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By Nick Georgandis / Thursday, December 5, 2013


Rafael Nadal's 2013 season ranks among the top 10 best individual seasons in the ATP's Open Era. See which other players posted phenomenal years based on our statistical formula.

Photo credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport

Reflecting on the 2013 season, Rafael Nadal seemed to post some pretty impressive stats with his number of wins and ability to finish the year at the No. 1 rank, especially considering the fact that he accomplished it all after an extended injury absence. These results made us wonder how his season ranks among other players’ outstanding individual seasons. And after coming up with a unique formula, it appears that Nadal’s 2013 ranks in the top 10 best.

As's resident stat junkie, I've kicked around a number of ways to quantify the greatest seasons of the Open Era over the last couple of years and finally put together a formula that helps do the trick.

I've labeled it the GMTO model because it measures a player's success in (G)rand Slams, (M)asters, wins over (T)op 10 opponents and (O)verall record. Each of these four categories is equally weighted for 25% of a player's overall score.

Scores in the Grand Slams and Masters categories are calculated as a winning percentage of tournaments won over tournaments entered. A player's overall record and record against Top 10 players are simple percentages calculated by wins over total matches.

For example, in 2013, Nadal won two of the three Grand Slams he entered, 6 of the 9 Masters tournaments, had a 24-5 record against Top 10 opponents and a 75-7 overall record. Each of his percentages is then multiplied by 0.25 since each category represents one-fourth of the total score. Thus:

Grand Slams: 0.1667
Masters: 0.1667
Top 10: 0.2069
Overall: 0.2287
0.1667 + 0.1667 + 0.2069 + 0.2287 = 0.7690

So Nadal's rating is 0.7690 out of a possible 1.000. A player could only achieve the 1.000 ranking if he went an entire season without a loss.

For seasons before the Masters tournaments came into the fold, tournaments of comparable size and depth of field are employed. The fly in the ointment is Rod Laver's 1969 season where he won all four Grand Slams. Records are incomplete from the campaign and rankings did not come into play until 1973, making it impossible to include Laver's dream season in the mix.

Nevertheless, the formula reveals that the two greatest seasons of the Open Era are held by a pair of controversial Americans - John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.

McEnroe's 1984 season comes out on top in the rankings with a rating of 0.8473. McEnroe went 82-3 that year and won Wimbledon and the US Open. Connors' 1974 season, in which he went 93-6, is the second-best with a mark of 0.8241. These are the only two seasons to get a rating over 0.8000.

The third-best season on the list is one still fresh in most tennis fans’ minds - Novak Djokovic's 2011 campaign in which he won three Slams earns him a rating of 0.7984.

Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer are the only men to appear in the Top 10 best seasons more than once. Borg's 1979 is No. 4 and his 1980 season ranks at No. 8. Federer has the fifth, seventh and ninth-best seasons. The complete Top 10 is listed below, based on our calculations.

1) McEnroe 1984               0.8473
2) Connors 1974                0.8241
3) Djokovic 2011                0.7984
4) Borg 1979                      0.7944
5) Federer 2004                 0.7938
6) Lendl 1986                     0.7906
7) Federer 2005                 0.7838
8) Borg 1980                      0.7819
9) Federer 2006                 0.7720
10) Nadal 2013                  0.7690


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