We see and hear a lot of stats about what it takes to be top 100 and discussion on what constitutes “being on track” for this journey to the top of the game. I decided to investigate for myself and find out how easy it is to predict the progress of young players. Since the ATP top 100 changes slightly most weeks the statistics will alter a small amount every week. This is an accurate picture for the selected players who are in the ATP top 100 as of the 20th October, 2014. The infographic to the left shows that there is no formula for human endeavour and perseverance. My book Locker Rom Power details the importance of desire and belief with practical ways in how to build these attributes because players learn and gain belief through match play experience, good coaching and being in a healthy yet competitive environment. There is no question that desire also grows with success.

Players Ranking Outside 300 at 20 Years Old

The telling stats that I have chosen point to the fact that 32% of players were ranked outside 300 at 20 which is almost a third. It is clear that the very best players tend to reach the top 100 by the age of 20 or 21, but if you take the 18 players out of the picture who made it under 20, then the average age of reaching the top 100 is very close to 23. I think it is important for Governing Bodies, coaches and parents, whilst not ignoring the stats to help keep realism in a players programme when they are in this process. The long journey of trying to achieve highly in this gladiatorial and complex sport, requires the people around any hard-working and diligent players to remain optimistic and encouraging.

Reward and Confidence

Focusing on the mentality and desire as much as the talent for the task is a key factor in selecting players for any elite programme, although I favour a system of bonuses and rewards for achievement rather than selection. Ranking and tournament bonuses take personal opinion out of the equation and supports players based on what they have achieved. This in turn boosts confidence when a player knows he/she has earned the reward.

If 85% of the elite were inside 450 at 20, then for a player ranked outside 450 the chance of top 100 is lowered, but even this minority is nearly one in six. Statistics are just that – numbers and therefore whilst being aware of reality, players and coaches need to run their own race because determination with intent, plus smart hard-work can achieve the “impossible”. Four players have shown it can be done from outside 1000, two of whom were unranked at 20 which is not an insignificant achievement. The bottom line is apart from the phenoms, predicting who will come through is a tricky and pointless exercise. It is far healthier to create an environment of opportunity and see who emerges.

I would like to thank Christopher McCormick for all his expertise in putting this excellent infographic together and the Locker Room support team at Westbrook Creative for their continued enthusiasm for promoting the Locker Room Power book, which helps and guides parents and players through so many of the problems associated with mental toughness and learning to compete effectively.