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You look to the other side of the net and the No. 1 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings is standing there. It’s Novak. It’s Rafa. It’s Roger. It’s Andy, and it’s specifically when they are sitting at the pinnacle of our sport.It’s equal parts trepidation and opportunity. How much better is this quartet in full flightcompared to other ATP Tour opponents? How much do you need to raise your level to defeat the No. 1 player in the world?You better bring your A+ game.An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of matches including the top-ranked player from the beginning of the 2015 season, compared to the rest of the Tour, identifies the elevated level of excellence required to capture victory against a reigning No. 1.The “rest of the Tour” grouping is comprised of players who have played a minimum of 50 tour-level matches from the beginning of 2015 until the week of 16 March 2020, when the rankings were frozen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis is specifically focused on matches against Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray only while they were ranked No. 1. Below is how many weeks each player has been ranked No. 1 since the beginning of January 2015.Weeks At No. 1 Since January 2015 (272 weeks)Novak Djokovic = 155 weeksRafael Nadal = 68 weeksAndy Murray = 41 weeksRoger Federer = 8 weeksServingAgainst the rest of the Tour, you're still the favourite if you find yourself serving at 15/30, holding serve on average 58 per cent of the time. But against the World No. 1, you're now the underdog and likely to hold just 45 per cent of the time. Falling just a little behind in your service game against a reigning No. 1 has dire consequences. Nadal was the toughest competitor of the Big Four to hold against at 15/30, at just 43 per cent.The following table includes five serve and five return metrics, as well as the specific situation of breaking immediately after being broken.2015-2020 Comparison: Metrics vs. No. 1 Compared To "Rest Of The Tour" Point Score vs. Rest Of The Tour vs. ATP No. 1 Holding from 15/30 58% 45% Holding from 0/15 65% 52% Holding from 30/30 75% 66% Holding from 40/30 91% 84% Holding from 0/30 43% 31% Breaking from 0/15 38% 25% Breaking from 15/30 45% 34% Breaking from 30/30 27% 20% Breaking from 40/30 11% 7% Breaking from 0/30 59% 39% Breaking after being broken 20% 14% You would think that losing the initial point when serving and moving to 0/15 is not such a big deal, but the percentages of holding significantly drop from around two out of three times (65%) to slightly more than half (52%). And if you were playing against Murray in one of the 41 weeks that the Brit was No. 1, it dropped even lower to 45.1 per cent (65/144).What will stop you in your tracks is the confluence of the following three factors coming together when facing Murray:1. Playing Murray while he was ranked No. 12. Falling behind 0/15 when serving3. Playing the match on a hard courtThe hold percentage for the server from 0/15 was only 41.5 per cent (22/53) with all three of these metrics in play.ReturningWinning the first point when returning and moving the scoreboard to 0/15 is an ideal initial step to breaking serve against any opponent. Against the rest of the Tour, you break 38 per cent of the time. But against a current No. 1 player, that plummets down to just 25 per cent. Against Djokovic, it dropped even further down to 23 per cent (155/673).Federer fought back most often when serving at 15/30 compared to the other No. 1 players. The rest of the Tour posted an average of 45 per cent, but breaking against a No. 1 dropped to 34 per cent. Against Federer, it moved all the way down to 27.8 per cent (5/18).Breaking back immediately after being broken happened one out of every five times (20%) against the rest of the Tour. That only happened 14 per cent of the time against a top-ranked player and only occurred 10.3 per cent (27/261) of the time against Nadal.Defeating any player on Tour is an outstanding accomplishment. Being victorious over a World No. 1 requires tapping into a level you may not know that you had.
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After 13 years on Tour, Kevin Anderson still has plenty of first-time moments that he wants to accomplish.The former No. 5 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings is back to full strength after a challenging 20-month stretch in which injuries and the suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited him to eight tournaments. He'll resume competing this month in New York at the Western & Southern Open and US Open, where he hopes to build on the unforgettable memories of his run to the 2017 US Open final. Anderson spoke with ATPTour.com ahead of the return to tennis about maximising his time at home and how life on Tour will be different.How are you feeling heading into your first tournament back?I’m just excited to have an opportunity to get back on the court and compete. It’s going to be a much different experience than normal, but I’m feeling inspired after having this time off and not playing much in the past 18 months.I’ve really enjoyed the time at home with my wife and my daughter, which has been great for both of us. I’ve been training hard and keeping healthy. It’s felt like a long period of time in some ways, and in other ways, I can’t believe we’re in mid-August. Time often flies when you have that routine in place.You’re known as one of the hardest workers on Tour. You obviously didn’t want to be dealing with injuries before the shutdown, but was it perhaps a blessing in disguise so that you weren’t working incredibly hard for the entirety of these five months?Yes and no. I try to look at it that way. We tried to manage my schedule as well as possible, but you also have to prepare for the rest of the calendar. There are a couple of Grand Slams very close together and our first two tournaments back are two of the biggest tournaments in our calendar.There’s been a period of pretty intense preparations. I've hit with a few guys who are in the Delray Beach area like Cristian Garin, Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul. You have to make the most of my situation and I’ve tried to do that to the best of my ability. My body is feeling good. Some of the issues that held me back last year and the beginning of this year have resolved themselves, so that’s a positive for me.At age 34, is it even more important to make sure your body is at the same level of readiness as your tennis?Absolutely. All of the decisions and scheduling that we make are based around what’s best for my body. As you get older, you have to be a bit more disciplined and aware in some of the choices you make. It’s been a high priority for us and will continue to be for the rest of my career.Are there guys on Tour that you’re looking forward to reuniting with in New York?With all of the safety protocols in New York, I think you can expect to spend a lot of time by yourself and with your team. I’m almost looking at this as a solo campaign with very little social interaction. It’ll be great just to be back on Tour, but at least starting out in New York, there won’t be that opportunity to socialise with people that I’d like to hang out with.How will you be spending that down time?I’d usually have my wife and family with me, but they won’t be making the trip. My wife has been at every tournament for the past five or six years, so that will be the biggest change.I see myself spending a lot of time playing guitar, reading books, Netflix. A lot of the day is taken up with training, treatment, getting to and from the courts. There will be some down time, but I’m expecting to be pretty busy. My coach and physio will be with me, so things will remain the same from that standpoint.What do you think it will be like competing without fans in New York?It’s going to be a completely different experience, especially on a court that’s so big like Arthur Ashe Stadium. It might be a bit strange competing on the bigger courts or during a night session, but it’s going to be the same adjustment for everybody. It’ll be interesting to see how the players react.