Ever since the Open Era began in 1968, we can identify the individuals and their periods of success. First came Laver, Rosewall and Newcombe; next was Borg’s reign, bookended by Connors, McEnroe and Lendl. Wilander and Becker ushered in the ’90s before giving way to Sampras and Agassi.

Federer, Nadal and now Djokovic have run the show since then, but there is no heir apparent. The average age of the ATP top 10 is 29.7 — the highest it has ever been — with an unprecedented five of its current members aged over 30. Read more

The last time athletics was engulfed by doping concerns of the volume seen last week was the 1980s, when performance enhancing substances including testosterone were commonplace among elite competitors.

This doping dark age left a mark still visible today in the form of records set decades ago that are still yet to be broken – and in some cases yet even to be approached. Read more

A dozen games into the new Premier League season, Chelsea’s title defence has been anaemic, and few — if any — saw it coming. But with the aid of hindsight, shots data and the Elo ratings system, we can obtain a clue as to exactly when their troubles began: January 1 2015. Read more

Since he shot to teenage stardom, Wayne Rooney has formed the mainstay of every team he has been part of, both at club and international level, and has stayed relatively injury free.

He is one of a select few world-class strikers to have played more than 50,000 minutes by their 30th birthday, but is he worn out as a result, and what might he learn from former Real Madrid star Raúl, whose career trajectory is almost a perfect match for his own? Read more

Belgium's rankings according to Fifa and eloratings.netWins earlier in October against Israel and Andorra will see the team leapfrog Argentina and Germany when Fifa’s rankings are updated next month, but how highly do alternative systems rate the Red Devils? Read more

The World Athletics Championships are taking place this week in Beijing, and Usain Bolt’s narrow victory over Justin Gatlin in the men’s 100m final rounded off the opening Sunday.

Always one of the biggest moments of any athletics meet, this year’s race was especially eagerly anticipated given the narrative that had built around Gatlin. Read more

By Ben Davis

PGA baseline shots behind leadWinning big events like this weekend’s US PGA Championship requires three days of good golf and then the ability to hold your nerve down the home straight in the fourth round.

Using data from the PGA Tour, European Tour, and World Golf Championships since August 2012 (but not including the 2015 US PGA Championship), we analysed how the top 50 ranked golfers in the world perform on the final day of each tournament. Read more

FT Baseline

How do standard of play and level of competition vary across Europe’s top leagues, and can this tell us which provides the best football?
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FT Baseline

FT sprint cyclist ratingsThe winner of the Tour de France is typically the fastest climber up the winding paths of the Alps and the Pyrenees, but when the peloton flies down the Champs-Élysées on its final day, the focus shifts to an altogether different type of beast: the sprinter.

Where the elite climbers do battle in high-altitude bouts of cat-and-mouse, the sprinter’s primary weapons are leg-speed, impeccable timing and an almost reckless desire to cross the line first. But who is the best of the fast men? Read more

FT Baseline

Last week we looked at the top goalscorers in modern European football, focusing on the importance of remaining injury free for those who go on to become true greats.

This time around we’re taking a different view of the same data to tell another side to the story: the important distinction between a clinical finisher and a reliable source of goals. Read more

FT Baseline

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

Over a typical Premier League season we would expect any given team to pick up more points per match against weaker opponents than better ones, relative to its own strength. Read more

Roger Federer was eliminated from the Australian Open when he lost a match in which he won the majority of the points.

Was it a one-off, or a sign of an underlying issue? And how does his rival Rafael Nadal compare when it comes to winning the biggest points in tennis? Find out in our interactive graphic Read more

156 players have reached the top ten of the ATP men’s singles rankings since they were established in 1973. How do they compare on success and longevity?

Find out in our interactive graphic Read more

It is said that money makes the world go round, but in football’s transfer market we can be a little more specific on that money’s provenance. Our interactive graphic explores the net spend of the 265 clubs in world football to have each spent £10m or more in total since 1980, grouped by country.

Any guesses on the identity of the country whose clubs spend the most? Read more

The game’s highly paid stars seeking bans to get holiday time off appears to be a myth Read more

goal scorers, Champions League and European Cup

By Wednesday night it is almost certain there will be a new name atop the goal scoring charts of European club football’s elite competition.

Lionel Messi currently sits level with former Real Madrid star Raul on 71 goals, and behind them is Cristiano Ronaldo on 70. Either Messi or Ronaldo could become the outright leader when their sides play on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

And the fierce competition between Messi and Ronaldo may even be ushering in a new higher scoring era. The goals-per-game ratio across all players declined steadily from four per match in the late 1950s to settle around 2.5 in the past decade, but has jumped back up to three in the past five seasons.

Looking back across the Champions League and its predecessor the European Cup, the 100 highest scoring players are packed with modern greats. And this is no coincidence – there are 126 matches in the current format, excluding qualifiers, up from fewer than 60 in the early years of the European Cup.

But that hasn’t stopped some of the greats of yesteryear breaking into the upper echelons of that top 100.

Alfredo di Stefano – one of 22 Real Madrid players on the list – scored 49 goals in the 1950s and 1960s, placing him sixth in the all-time rankings. Portugal and Benfica star Eusebio is two places behind on 46. So what happens when we adjust the absolute goal tallies for the number of matches each player took part in?

Eusebio tops the rankings, followed by former Manchester United forward Ruud van Nistelrooy. Messi, Raul and Ronaldo complete the top five, and then Ronaldo’s team mate Karim Benzema is sandwiched between two men who stopped playing before he was born – di Stefano and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas. Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

Pity the white queen’s pawn. It tends to survive only one in every four games.

That statistic comes from an analysis of 2.2m master-level tournament games conducted by Oliver Brennan. But statistical analysis has found that overall white wins about 37 per cent of the time to Black’s 28 per cent. Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked ahead to the ATP Tour Finals, the climax of the men’s tennis season.

The tournament is played on a hard court surface, which goes some way to nullifying the relative advantages afforded to big serving and big returning players by grass and clay courts respectively. But where exactly does hard court fall between those two extremes, and what can this tell us about its impact on the playing styles of grass and clay specialists? Read more

By Jurek Martin, Gavin Jackson and John Burn-Murdoch

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked at baseball statistician Bill James and the impact his insight and methods have had on not just one but arguably all sports.

Bill James began dissecting the numbers behind baseball in the late 1970s and among his acolytes was Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland Athletics and inspiration for Michael Lewis’ best selling book Moneyball. Such was Oakland and Beane’s success that the stats-driven approach has transcended baseball and now has its adherents in hockey, football, tennis, golf and dozens more of the world’s biggest sports Read more

FT Baseline

Between them Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more than 300 league goals in the last four seasons of Spain’s La Liga, but which player provides more goals for their team? Read more