You don’t have to read much of this site to know that I am particularly interested in the second tier of pros. Some of that is due to spending countless hours at the U.S. Open qualifying tournament; the rest may be attributable to a general tendency to root for the underdog. So, I tend to be as familiar with guys in the 140s of the rankings as I am with the men in the 40s.
One of those men is South African Rik De Voest. If you’ve followed the ATP for long, you’ve doubtless seen his name. He’s a lock for a wild card at the Johannesburg event, he plays many events on the U.S. challenger circuits, and he occasionally qualifies for other top-level tourneys. He’s a strong all-around player, though perhaps mentally weak–I’ve seen him play a handful of times, and while he’s rarely blown out, he’s prone to giving up the lead.
The impetus for this mini-post is my discovery that Rik De Voest has never cracked the singles top 100. He broke into the top 200 almost nine years ago, has not fallen out of the top 300 in that time, and reached a peak of 110 in 2006. He turned 31 last month, so while he currently sits at 130, moving into double-digits gets more difficult every day.
I suspect that De Voest’s record as a sub-top-100 player is very uncommon. Each year, many players reach the top 100 with nothing more than a handful of solid showings at challenger events–two of the many current players to fit that mold are Steve Darcis (#95) and Matthias Bachinger (#93). While the top 100 may be a mental hurdle, the difference between 110 (De Voest’s peak) and 99 is almost meaningless. In the rankings right now, it’s 17 points–less than the difference between winning and losing in the quarterfinals of many challengers.
Right now, about 80 points stand between the South African and the top 100. That’s a taller order, but still an achievable one for a player of De Voest’s caliber over the course of a few months. Depending on which statistical oddity you prefer, you may or may not want to root for him. If he reaches the top 100, he’ll be one of the oldest players ever to do so. If he doesn’t, he may well end up with the record for most weeks inside the top 200 (or 150, or 250, or 300) without ascending to the slightly-more-rarefied first page of the ATP singles rankings.