorenzo Musetti

Here’s the opinion of Simone Tartarini, the coach of Lorenzo Musetti, a player who is currently facing the aforementioned adjustments related to turning pro: “The Australian Open has always been an overlooked tournament (among pros and juniors alike), especially due to the complexity and cost of the trip. This year in Australia, I was talking to Ljubicic and he told me that, when he came here for the first time at 18, it was enough to have a ranking of 800 to play in the qualies. Nowadays, they would not even let you be a ball boy with that kind of background. In any case, a ranking average of 80 is worthy of some consideration because a player who is in the Top 100 still manages to make a living out of tennis.”

“As for Paris,” he continued, “I don’t know if what I say has a scientific basis, but in that tournament I have often seen some boys (especially Argentinians and Spaniards) who are already physically well-developed play against a frail boy who looked like he was still in eighth grade. Then it often happened that a couple of years later the boy grew up and overtook them thanks to his greater talent. The US Open is at the top of the ranking because we could probably call it the most universal and therefore the most coveted event. Nobody wants to miss it, and if the boy has a predisposition for hardcourts, once he turns pro that surface will be the one where most of the tournaments will be played and where he’ll build his ranking. As for Wimbledon, I would not know, it is probably the same concept, just in reverse. If at 17 you discover that you are a great grass court player, you will have few tournaments to show it as a pro.”

Finally, he added: “However that may be, the time of this transition is very dangerous, and I am happy that Lorenzo has now left it behind. I define the ranking between 200 and 500 as ‘the swamp’ – getting stuck in it is very easy. For example, last year at the Challenger in Pordenone there were seven Junior Slam winners, people aged 25/29. Players who have not followed through on their tennis talent, players who thought that they could make it without hard work, while failing to understand that at the junior level you often win for the opponent’s demerit. As a professional, you have to hit much harder and earn every point.”

Let us hear another renowned opinion. Fabio Gorietti, former Boys’ Wimbledon champion Gianluigi Quinzi’s coach for two years, stated in a recent interview: “Gianluigi was aware that he had an excellent level for the junior circuit, and he thought it would be enough to train to quickly get to the pro level. He would have needed to change his game, to evolve, to become more complete in order to have more solutions throughout matches. A talented junior player must get rid of the tactics that brought him so many points when he played in junior tournaments, because he will often discover that he will not achieve the same results playing against a pro. And he has to be able to go to the detriment of on-court results in the short term.”

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Further 23 Players In Hard Quarantine After More Positive Tests On Charter Flight

More players head into hard quarantine ahead of the first grand slam of the year.

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A further 23 players have been told that they are being placed into hard quarantine after another positive COVID-19 test on a charter flight from Abu Dhabi.

 

Players were notified this evening in Australia that there was a positive test on the Abu Dhabi charter flight. Although it looks it wasn’t a player who tested positive it now means 23 more players will now go into hard quarantine.

This follows the news of 24 players going into hard quarantine after two positive tests from a charter flight from Los Angeles.

It is understood from several journalists that among those who are now being placed into hard quarantine from the Abu Dhabi flight are Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, Marta Kostyuk, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ons Jabeur.

Although there are only 47 players in hard quarantine so far, there is a fear that this number could rise with more COVID test results still waiting to come back.

Before the charter flights, Andy Murray, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova were denied entry into Australia via the chartered flights due to positive COVID results.

The first set of tournaments in Australia are set to begin on the 31st of January with the Australian Open due to begin on the 8th of February.

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Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus

Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Madison Keys (@SporArena - Twitter)

The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.

Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.

 

Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.

I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.

“Thank you for all your support.

Stay Healthy and safe.

Madison

Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.

Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.

Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.

While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.

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ANALYSIS: Daniil Medvedev’s Run At The ATP Finals – Win Against Nadal Was The Turning point

Using two types of graphs, UbiTennis takes a closer look at the five matches won by Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 ATP Finals.

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Let’s analyse the five matches won at the ATP Finals by Daniil Medvedev, using the graphical representations provided by Federico Bertelli. We have renamed the graphs as “The ride”, recalling the famous Wagnerian composition. The first series of graphs is made up of decision trees and illustrates the trend of Medvedev’s and his opponents behind their respective serves, from the first round robin match to the final won against Dominic Thiem.

