Djokovic and Bertens, Two of the Most Improved Players in 2018

Novak Djokovic could continue a masterful run toward the end of the season when he goes for his second 2018 Masters 1000 title against Borna Coric in Shanghai. Even before the final, Djokovic sits at the top of men’s current all-surface Elo ratings. In this post we look at the how the current top 8 on the men’s and women’s tours have won there place among the ratings leaders.

With 17 straight wins since Cincinnati, including the US Open title, Djokovic has ascended to the top of GIG’s current all-surface Elo ratings. This is especially impressive when we consider how far he has come in just a few months. During the clay court swing where his best result was reaching the semifinals in Rome, Djokovic’s rating was as low as 1730, nearly 400 points less than where he is now. That makes him the most improved of the current top men.

Roger Federer is the opposite story. Despite a win at the Australian Open to start out the year, 2018 has been far from a repeat of 2017. In fact, Federer’s ratings have seen a steady decline since the first quarter of the season.

The trends on the women’s tour reveal a number of dynamic storylines. Simona Halep has had several peaks a troughs over 2018. And although she sits at the top of the ratings, her streak of three first round losses (the last in Beijing due to retirement) make her position a precarious one.

Halep’s vulnerability in the ratings is even greater when we look at the recent upswing that No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki has had. Wozniacki was on a down turn throughout the season until something clicked for her in China and her rating skyrocketed.

Serena Williams has also been improving through a season with very sporadic play. But with the controversy around her season ending performance at the US Open, it is anyone’s guess where her head and form will be come January.

Its fascinating to see that the three women who round out the last places of the top 8 have all had incredible periods of improvement. The youngster, Aryna Sabalenka, has had, like Wozniacki, one of the most dramatic ratings up swings over the shortest period of time. How much she can sustain that trend into next year and beyond hard court play will be something to look out for in 2019.

Of all of the top women, Kiki Bertens is hands down the most improved. From a low of 1671 toward the start of the year, Bertens has achieved a peak rating of 2050, overshadowing even Djokovic’s level of improvement. And she has been able to improve on her performance for most of the year, making it clear that this gain is more than a blip. A big question in 2019 will be how much further up in the ratings Bertens can go?

Stephanie Kovalchik avatar
About Stephanie Kovalchik
Blog Founder, Senior Data Scientist at the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia, and researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
Graeme Spence avatar
About Graeme Spence
Data Scientist in the Game Insight Group at Tennis Australia and researcher at the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University.
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