Tennis 5 Year Plan

Picking a winner at the Australian Open – the Easy Way (added 17 Jan 2011)


Tennis tipsters all want to pick a winner at the Australian Open.  Logic suggests that the best way to do it is to carefully follow the progress of all the main chances – perhaps the top 10 – 20 in each the men’s and women’s draw.  Then add a few up and comers into the mix as well.  It that looks like a lot of work to you – it is!


A far simpler and quite effective way to do it is to use the Penny Dredfell “Five Year Plan”.


Here is how it works:  once a player breaks into the top ten, they have five years to win the Australian Open. After that, it is too late.  And when they win their first one, they often go on to win multiple titles.  This rule helps you eliminate those whose window of opportunity has passed.  It also helps you to narrow down the list to the genuine chances.  Add to this the fact that the only player to win “from nowhere” since the Aus Open left Kooyong was Thomas Johansson.  He was the 16th seed and so not a total surprise.  Some also saw Mary Pierce as a sort of one hit wonder when she won, but she had consolidated herself in the top ten the previous calendar year.


The Five Year Plan plus the “Almost Nobody from Nowhere” rule combine to give you a very short list of possible winners for this Grand Slam tournament. 


The tables provided below track winners of the Aus Open (their first win only listed!) since 1988 when it was played at Melbourne Park. Before that, it was on grass at Kooyong.


History of the winners

Players who won their first Aus Open 1987 to current

Name                           Year won                    Years since made top ten in their            

 winning year

Ivan Lendl                  1989                            9 (not so good on grass)*

Boris Becker               1991                            6 (but 5 REAL years)**

Jim Courier                  1992                            1

Pete Sampras               1994                            4

Andre Agassi              1995                            7***

Petr Korda                  1998                            7****

Yevgeny Kafelnikov   1999                            4

Thomas Johansson      2002                            0

Roger Federer             2004                            2

Marat Safin                 2005                            5

Novak Djokovic          2008                            1

Rafael Nadal               2009                            4


* Lendl won for the first time in 1989, but he was a relatively poor grass player and the Open was on grass pre 1987, so this anomaly can be discounted.


** Good grass player Becker won in 1991, six years after reaching the top ten in 1985. But there was no tournament in 1986, so it took him 5 Aus Opens to win


*** Agassi hit top ten in 1988; but his career stalled as he dropped back to a ranking of 17 in 1992 and then 31 in 1994. He then virtually began a new career in 1995 when he was ranked 1 or 2 the whole year


**** Petr Korda was banned for illegal drug use in the year that he won the Open.

Having explained away all the historical exceptions, let me tell you what it means for the tennis this year.  All previous winners, according to my theory, have a chance to win again.


Player                                     Status              Reason

1 Nadal, Rafael (ESP)            Can Win          Previous winner

2 Federer, Roger (SUI)           Can Win          Previous winner

3 Djokovic, Novak (SRB)      Can Win          Previous winner

4 Soderling, Robin (SWE)      Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

5 Murray, Andy (GBR)          Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2012

6 Berdych, Tomas (CZE)        Last Chance    5 Year window expires in 2011

7 Ferrer, David (ESP)             Last Chance    5 Year window expires in 2011

8 Roddick, Andy (USA)        Cannot Win   5 Year window expired in 2007

9 Verdasco, Fernando (ESP)  Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

10 Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS)   Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2013


No great surprises there and all the top fancies are in this list.  And this shows that Roddick’s chances here have been Slammed shut and never to open again (if you will pardon the puns).  Lleyton Hewitt’s 5 year plan closed when he lost the 2005 Open to Marat Safin. 


Narrowing it down slightly, there are probably only 4 chances: the 3 previous winners and Murray.  Andy Murray fits well – being high enough ranked and in his 3rd / 4th year in the top 10.


Where things tend to get interesting is the women’s event. 


The women


History of the winners

Players who won their first Aus Open 1991 to current

Name                           Year won                    Years since made top ten in their            

 winning year

Steffi Graf                  1988                            3

Monica Seles               1991                            1

Mary Pierce                 1995                            1

Martina Hingis            1997                            0

Lindsay Davenport     2000                            6*

Jennifer Capriati          2001                            10**

Serena Williams          2003                            4

Justine Henin              2004                            3

Amelie Mauresmo       2006                            6***

Maria Sharapova         2009                            5


* Lindsay Davenport made the top ten in 1994 (slipping out again the next year) before winning in 2000 (6 years after reaching the top ten). My feeble excuse here is that, at 189cm or just over 6 foot 2 inches, she would have taken longer to fully mature (from a top ten player to a genuine star) than the average sized players.  Compare Lindsay against the much shorter Martina Hingis who won all her five majors before her nineteenth birthday.


** Jennifer Capriati had a seven year hiatus between here top ten ranking in 1993 and 2000, so she is an obvious exception to the rule.


*** Mauresmo was the exception having made top ten briefly in 1999 and winning in 2006.  I will put this exception down to the extreme heat in 2006.  She seemed to cope better than most and a couple of here opponents that year were severely hampered or unable to go on.


The women are more prevalent than the men in winning multiple trophies.

In the modern era, the multiple winners are:

Steffi Graf (4)

Monica Seles (4)

Martina Hingis (3)

Jennifer Capriati (2 – one when Hingis “melted” on court)

Serena Williams (4 – each win two years apart)


(Margaret Court won an amazing 11 Aus Opens in her day on grass)


Understanding the Five Year Plan has greatly helped tennis tipsters in recent years.

Remember Serena in 2007?  She arrived in Australia “a little above herself in condition” (in racing parlance0, as was given no chance at all to win.  But those who followed the Five Year Plan would have included her in the chances – and at juicy odds as well.  The trick was to ignore the very recent history.

Again, in 2009, Venus was favourite to win the whole thing.  She reached the top ten in 1998.  Her Aus Open window expired in 2003 when she lost to sister Serena.  Since that loss (like Lleyton’s Aus Open history since his loss to Safin as mentioned above) she has been nowhere close to the title.  But she was favourite with the bookies before last year’s Open after impressing late in 2008.  The lesson:  don’t get sucked in by good recent form – follow the process. 


Last year, Aussie Kim Clijsters, although not a top seed, was equal favourite to win the tournament.  But her five year window expired in 2001. And, of course, she didn’t win.


This year’s list (as per top ten seeds) is as follows:


Player                                     Status              Reason

1 Caroline Wozniacki DEN    Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

2 Vera Zvonareva RUS          Cannot Win   5 Year window expired in 2009

3 Kim Clijsters BEL               Cannot Win   5 Year window expired in 2003

4 Venus Williams USA           Cannot Win   5 Year window expired in 2003

5 Samantha Stosur AUS         Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

6 Francesca Schiavone ITA    Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

7 Jelena Jankovic SRB            Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2012

8 Victoria Azarenka BLR       Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2014

9 Na Li CHN                          Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2015

10 Shahar Peer ISR                 Can Win          5 Year window expires in 2015

11 Justine Henin BEL             Can Win          Previous winner

14 Maria Sharapova RUS       Can Win          Previous winner

The big news here is that Kim is favourite again and cannot win (according to the Five Year Plan), not can well fancied Vera Zvonareva and Venus Williams.


To narrow down the chances here is more difficult than the men’s, but it would probably be safe to eliminate Schiavone, Jankovic, Azarenka and Peer from the above list.          


Penny Dredfell