Is it possible to move from outside the Top 1,000 into the Top 10 in just two years?
Yes. Juan Martin del Potro just did it.
The Tower of Tandil was ranked No. 1,042 in the ATP Rankings in February 2016. Skip forward two years and he was ranked No. 9 on 26 February, and he's up to No. 8 this week after winning the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC in Acapulco on Saturday.
You would naturally think that Del Potro’s magical run, cutting his ranking from four digits down to just one in such a short period of time, was predicated on creating lop-sided win percentages. It wasn’t.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis uncovered that the Argentine won just 51.8 per cent (8111/15653) of points from February 2016 to February 2018. It’s simply mind-blowing that a 1.8 per cent increase over a 50-50 battle can produce such phenomenal success in just 24 months.
Del Potro played 15,652 points during the two-year period, crafting a winning margin of just 569 points (won 8111 points / lost 7542 points).
Del Potro - February 2016 - February 2018
Matches Won = 72.3% (81 won / 31 lost)
Points Won = 51.8% (8111 won / 7542 lost)
Del Potro played 112 matches, which breaks his points won advantage (569) down to just a five-point edge, on average, per match. This may be an overly simplistic view of his steep climb up the ATP Rankings, but it does clearly illustrate how little of a margin is really needed to vault from obscurity to the very elite tier of our sport.
Read More: Delpo Carries Momentum Into Critical Stretch
In winning five matches in Acapulco last week, and dropping only one set, Del Potro defeated three consecutive Top 10 opponents and won just 54 per cent (351/645) of total points. Our sport is built on crafting small margins at lots of different stopping points around the globe.
Del Potro Points Won
2016 = 52.5% (2604/4956)
2017 = 51.3% (4379/8534)
2018 = 52.1% (Jan/Feb) = (1128/2163)
It is all too common in our sport to have a “perfectionist” view of competition. We naturally want to win every point we play. Del Potro’s ascendency back into the Top 10 clearly shows that tennis is truly a game of percentages, and small gains in patterns of play when serving, returning, rallying and approaching can turn your wildest dreams into a stunning reality.