By Emilio Sánchez Vicario
This past January I prepared a chart for the International Coaches Institute, comparing US and Spanish tennis. Over the last 20 years, Spain has been the world’s leading country in tennis, not just in the number of top players but also prospective players to reach the top.
While I was working on the report I realized that something was changing. I was in San Francisco, sharing my views with a group of coaches, but they were quite skeptical about my explanation. The topic of my speech was the headline of this article.
Six months later my theory is starting to be proved correct, which is why I would like to share the figures found in the two charts below. On the left hand side is the ATP ranking stages, and along the top is the players aggregated by birth years. The chart highlights that:
- The US has 9 very talented 17-22 year old players, with rankings from 70 to 300; Spain has none.
- The US has 9 23-25 year old players in the top 300; Spain has 5.
- The US has 36 players in the top 500, and so does Spain (36).
- The US has 10 players between 26-29 years old in the top 300; Spain has only 5.
- In one category Spain beats the US: it has 13 players over 30 years old, compared to 2 from the US.
These facts lead us to the following conclusion: while at the moment Spain is still ahead in tennis, with an aging population of players, in three to four years or maybe less, the US will surpass in all categories and become the top country in the world once again after more than 20 years.
The trend of the last ten years shows that talented players excel and make the top 100 aged 22-23, and reach their highest levels of performance aged 27-28. The present generation of American players is so powerful that with their rivalries, role models and motivation, they could break the current trend and reach the top in just one or two years. Fritz, who is already no.70 in the world, is leading the group, whilst Donaldson, Tiefoe, Opelka and Rubin are not far behind him. Most of these players come from the USTA. However, there is also a great generation of college players, like McDonald. The future is promising for American tennis. Will this entire group emulate the years of Agassi, Sampras, Chang or Courier? We’ll have an answer soon. To me, this is the best generation of the last ten years.
On the other side of the pond, Spain will have to work hard with the few candidates it has for players aged 22-24. As for the junior players, we need progress. Three of them have just reached the top 500 – will they follow in the footsteps of our great players? It’s a big challenge.
Emilio Sánchez Vicario, CEO & Founder at Sánchez-Casal Academy