Quickie: Compared debuting #1s stats

This is one of those few posts when blog and Twitter collide. I, the stats wizard, the master of the dark wizardries of applied numbers to give tennis standards, for the first time in a good while post an article here not expressing an opinion nor something like.

It’s a comparative, but the different kind of comparison: it’s merely a curiosity I wanted to know myself and thought you, faithful readers – and mainly Nolefans – would also appreciate to know.

Here’s the deal: After six weeks, Novak Djokovic is FINALLY debuting as the best-ranked player in the world. He tops the list at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. So, I was wondering, not sure you were too, where the former #1s – active and retired – debuted after becoming, well, the number one? Here’s what I collected:

Active players:

Lleyton HEWITT: Turned #1 on 19.11.2001. First event: Davis Cup final v. France, lost to Nicolás Escude in the first match as #1.

Juan Carlos FERRERO: Turned #1 on 08.09.2003. First event: Davis Cup semifinal v. Argentina, won the first match, d. Gaudio in 3 sets.

Andy RODDICK: Turned #1 on 03.11.2003. First event: ’03 Masters Cup; Won first match as #1, d. #7 Moyá in three sets. Outcome: Lost in the semifinals to #3 Federer.

Roger FEDERER: Turned #1 on 02.02.2004. First event: Davis Cup 1st Round (WG) v. Romania, won the first match, d. Hanescu in three sets.

Rafael NADAL: Turned #1 on 18.08.2008. First event: ’08 US Open; Won first match over #136 Phau in straight sets. Outcome: Lost in the semifinals to #6 Murray.


So, funnily enough, none of the active former-#1s won the title in their first event as number 1 – tenderized by the fact three of the five debuted at Davis Cup ties. But what if we come back a little more?

Gustavo KUERTEN turned #1 on 04.12.2000, and played his first match as the leader of the ranking v. Gaston Gaudio at the 2001 Australian Open. He won, but eventually lost in the next round to Greg Rusedski.

Marat SAFIN became #1 on 20.11.2000, having the Masters Cup as his first event. He beat #7 Corretja in the first match, but ended up losing in the semifinals to #8 Agassi.

Patrick RAFTER was number one for only one week, between 26.07.1999 and the first of August; he did not play a single tournament as the #1.

Yevgeny KAFELNIKOV was the first Russian to become #1, on 03.05.1999, and played for the first time at the Rome Masters, winning the first match against #158 Woodruff, but losing in the third round to #14 Kuerten.

Pete SAMPRAS, who topped the rankings for the first time by 12.04.1993, played for the first time in Hong Kong, defeating #71 Simian in the first round and eventually claiming the title over #2 Courier.

Andre AGASSI, finally, rose to the top spot in the ATP rankings of 10.04.1995. His first event played was on the very same week he turned #1, in Tokyo. He beat #103 Ho in the second round out of a bye, and made it all the way to the final, losing then to #15 Courier.


(Of course, I selected some of the most recent players to turn into #1 and Agassi/Sampras. There are 25 guys to analyse, and that’s a bit too much – at least for the this post. Who knows one day?)

Uff, that’s it. Can Nole be the first player in a good while to win his first tournament as #1?

And… I hope you liked it 😉


About Pete S. Liguori
Pete was born in São Paulo, Brasil. Loves sports - pigskin fanatic, tennis lover. One of his most famous quotes is "I'm no Tolstoi, but I love the Dallas Cowboys" His favorite quote of all time is "I'll keep playing", unknown author.

One Response to Quickie: Compared debuting #1s stats

  1. The NFL season is finally upon us! I’m ready to see some poweful hits and well drawn plays. Who is my pick for the Superbowl winner? Right now I would have to say that I think the Ravens or the Patriots look like they have the best chance. My most liked part of the NFL is that you never know who is going to be victorious. Drama and excitement, welcome home Football!

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