It’s Day 11 of the Australian Open and so far we’ve been focusing on the more technical proponents of a player’s game and how these have either afforded them the prospects of making it “this far” at the Australian Open, or why they haven’t quite been able to amp up their game and deliver on the Grand Slam stage. Given this stage of the Australian Open and with the Quarterfinals underway, there are two primary matches that deserve wider focus for different albeit similar reasons. The first off the bat is Zheng v Kalinskaya and the focus here is going to be on the player who wasn’t the one to progress to the semifinals — Kalinskaya who was quite the surprise packet in respect to rankings this Australian Open, along with a number of other players, but let’s place the spotlight on this “newcomer”.
As previously shared, a player is placed on the “radar” with a Round of 16 result or greater at the Grand Slam level. Sometimes there are exceptions, but this is typically the case. That, and a player ascending inside the Top 10 tennis rankings. Typically, these two go hand in hand and I’m a firm believer (and so is the data) that a player inside the Top 10 tennis rankings “should” progress to the Round of 16 or greater at a Grand Slam.
After all, there are four Grand Slams per year and the Round of 16 represents the “best 16 players” at a given tournament that are prepared to deliver. And by deliver this is in respect to the 8 Keys to the initial 7 Keys and the markers in the “What is Your Game Missing Series” to the new release “How to Develop a Top 10 Tennis Ranking“.
Of course there are exceptions. These are in respect to a Top 10 player “falling” to an in-form player who has come out of the brickworks — like Kalinskaya. That said, it is expected that this does not happen EVERY Grand Slam. It is reasonable then for a Top 10 player to progress to the Round of 16 at least three times per season at the Grand Slam level with a 25% rate for the anomaly. This marker is quite high but so are those of Top 10 players with the markers to Win Grand Slams and much more. One off anomalies are exceptions, but they do not achieve the Golden Rule to replicated success. Whether coming up against eventual US Open Champion Radacanu, first time quarterfinalist Kalinskaya or a qualifier — Yastremska, you get the gist — a Top 10 player with the 8 Keys does not fall consistently, rather they battle through more often than not. But there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.
And this is why Kalinskaya is getting the spotlight. Not only is her game — after a careful analytical dive, meeting a number of the markers of the 7 Keys, but her ability to toe the line with the best in the world really needs to be highlighted. Zheng is the No. 12 seed and the first barrier breaker on the WTA for the 2024 season. Recall, there’s only 2% of players each season who cross this threshold with the exception for the anomalies. This is not an anomaly given Zheng’s more recent results at the 2023 US Open. But how Zheng progressed — against Wang and Kalinskaya was incredibly fortunate given both of these players were not ranked even remotely close to this ranking range, and yet they both pushed Zheng to the absolute max.
Kostyuk is another player who deserves the spotlight and has very similar metrics to Kalinskaya — both progressing to their very first quarterfinal at a Grand Slam which was unexpected. But there’s one thing both these players have in common and that is their respective metrics. Kostyuk is primed to ascend towards the Top 20 with her calibre of play. Kalinskaya, if she’s able to maintain this level of play she’ll soon be heading towards the Top 20 as well.
And then there are the current Top 10 players who are primed for Grand Slam success — but half of who are not. A little controversial, sure, but the same applies for the ATP tour and why Zverev defeating Alcaraz was not as shocking as it seems. If you’ve been familiar with Zverev you know he came close to claiming his maiden Championship some years ago. Before then, he was inside the Top 10 quite comfortably and did so with the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. And he was able to hold his own inside the 8% for a number of seasons. A player who has that kind of capacity has the 8 Keys. Does Alcaraz have the 8 Keys? You bet. But the differential here is in pressure and who was able to come out of the gates firing — first. And that was Zverev.
That’s all it takes against a player inside the Top 10 — against another Top 10 player plus the 8th Key being solidified in their game. The level of maintenance counts.
Whilst there is so much more to say and share here for Day 11 I’m going to leave the rest for our upcoming episode. Why? Because it’s equal parts exciting and entrenched with data that explains these endpoints — and is also shared in “How to Develop a Top 10 Tennis Ranking” and its predecessor “The 7 Keys to Optimise Your Life: Using Tennis to Develop Behaviours that Deliver Optimal Performances in Play and in Life”.
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