Predicting elite success: Evidence comparing the career pathways of top 10 to 300 professional tennis players

Pingwei Li, Juanita R. Weissensteiner, Johan Pion, Veerle De Bosscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this research was to explore at what age professional tennis players at different ranking levels (top 10, 11-20, 21-50, 51-100, 101-200, 201-300) had achieved their underpinning career milestones, and use this information to predict player’s future success. 373 professional tennis players were examined, including 193 females (M=32.3, SD=3.5) and 180 males (M=34.0, SD=3.1). Descriptive methods inclusive of age and key developmental milestones and univariate analyses were used to compare player trajectories specific to ranking levels. Discriminant analyses were applied to explore to what extent age and early ranking can be used to predict a player’s future peak rankings. Results show that 75% of top 300 players commenced their participation in tennis between the age of 3 to 7, whilst 20% of them commenced between 7 to 10 years, and 5% commenced after the age of 10. Results further revealed that player age and early ranking have a relative high value in predicting top 10 and top 201-300 players, but not for player whose peak ranking was in between, with nearly 60% of them not distinguishable and top 51-100 ranked players having the lowest predictability. Related strategies and practice specific to talent development and support were further discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-802
Number of pages10
Journal International journal of sports science & coaching
Issue number5-6
Early online dateDec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Elite success
  • ranking
  • talent development
  • tennis


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