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Are Junior Rankings Truly An Indicator of Future Success?

Rafael Nadal

I read a very interesting post this morning on showing the top 10 men and women currently playing on the pro tour with their highest junior ITF rankings.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Now it would be interesting to see a study on how many Top 10 ATP/WTA players over the past 15 years were never top 10 in the juniors. I’ve done a tiny bit of that research on the current ATP/WTA Top 10s and here’s the numbers, with the player’s highest ITF singles ranking in parentheses.

1. Novak Djokovic (24)
2. Rafael Nadal (145)
3. Roger Federer (1)
4. Andy Murray (2)
5. David Ferrer (-)
6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2)
7. Tomas Berdych (6)
8. Mardy Fish (14)
9. Janko Tipsarevic (1)
10. John Isner (93)

1. Victoria Azarenka (1)
2. Maria Sharapova (6)
3. Petra Kvitova (27)
4. Agnieszka Radwanska (1)
5. Samantha Stosur (27)
6. Caroline Wozniacki (2)
7. Marion Bartoli (2)
8. Na Li (20)
9. Vera Zvonareva (3)
10. Andrea Petkovic (36)

The one that jumped out at me was Rafa’s 145 ranking.  145???  Really???  Is anyone else shocked by that number?

To me, it simply reinforces the idea that players develop at their own pace.  That how a player performs at age 10 or 12 or even 16 may not be a true indicator of their eventual up-side potential.  That continuing to work hard, staying passionate and purposeful during practices, may pay off in the long run.  That writing off a player at a young age because he or she isn’t tall enough or strong enough or fast enough or disciplined enough could be a huge mistake.  That, in terms of junior player development, each kid goes at his or her own speed.  That the kid who is #145 in the juniors may wind up being #1 as a professional.

It reinforces my belief in my own son’s ability to continue growing as a player and realizing his tennis dreams.  Each new day brings new opportunities to improve.  Each drill session, each fitness session, each practice set, each high school match, each tournament bring new opportunities to get better and better.  Who knows what the end result will be?  All I know is that, as long as my kid keeps working hard and maintains his passion for tennis, I will be there cheering him on to victory.


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