I had a lot of fun deciding my greatest list for the women in terms of the past decade’s performance. For the men, I knew that Roger Federer would come in first; and that Rafael Nadal would come in second. I didn’t know who would be ranked behind them. And, I was curious to find out where recently retired Marat Safin would place. As with the women, I used a two step process to classify the players. In the first step, performance at Grand Slams were taken into consideration along with ability to reach #1, staying power at the top spot, and a bonus was added for players who ended the year as #1.

After the first step, I would group players together and go into the details to decide their final rank. For grand slam performance, I used 1 point for a grand slam won, and 1/3 point for 1 major final reached. After putting the data in a table – I gawked at what Federer accomplished. His major wins for the decade equals the total major wins of the next 5 players in the list! With the point allocation, Roddick with 1 major and 4 other finals got more points than Kuerten who won 2 majors but didn’t reach any other final.

Here are the top performers of the decade based on grand slam performance:

Rank Player Slams Finals GS Points
1 R Federer 15 6 17.00
2 R Nadal 6 2 6.67
3 A Agassi 3 2 3.67
4 L Hewitt 2 2 2.67
4 P Sampras 2 2 2.67
4 M Safin 2 2 2.67
7 A Roddick 1 4 2.33
8 G Kuerten 2 2.00
9 J Ferrero 1 2 1.67
10 N Djokovic 1 1 1.33
11 A Costa 1 1.00
11 G Gaudio 1 1.00
11 G Ivanisevic 1 1.00
11 J DelPotro 1 1.00
11 T Johansson 1 1.00
16 P Rafter 2 0.67

There were only 9 players who reached the top spot during the decade. As with the women, I removed the weeks spent at #1 before June 2000 since those ranking weeks include majority of results from 1999. The player most impacted by this adjustment is Agassi since he was the sole #1 at that point. the following calculation was used to allocate points:

RNK1 is calculated by dividing the weeks at #1, to the number of weeks in a year, or 365.25 / 7 to be exact. RNK 2 is 1 point added to all who reached the top ranking. RNK 3 are bonus points given for a player occupying the year end #1. 1 year as number one is given 1/3 of a point. Based on these, Hewitt outperformed Nadal. Kuerten who finished a year as #1 also ranked high. Again, Federer’s lead is incredible. Of the 500 weeks included in the calculation, Federer was in the top spot for 259 weeks or 52%. The other weeks were distributed between 8 players.

The following are the top players of the decade in terms of staying at #1.

Rank Player Wks #1 Rnk1 Rnk2 Rnk3 RnkPts
1 R Federer 259 4.96 1.00 1.67 7.63
2 L Hewitt 80 1.53 1.00 0.67 3.20
3 R Nadal 46 0.88 1.00 0.33 2.21
4 G Kuerten 43 0.82 1.00 0.33 2.15
5 A Agassi 32 0.61 1.00 1.61
6 A Roddick 13 0.25 1.00 0.33 1.58
7 P Sampras 10 0.19 1.00 1.19
8 M Safin 9 0.17 1.00 1.17
9 J Ferrero 8 0.15 1.00 1.15

By adding both the Grand Slam points and the ranking points, I was able to categorize the players into 6 groups. Based on memory alone, I could have easily assigned the #10 ranking to Djokovic but like the French, I wanted to make things more complicated. (Kidding!) I did want to give the other one-time Slam winners a chance since they may have made more impact earlier in the decade. I had to discard Patrick Rafter off my list since he didn’t win a major and didn’t reach the top spot as well.

Player GS Points RnkPts Total Points Category
R Federer 17.00 7.63 24.63 A
R Nadal 6.67 2.21 8.88 B
L Hewitt 2.67 3.20 5.87 C
A Agassi 3.67 1.61 5.28 C
G Kuerten 2.00 2.15 4.15 D
A Roddick 2.33 1.58 3.91 D
P Sampras 2.67 1.19 3.86 D
M Safin 2.67 1.17 3.84 D
J Ferrero 1.67 1.15 2.82 D
N Djokovic 1.33 0.00 1.33 E
A Costa 1.00 0.00 1.00 E
G Gaudio 1.00 0.00 1.00 E
G Ivanisevic 1.00 0.00 1.00 E
J DelPotro 1.00 0.00 1.00 E
T Johansson 1.00 0.00 1.00 E
P Rafter 0.67 0.00 0.67

Category A – my #1 pick – Roger Federer. The numbers don’t lie. Only player to have reached all 4 major finals at least 4 times each. Only player to have won all majors at least once. Established record of 237 consecutive weeks at #1 during the decade. Won 15 major titles and reached 6 other major finals. Enough said.

