The Big 4 … More Like the Big 2

Men’s tennis has been dominated in the last 10 years by the Big 4; Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, & Andy Murray.  In fact, these 4 men have won 37 out of the last 40 grand slams.  The term, ‘the Big 4’, has been used so frequently by the media and players that it is part of the tennis language.  However, if you shorten your memory to the last 1 or 2 years, it is easy to see that the Big 4 really now is the Big 2! 

For groupings, I have split the Big 4 by putting Djokovic and Nadal together and likewise placed the Federer & Murray in their own sub-group.  Also, I have placed Stan Wawrinka and David Ferrer in a different sub-group since they own recent either Masters 1000 or Grand Slam wins.  Finally I placed everyone else in the peloton to demonstrate the dominance from the other groups.  Then I counted the number of championships won at the three highest levels of the last 24 months across the different groupings below.  

24 Month

It is clear that Djokovic & Nadal are dominating across all major tournament levels included.  Also of note is that there is very little difference in the Federer/Murray category compared to the Wawrinka/Ferrer category.  Perhaps this grouping should be considered together as minor threats to the Djokovic/Nadal dominance. 

If only the last 12 months was considered, the dominance of Djokovic and Nadal is even greater.  Since the ATP World Rankings are tied to the tournament point levels, the dominance is also clearly visible where Djokovic (13,130) and Nadal (12,670) are far above the next closest (Federer with 6,100 points).  Murray’s ranking of #10 and 3,040 points is far from being a member of the Big 4 (although as we will show in a subsequent analysis, his low ranking is probably an outlier).

12 Month

But is this dominance reflective of the current match performance?  After all Murray missed significant time in the fall and Federer has recently played his way to the Wimbledon final.  The RilesClubhouse rating system is based on an Elo rating system while weighting the outcome of each match to the maximum tournament point value.  Therefore a result in a grand slam has twice the ‘value’ then a result at a Masters 1000 event.  Also, it includes a number of matches filter to reduce the impact if only a few key matches provided the rating.   If we look at the results from the RilesClubhouse rating system, both Djokovic & Nadal are significantly differentiated from the rest of the pack.  Likewise, Federer and Murray are more like the players around them; Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, and Juan Martin del Potro.  In fact, based on our models, Nadal has a 66% chance of beating Wawrinka in a head-to head match which is better than the 65% chance Wawrinka would have over #10 Ferrer.  Therefore, the difference between #2 and #3 is greater than the difference than #3 to #10.  


All is not lost for players not named Nole or Rafa, they still have reasonable chances of victories at upcoming major tournaments.  For example, based on the current RilesClubhouse model, Federer would have a 29% chance of beating Djokovic if they played head-to-head.  But both Federer and Murray should be grouped with the other players around them as dangerous dark horses for upcoming major tournaments.  Meanwhile, we should start referring to the Big 2 with Djokovic and Nadal as the dominating figures in tennis today.


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