Who Is The 700th Ranked Player On The Men’s Tour?

The number 700 has been tossed around ever since John McEnroe said that’s where Serena Williams would be ranked if she played on the men’s tour. This idea has drawn criticism and praise alike, but does anyone know who the 700th ranked man on tour is?

John McEnroe has recently been in the news for a comment he made regarding Serena Williams. McEnroe called Serena the best player on the women’s tour. When pressed for an answer as to why he qualified the statement by calling her the best “female” player as opposed to the best player overall, he stated that Serena would not be a top player on the men’s tour. He went on to say that if Serena played against the men she would be “like, number 700 in the world.”

Whether or not that statement is factual is really anybody’s guess. However, the number 700 in the world has been the topic of discussion as a benchmark separating the men’s and women’s tours according to McEnroe’s statement. So who is the 700th ranked player on the men’s tour?

Who Is Number 700?

While ATP rankings change frequently, the honor of number 700 in the world currently belongs to Issam Haitham Taweel. The 27 year old was born in Aleppo, Syria but represents Egypt. He is right handed, has a two-handed backhand, and his favorite playing surface is hard court.

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Issam Haitham Taweel

Most of Issam’s career has been spent playing ITF Pro Circuit events. This year he has an 8-14 record when combining ATP and ITF tournaments. His career record is 145-212. He has spent some time competing in ATP tournaments and has a career record of 2-5 in those draws. His career high singles ranking was achieved in 2014 when he cracked the top 700 at 635. His current doubles ranking is slightly higher than his singles ranking at 643.

Could He Beat Serena?

At this point everyone can only speculate about whether or not Issam could defeat Serena in a match. That being said, this is a great opportunity for the number 700 in the world. Issuing a challenge to Williams to play him in a match after she is back from having her baby would be a great way to get his name out there. Even if Williams declined the challenge, people would at least know his name and know that he was up for the challenge.

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Serena Williams

What It Means

McEnroe followed up his comments by later stating that he regretted making the statement saying he had no idea how much it would snowball. However, he did not retract it. He said comparing the men’s and women’s tour is comparing “apples to oranges.” This is most certainly true considering the players from each tour almost never compete against each other in a serious format.

For Issam, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Whether he likes it or not, people are now aware of his name simply because of circumstance. Simply because he is lucky 700.

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Does Doubles Matter in the USA?

Ever since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003, the United States has been looking for a men’s champion. The seventeen year drought has been highlighted by several early round losses and struggles on clay. Surprisingly, an American man won the championship at Roland Garros just mere weeks ago, so why is it that nobody is talking about it?

Fourteen days ago American tennis player Ryan Harrison felt the immense triumph of winning his first grand slam title. Of course, the tennis world would soon be abuzz with headlines about America being back on top of the tennis world. That didn’t happen though. Instead, very few people were even aware of the Harrison’s victory. The reason for this was simple. It wasn’t the singles tournament that Harrison won, but rather the French Open doubles title.

The Problem For Doubles

Doubles can be an extremely entertaining spectacle. There are fast serves, quick volleys, and way more overhead smashes than in any singles match. While the doubles game is certainly a favorite of recreational players, it never caught on as a televised sport with the exception of the Olympics. For this reason, the doubles draw in majors has been forgotten by main stream sports fans. Even the most hardcore professional tennis fans seem to pay little attention to anything but singles. So what is it about our culture that makes people ignore doubles?

TV Time

It’s hard to say which came first for doubles, the lack of popularity leading to less TV time, or less TV time leading to a lack of popularity. Either way, with the two on two format taking the back seat, fans are all in for singles.

In a world where tennis isn’t a prominent television sport, even most majors don’t get much air time in the United States. The one exception to this rule is the US open when primetime matches are shown on popular networks. The issue is that the primetime slots are always taken by big name singles players. Doubles does get occasional TV coverage at the US Open but it’s usually still rare. This general lack of national exposure means tennis enthusiasts will naturally be more interested by what they’ve seen before on TV. This brings us back to the original question, which came first between lack of air time and lack of popularity. The star power of the singles players most likely led to more TV time which then proliferated a cycle in which viewership drives popularity which drives more air time for singles.

Prestige

With singles garnering more exposure than doubles, the top tennis players in the world opt to play singles. This has always given the impression that doubles players aren’t the world’s best but rather what’s left over after the top athletes are removed. While there is an element of truth to this, it isn’t entirely accurate. Doubles and singles are actually vastly different. The two variations of the game require different strategy and skill set to perfect. A singles player with great ground strokes but average volleys may struggle playing doubles but flourish in singles. The same is true for players with great volleys and average ground strokes finding double success while never achieving a high singles ranking. While it’s true that most top doubles players wouldn’t fare well in the singles draw, the same could be said about a lot of the top singles players, but that doesn’t stop the perception of doubles players being lesser from being proliferated.

