Thursday, 8 November 2012

100th Best in the World

Tennis is a strange sport in that often, people will talk about a player who is ranked between 50 and 100, for example, as if he or she is a nobody. They see Murray struggling against a guy ranked 60 places lower and criticism rains down as if it is inconceivable that he should even give up a set. They see Nadal losing to the number 100 and it's as if the apocalypse is upon us! Many will sneer at the Challenger Tour, even ex-players, who often seem to view it as an almost comical tour. Yet even players inside the top 50 will occasionally step down to that level to play the odd event. I see traders all the time, who are quick to knock a player purely because of ranking, despite the fact they are well inside the top 100. If you look at football or rugby, do you think the best 100 players would be treated in the same manner? No chance! They'd be regarded as part of an elite group of prime athletes.

I think people tend to forget that these are the greatest 100 players on the entire planet. They've fought hard over many years (since they were toddlers for the vast majority), through junior levels, Futures Tour events and then the Challenger Tour, playing in front of one man and his dog, often for just enough to cover their travel expenses - if that. It's very competitive and only the toughest and most talented survive. There are millions of recreational tennis players worldwide. The ITF has 144 member nations and although the number of pro players worldwide is unknown, we are talking about many thousands (when you take into account ATP World Tour, Challenger Tour, Futures Tour and those earning a living in national leagues such as the German Bundesliga and the French and Japanese leagues, which are lucrative enough that many players prefer to just play locally).

To make that leap up to ATP level is a massive achievement and so if you get anywhere near the top 100, you have done it against the odds. To be the 100th best player in the entire world, out of millions of others who dream of doing the same, is a feat which should really be marvelled at and held in high regard. Yet for some reason, it's not. I think it's mostly because the average person doesn't understand what it takes to become  a top sportsman or hasn't been through anything in their own life which means they can relate to the experience. Instead, they just see a number, (a completely arbitrary one, but 100 is nice and round, so it's easy to choose that as a marker) and judge everyone based on that, without thinking of the player's age, experience, past form and most importantly, what it takes to actually make it in the sport. We look at 'one hundred' and it sounds and feels like a lot, when in the context of the entire tennis world, it's just a tiny drop in the ocean.

I've found that since I got into trading, I have a better understanding of what it takes for players to reach the top. That's partly down to having a greater knowledge of tennis but also because of what I've been through as a trader. If someone was to say to me that I was the 100th best tennis trader in the world, I would be ecstatic! Why? Because I now know just how difficult it is to even get into the top 5, 10, 15, 20% of traders. That's my ultimate aim because if I can reach that elite percentage (whatever the figure is for long term winners) it will mean that I'm a successful trader. It's easy to laugh at someone and say "she's only ranked 132" or "he's not even in the top 50" but next time you do so, have a think about what that number really means. Then maybe, have a think about how close you would be to getting into any top 100 list. A ranking of 103(ish) will sneak you into the last available space of a Grand Slam tennis tournament main draw. I'm guessing the vast majority of us would not be anywhere near making the main draw of a Grand Slam Trading event, if one were to exist!

Maria Kirilenko:


  1. Awesome post... completely agree. We many sometimes forget all the sacrifice behind any who tries to play this at a professional level. In the end, there can just be one Federer, one Nadal, on Djokovic, one Murray.

    And besides, classifying for a Grand Slam is a huge achievement and experience... because you probably get to know Maria! :).

    Seriously, great great post. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Cobo, much appreciated!

  3. I 100% agree with you. Fighting your way to number 100 in the world is still a fantastic achievement.


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