Category B – my #2 pick – Rafael Nadal. Could have won 2 more Wimbledon titles if not for Federer. Second best behind arguably the best player in history is a position all players save one would die for.

The only thing going against Federer is his head-to-head record against Nadal. Again, this is not his fault. I will take CNNSI’s Jon Wertheim’s take on this – had Nadal been good enough to reach the finals in other surfaces as Federer did, the head-to-head wouldn’t be that skewed in Nadal’s favor. Federer is number #1 on all surfaces other than clay. On clay, he’s #2 behind Nadal – not a bad place to be since experts are tagging Nadal as the best clay-court ever.

Category C – players who were both in the top 5 based on grand slam performance and #1 ranking. Hewitt was #2 in ranking points and #4 in grand slam points. Agassi was #5 in ranking points and #3 in grand slam points.

Hewitt vs Agassi: Agassi has the lead in grand slam performance winning 3 majors and 2 other finals. (3 Australian Open wins; 2 US Open finals). Hewitt had more variety though – 1 title each at Wimbledon and the US Open, and 2 other finals at the Australian and US Open. Hewitt also finished 2 consecutive years at #1 which was second only to Federer. Agassi is one of my favorite players but I would have to list Lleyton Hewitt as my #3 player for the decade. Andre Agassi takes the #4 spot.

Category D – reached the #1 ranking, reached at least 3 major finals and won at least 1 major title. Players in this group are Kuerten, Roddick, Sampras, Safin, and Ferrero. From the two factors used in initial classification, Ferrero ranked last within the group on both ranking points and grand slam points. I will go ahead and put Juan Carlos Ferrero as my #9 greatest player.

The other 4 players are tough to place using just the above indicators. While Sampras and Safin have a slight advantage with regards to Grand Slam performance, Kuerten had a big lead in ranking points plus a year end #1 (2000); while Roddick also had a year where he placed on the top spot (2003). At this point, all four are equal. I went ahead and looked at the year end rankings of the 4 players during the decade along with the number of titles and finals they’ve reached.

Roddick Safin Kuerten Sampras
Top 10 8 3 2 2
Top 5 3 3 2 1
Top 2 2 1 2 0
All Titles 27 14 15 3
All Finals 17 11 5 7

Based on the above table, I will have to pick Andy Roddick as my #5 greatest player. He may have won just 1 major title, but he did reach 4 other finals. He made far greater impact than the 3 other players during the decade with 8 top 10 finishes and 27 titles – these 2 stats really puts him above the others.

I’ll pick Marat Safin as my #6 greatest player. He had more impact during the decade than Kuerten and Sampras; finishing 3 years in the top 5 – 1 more year than Kuerten. His 4 grand slam finals appearances were from 2000 – 2005. Gustavo Kuerten, the top player in the first 2 years of the decade gets my #7 ranking; while tennis legend Pete Sampras will be placed at #8 in my list.

Category E – Players who won at least 1 Grand Slam title. I went ahead and did my homework but my initial gut feel was correct. Novak Djokovic deserved the #10 slot. Of those who won 1 grand slam, he was the only 1 who finished 3 years in the top 5. If not for Federer and Nadal, I would have had placed Novak Djokovic as high as #7.

Here’s my final list of the 10 greatest players for the 2000 – 2009 decade:

#10. Novak Djokovic
#9. Juan Carlos Ferrero
#8. Pete Sampras
#7. Gustavo Kuerten
#6. Marat Safin
#5. Andy Roddick
#4. Andre Agassi
#3. Lleyton Hewitt
#2. Rafael Nadal
#1. Roger Federer

Do you agree with my list? Feel free to leave a comment.