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Friday, September 14, 2007
Grand Slam efficiency rating

Discussing a loss at Wimbledon one year, Jimmy Connors famously said, "If the sun rose and set on Wimbledon, a lot of guys wouldn't have a suntan." We can now safely add, "And Pete Sampras and Roger Federer would be in an IC unit somewhere, suffering from severe third-degree burns."

We know who the big dogs are at Wimbledon and the other Grand Slams that give certain players a certain glow of health and wealth, but it's time to acknowledge those sub-Hall of Fame competitors who may not win majors but really lift their games for them -- the dudes who fight their guts out and do relatively well at Slams on a consistent basis without ever winning them. And let's identify some highly ranked or big-name players who underperform when it comes to the majors.

A few weeks ago, Rosangel, one of the regular contributors at my TennisWorld blog, crunched the numbers on a long list of ATP pros to come up with a Grand Slam efficiency rating, which statistically quantified the most consistent Grand Slam performers of this era.

Roger Federer (surprise!) is atop the leaderboard, averaging 4.09 wins per Slam. That's a statement on something many of us forget: Roger's "slow start" as an impact player. Those first 16 slams, in which Federer never reached a quarterfinal, pull down his average -- although he is still averaging one win per Slam more than did Pete Sampras. The overall Open era leader is Bjorn Borg, with a whopping 5.22 average.

And consider this: For all the grief Andy Roddick takes for being unable to beat Federer, or failing to add a second Grand Slam title to his collection, his average of 3.07 wins over 27 majors leaves him third, behind Federer and Rafael Nadal. Dude ain't into sunscreen, I guess.

Here are some of the surprises she unearthed:

Despite having a reputation for choking or mailing in subpar performances at majors, David Nalbandian, while ranked No. 23, has averaged three wins per slam (in 24 appearances). This represents a higher percentage than either James Blake (No. 6, but with a paltry 1.74 wins per slam) or Lleyton Hewitt (now No. 21, but a former No. 1 whose career average in Slams is 2.97).

No. 4 Nikolay Davydenko has played in 27 majors, but his average is an anemic 1.85. It may be cold comfort for Kolya the Obscure, but current No. 12 Ivan Ljubicic stinks out the big joints even worse than Davydenko. Although he finished 2006 at No. 5, Ljubicic doesn't even average a win per Slam (.97).

Although Mario Ancic is ranked a measly No. 40, with an average of two wins per Slam, he's ahead of newly retired Tim Henman (lifetime: 1.98), No. 11 Tommy Robredo (1.96) and former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis (1.92). Granted, Ancic's low ranking is partly due to time away due to injury, but -- let's be frank about this -- how many people out in Sportsworld have even heard of Mario Ancic?