GRAND SLAM TENNIS ARCHIVE
GRAND SLAM TENNIS STATISTICS


OTHER STATISTICS PAGES

No. 2 HOW WELL DO HOME PLAYERS PERFORM IN THEIR GRAND SLAM EVENTS?

No. 3 WHAT WAS THE CHALLENGE ROUND?

No. 4 WHO LOST IN GRAND SLAM FINALS?

No. 5 WHAT ARE THE MEN'S SINGLES GRAND SLAM RECORDS?

No. 6 WHAT IS A TRIPLE BAGEL?

No. 7 WHAT ARE QUALIFIERS, LUCKY LOSERS AND WILD CARDS?

No. 8 WHO LOST IN GRAND SLAM SEMI FINALS?

No. 9 WHICH GREAT HAD THE BEST RECORD AGAINST OTHER GREATS?

No. 10 WHAT IS SEEDING?

No. 11 WHO WERE THE MOST AND LEAST DOMINANT CHAMPIONS?

No. 12 WHO WERE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL TENNIS FAMILIES?

No. 13 WHAT IS A DEFAULT?

No. 14 WHAT NATIONALITY ARE GRAND AND PRO SLAM CHAMPIONS?

No. 15 WHAT IS A RETIREMENT?

No. 16 WHO WERE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL CHAMPIONS ON EACH SURFACE?


In the first article of the series, the results on this website, displayed as statistics, answer the question:

DO THE TOP MALE PLAYERS HAVE EASIER MATCHES IN THE FIRST WEEK OF GRAND SLAMS THAN THEY DID IN THE PAST?

An examination of every French, Wimbledon and U. S. championship in the open era (minus the French from 1970-72 and Wimbledon from 1972-73, which had many top players absent) reveals some interesting trends. In the open era in the first three rounds of French Open, Wimbledon and U. S. Open, the top sixteen seeds have always played players who are unseeded or seeded from 17 downwards. The following statistics show the percentage of straight sets wins, wins with dropped sets and losses of the top four seeds. The Australian Open hasn't been included because before 1982 there were 64 or less players in the draw and many top players chose not to play in the event. These statistics track the performance of only the very best players. At Wimbledon 2001 seeding from 17-32 was introduced in all the Grand Slams. However, there is no definitive change in the graphs at this point. Some trends have changed from around 2005 onwards, but this is due to the players that are seeded in the top four seeds and their opposition. The fourth round of the singles competitions is always played some time not long after the first Saturday of each Grand Slam event.

The pink/purple line shows straight set wins by the top four seeds, the blue line shows wins by the top four seeds when they dropped one or two sets and the dark green line shows losses of the top four seeds.

FRENCH OPEN
At the French Open there were several years in the late 1990s (and 2004) when only one of the top four seeds reached the fourth round. Few of the top four seeds lost at the French in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact from 1982-89 only one of the top four seeds lost in one year (Stefan Edberg in 1987). Then, from 1990-2000 the top four seeds lost many times in the first week. This was an era when the clay court specialists dominated at the French and some of the higher seeded players' least favourite surface was clay. The French have always seeded according to the World Ranking list, unlike Wimbledon, who take account of each player's ability to play on grass when deciding on seeding. In recent years, though, the trend has reversed. From 2005-2013 the top four seeds have been progressing with much more ease. This is because the top players play consistently better on all surfaces than they did in the 1990s and there are few dangerous clay court specialists that are seeded outside the top 16. Roger Federer usually reached the final of the French, whereas Pete Sampras often lost early.
French Open stats


WIMBLEDON
At Wimbledon at least two of the top four seeds have reached the fourth round (last 16) every year in which the statistics were compiled. There was a period from 1970-71 & 1974-76 when none of the top four seeds bit the dust in the first three rounds. In fact in this period they nearly always won in straight sets. From the late 1970s onwards the top four seeds have been tested more regularly and there have been more losses. This is because the likes of Vilas (whose least favourite surface was grass) were seeded highly. Even grass court experts suffered the occasional early loss (like Becker's loss to Peter Doohan in 1987). From the mid 1990s there were a number of high seeds who bit the dust. Sampras was the only one of the top four seeds who always made the last 16. Federer is always in the last 16 just as he is at the other Grand Slams. Nadal made the final every year he played from 2006-2011, but in 2012 he lost early to Lukas Rosol. A lot of tennis commentators started acting like this was the only big upset that had ever occured, but if they look at these graphs they will see that before 2005 big upsets were commonplace (at the French in 1997 the semi final lineup included 3 unseeded players and the 16th seed).
Wimbledon stats


U. S. OPEN
At the U. S. Open at least two of the top four seeds reached the fourth round every year except 1973. There was a long period from 1975-88 where only one of the top four seeds lost once (Adriano Panatta in 1976). In 1975 the tournament switched from grass to clay (and later to hard). Before that the tournament was held on grass that was not always of the best quality, which meant more upsets. Not only did they not lose from 1975-88, but the top four seeds rarely dropped a set. They had a remarkably easy time. The likes of Borg, Connors, Vilas, McEnroe, Lendl and Wilander were at their peak in these years and they never lost early at the U. S. Open when they were amongst the top four seeds during this period. Things began to change in the late 1980s but only gradually. From 1997 onwards upsets began occuring more regularly and, when not losing, they often had tough matches. However, from 2003 onwards the top four seeds have been winning more comfortably again, though there hasn't been a long run of years without any upsets like there was in the late 1970s and 1980s. In 2017, with Djokovic and Murray absent through injury, the top seeds had a tougher time.
U. S. Open stats


So do the top male players have easier matches in the first week of Grand Slams than they did in the past? The statistics show 1995-2004 was the period when the top four seeds were tested most and most upsets occured. From 2007-15, there has been a significant reduction in upsets at all the Grand Slams (particularly the French and U. S.). Since the solid top four of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray have dominated, the top four seeds have won in straight sets in the first three rounds the majority of the time. You can draw your own conclusions as to why these trends occur. Are top players in eras where they win easily better than those in eras who struggle to win and often lose, or do the players who win easily have weaker opposition, or is there a varying mix of the two factors? It is a safe bet that at least one of the top four seeds will reach the fourth round, as it has happened in every Grand Slam in every year that these statistics cover.

Note: If one of the top seeds withdrew after the seedings were announced but before they were due on court for their first round match, then the fifth seed becomes one of the top four seeds. The most memorable times this occured were at U. S. Open in 1999 when top seed Pete Sampras withdrew and at Wimbledon in 2009 when top seed Rafa Nadal withdrew.

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