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Dominic Thiem performed better on the serving side of the equation relative to his peers to crack the Top 20.

Dominic Thiem: One Per Cent Makes A Huge Difference

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers looks at the margins to break into the Top 20

A major milestone of our sport is to be ranked Top 20 in the world. It’s a lifelong dream for so many, representing an elite tier in tennis that signifies taking titles and winning a whole lot more matches than you lose. 

But you may be surprised to learn how fine, at least statistically, the margin is to push from the Top 40 to the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. An Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers analysis reveals that the move from 40 to 20 is predicated on improving your points-won percentage by less than 1 per cent.

Dominic Thiem, the 22-year-old Austrian, is ranked No. 10 in the world this week, and finished 2015 ranked No. 20. He finished 2014 ranked 39 in the world, so he is clearly on track to halve his ranking from the year previous in recent times. Thiem’s 2015 match record was 36-26, excluding Davis Cup matches.

The following table divides Thiem’s points won and lost into two distinct categories from the 2015 season – from the matches he won, and the matches he lost.

 Dominic Thiem 2015 season   Matches won (36)  Matches lost (26) 
 Points won   2840  2178
 Points lost  2434  2445
 Difference  +406  -267

Overall in 2015, Thiem only won 139 points more than he lost. Out of 9897 points, he won 5018, lost 4879, which calculates to an unbelievably close winning margin of 50.7 per cent of all points played. Essentially, Thiem took a 50-50 battle, tipped it 0.7 per cent in his favour, and reached the Top 20.

This season, Thiem has been as high as No. 7 in the world, and currently sits at No. 10. He is 48-15 in 2016, but has still only won 51 per cent of total points.

What does all this mean? Because the margins in our sport are so incredibly small, it’s vital to stick to the highest percentage patterns of play when serving, returning, rallying and approaching. There are a variety of playing styles that can catapult you into the Top 20 in the world, and Thiem performed better on the serving side of the equation relative to his peers.

In 2015, ATP Stats LEADERBOARDS show that Thiem finished 31st in the Serve Leaders category powered by the Infosys Information Platform and 58th in the Return Leaders category. Thiem’s performance on second serves was a bright spot. He finished 11th on tour in this category, winning 54.8 per cent of points.

Reaching the Top 20 in the world will always be a coveted goal in our sport. Creating the balance of power to achieve it is actually a lot closer than we ever realised.

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