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How much diversity and new faces brought the 2016 Masters 1000 Series?

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by Jovica Ilic

Without a shadow of a doubt, 2015 Masters Series was the most boring and monotonous since the introducing of this level of competition in 1990 (you can read more about that HERE).

Only for the 3rd time, just 3 players shared all the titles, and we had only 6 different players in title matches (out of 18 possible spots), which never happened before. In addition, just 14 different players made the semi-final round and 24 competitors grabbed all 72 places in the last 8, another negative record together with 2009.

Thus, it is interesting to see where 2016 stands in terms of new names in the latter stages of Masters tournaments, and we could say that situation is a little bit better, but still not great. 28 different players reached the quarter-final round, 16 progress towards the semi-final and 9 of those fought in the title match. Djokovic and Murray claimed 7 out of 9 titles, which is really nothing new (especially in Novak's case), Nadal managed to finally win new Masters trophy, and Marin Cilic surprised Murray in Cincinnati to become the first new Masters 1000 champion since Stan Wawrinka in Monte Carlo 2014.

Number of players in quarter-finals (72 spots available in theory) stands at 28, and it was a mix of well-familiar names with a few unexpected players, like Marcel Granollers, Joao Sousa, Lucas Pouille, Juan Monaco, Steve Johnson, Borna Coric, Bernard Tomic, Jack Sock, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Mischa Zverev.

Nevertheless, that's the 4th lowest number since 1990, behind 2009, 2014, and 2015 when we had twice 24 and 26. Nick Kyrgios, Joao Sousa, Lucas Pouille, Steve Johnson, Borna Coric, Jack Sock, and Mischa Zverev all reached their maiden Masters 1000 1/4 in 2016, which is positive, but only 4 players from the whole list are born in 1993 or later.

In 2017, we could expect more new faces, like Alexander Zverev probably Richard Gasquet, who missed to advance to the last 8 in any of 9 Masters events. Also, Gasquet is the best-ranked player (18th) who stayed away from this list, followed by Ivo Karlovic (20th), David Ferrer (21st), Pablo Cuevas (22nd) and Alexander Zverev (24th).

Seasons with the biggest number of different players in the Masters 1000 1/4: 1990 (40), 1992 (40), 1993 (42), 1997 (40), 2000 (42), 2003 (44), 2004 (41)
Seasons with the fewest number of different players in the Masters 1000 1/4: 1995 (30), 2009 (24), 2010 (30), 2012 (30), 2014 (26), 2015 (24), 2016 (28)
16 players made at least one semi-final, which is pretty much a standard in the last 10 years.

Before 2005, that number dropped below 20 only once, and since 2008 it is constantly between 13 and 17. Kyrgios, Pouille, Dimitrov, Simon, Bautista Agut and Isner did a good job advancing to the last 4, but Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer and Richard Gasquet couldn't achieve this, leaving the room for their opponents to replace them.

Prior to 2016, David Goffin never had a chance to play in Masters 1000 semi-final, and then he made two in a row in Indian Wells and Miami, and he is one of 3 players that went all the way towards the last 4 for the first time this season, together with Kyrgios and Pouille, which is really not an encouraging number.

Seasons with the biggest number of different players in the Masters 1000 1/2: 1992 (23), 1993 (24), 1997 (24), 1999 (23), 2000 (24), 2003 (24)
Seasons with the fewest number of different players in the Masters 1000 1/2: 2009 (13), 2011 (16), 2012 (15), 2014 (16), 2015 (14), 2016 (16)
2010 was the last Masters Series season with 10 or more diverse players in the final, and in the following 6 years, the number usually stands at 9, which was the case in 2016 as well.

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray occupied 10 out of a total number of 18 spots in the title matches, and the list could have been even smaller if Novak kept his usual level until the end of the season. Kei Nishikori is the only player besides those two who played in more than 1 final, and we had two new guys in the Masters finals, Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut.

This analyze looks at least a little bit better when we know that someone managed to break Big 4 dominance in the Masters Series and lift its first trophy. Marin Cilic did that in Cincinnati, beating Murray in the final, and that gives us 4 different champions in 9 tournaments, which is as best we can get in the last half a decade or so.

It will be interesting to see will this number increase in 2017, but that purely depends on the form of Djokovic and Murray, who are by far the best players in the world at the moment. Federer won only 3 Masters in the last 3 seasons and he is coming back after a long break, and it is uncertain how much Nadal can produce, as he also struggles in this Series on a big scale when we know how good he was prior to 2014.

The list with all players that made at reached at least a quarter-final in 2016 Masters Series:
1/4 (28): Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Rafael Nadal, Kei Nishikori, David Gofin, Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych, Nick Kyrgios, Gilles Simon, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Marcel Granollers, Joao Sousa, Lucas Pouille, Juan Monaco, Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Anderson, Steve Johnson, Borna Coric, Bernard Tomic, Jack Sock, Roberto Bautista Agut, Mischa Zverev, John Isner 1/2 (16): Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Milos Raonic, David Goffin, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios, Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray, Lucas Pouille, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Gilles Simon, Roberto Bautista Agut, John Isner Final (9): Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic, Roberto Bautista Agut, John Isner Title (4): Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Marin Cilic
All in all, when we compare 2016 with the other seasons, we can say it is among 5 most monotonous Masters seasons since 1990 in terms of a number of different players in the latter stages, together with 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015.

We will follow the trend in 2017 as well, to see if some bigger changes are possible at this level of competition, which would be very good for the sport in general. ALSO READ: Who are the youngest players with ATP win in the Open era? .

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