Concentration of power through time

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
In the "Why did Sampras give up on clay" Carpedm said in a very good post " Back in the 90’s, you literally had ten to twelve guys that had it within their grasp to win a Grand Slam tournament at any given time. Today, you have four guys and then the field all with an equal chance, which is not a commentary on the field. It’s just the way the game shapes up today. "

This is a very common view on the 90's, and I wanted to check with datas its veracity. For each years since 91, I wrote down the winner of each slam, the runner-up and both semi-finalist. I quickly saw that the first half of the 90's was heavily dominated by a small number of players who monopolized most of the SF places, while the second half was a lot more open, with many outsiders reaching SF or better.

I then decided to count how many different players won a slam in the first half of the 90's, how many different players (who didn't won a slam) were runner-up, and how many different players (who didn't reach a final) reached the SF. I then did the same for the second half on the 90's, and every next five years span until 2015 (obviously not complete).

Here is a description of what I found:

1991-1995: the 20 slams were divided between 8 difference winners (Becker, Courier, Stich, Edberg, Agassi, Bruguera, Sampras, Muster. These same players were the runner-up most of the time. Only 6 other players reached a final (Lendl, Korda, Ivanisevic, Pioline, Martin, Beratasegui, Chang). 14 others players only reached the SF, among them Connors, McEnroe, Krajicek.

All in all, these 5 years saw 14 different finalists and 28 different semi-finalists.

1996-2000: The 20 slams were divided between 10 winners ( Becker, Kafelnikov, Krajicek, Sampras, Kuerten, Rafter, Korda, Agassi, Moya, Safin). 14 others players reached the finals, and 19 difference players reached only the SF.

That's 24 finalists, and 43 different players reaching the final four. These datas show that the idea that a dozen players could make noise at each slam is a lot more true during the second part of the 90's than during the first one.

Now between 2001-2005, we had even more different slam winners, with 12 different winners, but a fewer different finalist (8) and fewer different semi-finalist (11). That's 20 different finalists, and 33 different players reaching the final four.

Then from 2005-2010, the "concentration of power" is quiet similar to what we saw in 91-95: Only 4 different slam winners, 7 others finalists, and 15 different semifinalist. That's 11 different finalists (14 in 91-95), 26 different players reaching the final fours (28 in 91-95).

And if we want to discuss true "concentration of power", then the 2010's is the decade to discuss: 6 different winners (thanks to Stan and Marin), only 2 others players who failed in finals (Ferrer and Pishikori), and only 6 different semi-finalists. In all, only 14 different players monopolized all the semi-finalist places from 2011 to AO 2015.

SO what do you think of these datas? Could we say more things with them if I counted differently (than arbritary 5 years spans for example)? Would it be interesting to ad the 80's? Do you think the datas for the 91-95 invalidate the idea that "anyone" could win at that time, while the datas for 96-2005(3) confirm it? How is it that the"concentration of power" is every stronger in the 2010's than in the 2005's? Further homogenization of surfaces, techniques, rackets?

I look forward for your feedback.

Note: Remind the bolded part in Carpedm quotation: this is not a discussion on the "strength" or "depth" of the Sampras era vs the Federer era.
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
Interesting thread, I think concentration in this case can be viewed in different ways. Does having a higher number of slam winners point to a very competitive field or the lack of a strong top flight.

I think finalists is probably the line I'd draw in terms of who was a slam threat. A lower tier player can reach a SF and still have no chance of really winning the whole thing in real terms - Melzer FO 2010 or Bjorkman Wim 2006.

Perhaps the best way to do this would be to count how many repeat finalists there were? Call reaching 2 slam finals (win or lose) the cut off.
 

Indio

Semi-Pro
Does having a higher number of slam winners point to a very competitive field or the lack of a strong top flight.
This is fairly easy to answer. When the players who have won majors or have reached finals aren't succeeding, whom are they losing to? If they're knocking each other off late in tournaments, while dominating the lesser ranks, you probably have a strong group. If, however, they're losing relatively early to low-ranked players, you have a weak group.
 

NatF

Bionic Poster
This is fairly easy to answer. When the players who have won majors or have reached finals aren't succeeding, whom are they losing to? If they're knocking each other off late in tournaments, while dominating the lesser ranks, you probably have a strong group. If, however, they're losing relatively early to low-ranked players, you have a weak group.
Sometimes relatively low ranked players can be former great players exceeding themselves for a match. Or up and comers.

