As the race to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals hots up, European players will once again dominate the singles competition at The O2.
Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro has booked his place in London, but he could be left flying the flag for non-Europeans, with only Milos Raonic of Canada in with an outside chance of qualifying for the eight-man season finale.
Gone are the days that the sport was dominated by the Americans. Where once the likes of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi ruled the courts, the USA has not boasted a world No.1 in the men’s game since Roger Federer usurped Andy Roddick in February 2004.
John Isner is the highest-ranked American in the men’s rankings at No.14, although the women fare better with Serena Williams dominating the women’s game with youngster Sloane Stephens on the cusp of breaking into the world’s Top Ten.
China’s Li Na dilutes the high concentration of Eastern Europeans in the women’s elite, while Australia’s Sam Stosur was until recently a regular member of the Top Ten.
While Williams may be top of the pile, the depth of European tennis talent is marked in the WTA rankings. In November 1991 there were 54 Europeans in the Top 100. There are now 74 – an increase of 37%.
In the men’s game there is a similar trend. Twenty-two years ago there were 59 European players in the ATP Top 100. By August this year this figure had risen to 77, an increase of 31%. What’s more, 25 of the top 30 men’s players were European.
It’s not just at the top either. Since 2009, there has been a 6% increase in the number of European players ranked by both the ATP and WTA.
Having returned to world No.1 in recent weeks, Rafael Nadal leads the Spanish charge at the top of the men’s game – Spain have won the Davis Cup four times in the last decade, while USA (2007) are the only non-European team to have lifted the trophy since Australia in 2003.
Indeed, with 14 Spaniards and as many Frenchman in the top 100 in August, the two countries alone outnumber non-Europeans (23).
But there is reason to be cheerful for British tennis fans. The men’s team is back in the Davis Cup World Group for the first time since 2008, while there were more British players (58) than any other nationality at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
Of course, wildcards contributed to this figure, but the All England Club is known for its stringent wildcard selection process, and is noteworthy when considering the USA had provided the most players at the previous five Championships.
There is notable improvement in the rankings from a British perspective, especially on the men’s side. In August this year, Britain had 18 players in the top 500, twice the number it had five years earlier.
There are 71 British players ranked by the ATP, up 31% from five years ago, while at grass roots level, 14% of all European club members live in the United Kingdom.
In the men’s game, Spain and France are leading the way in the professional game, but as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory shows, British tennis is not being left behind as tennis in Europe continues to head in the right direction.
SPORTS MARKETING SURVEYS INC. is an experienced and focused sports research business servicing the sports facility, equipment and sports goods industry. SMS INC. is a partner member of TIA UK and TIA UK News thanks them for supplying the stats used as the basis for this piece.