 

These are the details of his debut match against Zverev. The graph is easy to read: on the right (in blue) the times he held his serve are represented, while the time he broke his opponent are on the left (in red). The thicker the segment that connects two scores, the more frequently that ‘path’ of play has been covered.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/39qVQVmRFll9YWeGxM_Dl-qEBE7Z2iwMHIfrEa6v5WwIKELuSfGEYrmgVQkDzPhlhsEthmsawLr4Cx-hi-NC15wcu85Yjt_unBZPfFJWpWoyoW5JS1Xbzxf63e2tZnzu0Z_RDCg
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/72lIM46LmWsHKBUr3Rhw7oYq4Lto4obP0mA7E_kQH9bVB58TMEhC1Onixq0M8tZch1ZG4v8Hmf_Ntxss48abHouM1wqaPgRaQSeAcsSbJCZAY1Tea-lYVQzeStc61ayblLIasXM

Medvedev’s solidity holding serve is undeniable, because he performed best in deuce receiver and deuce server situations. It can also be observed how the Russian got broken just once in his first three matches, against Zverev at 30-40, while against Nadal he was particularly in trouble with his own serve, as the Spaniard was the only one who broke him several times, taking advantage of some favourable scoring situations such as 0-40, 15-40 and deuce receiver.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/e0lb0_yVnzwb24LWS-xN7qdhxz4DqiNqCBEolubVLln3Qv_7Na99-mCi4WU_k9UrBT4T4H2OqcnxnlYEcO8TX4LtwMA3nkLW94JK6hnnEEshOXFd9_HNZ6seBhP56_deatR2Rig
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/IPBeJdkVLRtQewleS-MxR7QHtzpehhO8wIslpXwlGLisR7KrzSbMng2lAUoAdjIMj2EWBPWhA838l2AJX27anuWFex_oIUSFdMHfoQWDlpW8DoLUx209sVr8cg7qdfvOdfJojX8

However, against Thiem, although Medvedev found himself tangled in a decider, the trend reverts back to that of the round matches: the only chance that Thiem had to snatch the serve was on the deuce receiver. He had no other chance from 40-40. 

https://www.ubitennis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Medvedev-finals.jpg

The graphical analysis, corroborated by the thickness of the oblique blue lines, also shows the growing solidity of the Russian from match to match, winning the opening two points in his service games. This is a sign of a growing confidence in his game as the Russian advanced towards the final stages of the tournament, e.g. the semi-final and the final.

As for the situations in which Medvedev was particularly proficient on his opponent’s serve, the deuce receiver stands out, a circumstance that was present in all five matches, followed by the 30-40 – he broke on this situation against Zverev and Schwartzman.

AN OVERVIEW

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/vjDrxErqtjvDOnK9dhmExHj5OiMeiNHupX3ffY3sKFBPPQ39Yb7Gipu39P5_XYAlGoBbgeILp7kDrYKrQBoaVRJHSzD731_9doLJ2GVFq4xafnYhzlBeyORsZ4HY5UB88OHV3ao

The second series of graphs on Medvedev’s Valkyrian ride consists of radar graphs illustrating the classic statistics shown at the end of each match, which are equivalent to the following percentages – starting from the top and going clockwise: percentage of first serves in play, percentage of points won with his first and second serve, break points saved and converted, points won on the return against first and second serve, total points won, total points won on the return and on serve. What you see above is the diagram of Medvedev’s debut match: it is easy to see that he did better than Zverev in all statistics except for the percentage of first serves in play.

From the analysis of the first three matches of the group stage, even though the yellow area is predominant in almost all the statistical percentages, it’s clear that Medvedev was more effective in saving break points than his opponents (more than 80 percent against Zverev and 100 percent against Djokovic and Schwartzman), as well as in converting them. Against Schwartzman, he was actually bettered in the percentage of points won with the second service and in points won on the return against the opponent’s second serve.

https://www.ubitennis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bbb.jpg

However, in the next two matches the percentage profiles of break balls saved and converted change because Nadal’s and Thiem’s numbers are higher than the Medvedev’s. So, ultimately, it means that Medvedev conceded fewer break points and managed to convert those that his opponents offered him during the match. 

That shows a great solidity.

If the general statistical profile of the Medvedev’s match against Thiem is similar to that of the matches won against Djokovic and Zverev, and in some ways to the one against Schwartzman as well, the statistics outline against Nadal is totally abnormal and should be considered as an outlier. The percentage of points won returning Nadal’s second serve and on his own second serve were the crucial ones. We will analyse this aspect in another article that will deal with Medvedev’s positioning on the return.

In conclusion, from the analysis of the statistical profiles, it appears that the semi-final bout against Nadal was the toughest obstacle that Medvedev had to overcome in his ride to success in a tournament in which he turned out more than anyone to be able (perhaps naturally) to give the match the desired direction, even when the numbers were not completely by his side.

Article by Andrea Canella; translated by Alice Nagni; edited by Tommaso Villa

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