But point taken.
 

pc1

G.O.A.T.
Sometimes relatively low ranked players can be former great players exceeding themselves for a match. Or up and comers.

But point taken.
An example could be Kuerten beating Federer in the French one year. Or you can even used the example when Sampras won the 2002 US Open because he was considered relatively low ranked and was thought to be washed up.
 
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NatF

Bionic Poster
An example could be Kuerten beating Federer in the French one year. Or you can even used the example when Sampras won the 2002 US Open because he was considered relatively low ranked and was thought to be washed up.
Indeed, some though Kuerten could go all the way after that.

Another example might be Kyrgios beating Nadal at Wimbledon last year. He played a great match despite being just 19.
 

Indio

Semi-Pro
Sometimes relatively low ranked players can be former great players exceeding themselves for a match. Or up and comers.

But point taken.
Let me show through example the difference between a strong year and a weak one (referring only to the players who won majors or were losing finalists). 2002 seems to be the year most often cited as being very weak (in recent memory). I'll compare it to 2003, which I consider to be a good, though not great, year. In each case I'll show the players' basic achievements for the year, beginning with won-lost total, titles won and results at majors, in chronological order.

2002:
Hewitt 61-15...5W...1--4--W--SF and the year-end championship
Agassi 53-12...5W..._--QF--2--F
Safin 56-26...1W...F--SF--2--2
Ferrero 48-25...2W..._--F--2--3
Costa 35-22...1W...4--W--_--2
Nalban.36-24...2W...2--3--F--1
Samp. 27-17...1W...4--1--2--W
Johan. 29-24...1W...W--2--1--_

You can see that in most cases, the players achieved very little beyond the one good run. Undoubtedly, those players played well in their solitary runs, but the core group, who played consistently well (more or less) throughout the year, is limited to Hewitt and Agassi, and even they didn't have sensational years.

2003:
Roddick 72-19...6W...SF--1--SF--W
Federer 78-17...7W...4--1--W--F and the year-end championship
Ferrero 67-21...4W...QF--W--4--F
Agassi 47-10...4W...W--QF--4--SF
Schuet. 71-30...2W...F--4--4--4
Philip. 38-20...1W...3--2--F--3
Verkerk 25-25...1W...1--F--1--2

In this case, there are four players in the top group, all having very good years, though again, none sensational.
 

Flash O'Groove

Hall of Fame
Interesting thread, I think concentration in this case can be viewed in different ways. Does having a higher number of slam winners point to a very competitive field or the lack of a strong top flight.

I think finalists is probably the line I'd draw in terms of who was a slam threat. A lower tier player can reach a SF and still have no chance of really winning the whole thing in real terms - Melzer FO 2010 or Bjorkman Wim 2006.

Perhaps the best way to do this would be to count how many repeat finalists there were? Call reaching 2 slam finals (win or lose) the cut off.
I disagree that the semifinalists aren't interesting because in many cases, a SF could have won the whole thing! For example Wimbledon 1995, the semi-finalist were Sampras (winner), Becker (runner-up), Ivanisevic and Agassi. 1996, they are Krajicek, Washington, Stoltenberg, Martin. That's quiet a difference!

In my datas, the wimbledon 1995 translate into more concentration (every player in the SF and in the final had already been counted because they reached at least once these rounds before, in the 1991-1995 time span). while the wimbeldon 1996 translate into less concentration: only Martin will reach the final four another time in the 1996-2000 time spam.

So regarding your question wether or note the "concentration" show a weaker or a stronger field, I think we can't answer to it yet.

I think the first thing these datas show is that it is not the 90's which were wide open, with a dozen or so potential winners, but more specifically the 96-2002 or so years. But this doesn't say anything about the strength of the field by itself. We need to link these datas with others, for example surface homogenization, technological change, etc.

I mean, what changed around 1995, 2005 and againt in 2010, which could explain these important changes in concentration of power?
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Nobody dominated from 1998-2003, really. 1996 was also more open than usual. Around 2002, it really felt like virtually every player in the field could potentially win a major. What a stark contrast to today, where only a small handful of players are seen as potential major winners before a major tournament begins.
 
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