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Bryan Brothers

US Culture

Another aspect of singles that Americans tend to gravitate toward is the idea of being alone in the spotlight. America (even more so than other countries) values individual accolades and achievement. Singles provides the opportunity to be the only one taking credit for victories. In the doubles game, that attention is split in half.

For a long time the United States of America the top ranked doubles team in the world in the Bryan brothers. Bob and Mike Bryan dominated doubles winning majors and making a name for themselves. While the Bryan brothers did achieve some level of stardom, they weren’t enough to get the US excited about tennis or for people to hold them in the same esteem as a Roger Federer or a Rafael Nadal. To complicate things further, doubles teams often consist of players from different countries. For example, Harrison won with Michael Venus from New Zealand. This means that while Harrison is American, the team that won isn’t a true American team. Pairings such as this are extremely common but seem random without knowing the backstory of the duo. To many viewers it cheapens the victory.

What It Means

Doubles may never be as popular as singles in the world of professional tennis. That doesn’t mean that Harrison’s accomplishment should go unnoticed. The guy won a major championship and beat out many of the best players in the world. Hopefully this victory will be a springboard for his career that will propel him to even more accomplishments in the future.

Is Jelena Ostapenko Bad For Women’s Tennis

In a French Open women’s draw void of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. The WTA tour desperately needed its top players and biggest names to show up. Instead, what it got was a 20 year old Latvian named Jelena Ostapenko.

Who Is Jelena Ostapenko?

Prior to the 2017 French Open, Ostapenko had very little success in majors. In 2015 she made it to the second round of Wimbledon and the US Open (the only two major draws she was in.) In 2016 she went out in the first round of each major but made a small breakthrough in 2017 getting to third round of the Australian Open earlier this year. She came into Roland Garros with a world singles ranking of 47 and a doubles ranking of 34. Little did everyone know that this dark horse would be the one to get through the women’s draw and end up in the final, defying all odds and expectations. While such an achievement deserves to be applauded, many critics of the sport are pointing to Ostapenko’s meteoric rise as something that is wrong with women’s tennis.

What’s The Problem?

In most major sports in the United States, fans crave underdog stories. If an eight seed in the NBA wins a series or even a game the sports world goes wild. If a lowly MLB team has a huge turnaround and becomes a contender everybody is excited about it. In fact, there is even an entire sporting event built around Cinderella storylines and upset victories in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. How then could this possibly be a bad thing for women’s tennis? It all has to do with the nature of the sport.

In any of the major sports leagues in the United States (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA) teams represent cities, states, or regions. Plus, they are comprised of numerous players each having they own following. In professional tennis, for most of the year the players are competing as individuals. Each pro tennis player represents their country of origin and is backed completely by that country, but even so, international star power can be hard to come by for someone hailing from a smaller nation. Not all players can generate international buzz. For example, a consistent top player such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, or even Angelique Kerber can draw international fans with TV appearances, commercials, and press conferences. Before this year’s French Open, most sports fans probably didn’t even know who Jelena Ostapenko was. They still may not.

Not A New Issue

The same thing has happened in women’s tennis for a while now. In 2010 Francesca Schiavone won the French Open and then made it back to the final the year after. In 2012 the former champion wasn’t close to as competitive as she had been the previous two years and hasn’t made it past the fourth round of a major since 2011. The same thing happened in the 2016 Olympics when Monica Puig won gold. Before her stunning victory she had only made it to the fourth round of a major once and hasn’t made it past the third since. Some other women who appeared to be on the verge of becoming perennial contenders and then seemingly disappeared are Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki, and Eugenie Bouchard. All of whom were expected to be the next big thing in women’s tennis but have failed to live up to the expectations.

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Monica Puig

It’s interesting that this could be a bad thing for a sports league considering how all of the major US sports are desperate to create parity, but the WTA is more in need of lasting star power. They need a dependable, likable face of women’s tennis to carry the torch after Serena, Venus, and Sharapova retire. This is difficult to find when the players contending for major wins seemingly rise and fall like the tide.

The WTA would certainly prefer some of the more well-known players such as Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard to be the ones making it to the finals. If Ostapenko can continue to make a name for herself and contend for major titles regularly, she could end up being huge for the women’s game. However, if she is just another flash in the pan women’s tennis will continue to struggle to build a foundation that general audiences will want to tune in to see.