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Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?

Here are some of the best players at earning break points on a hard court in the last 12 months.

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Garbine Muguruza (@Tennis - Twitter)

As the Australian Open, slowly, approaches UbiTennis looks at the biggest hard court creators from the last 52 weeks.

 

Although winning matches are determined on how many break point opportunities you convert, to convert the break points you need to create them in the first place.

This can be the biggest challenge but for the players below this isn’t a problem as they are able to consistently create break point opportunities on a hard court.

Starting with the women, it may be a surprise to nobody that Garbine Muguruza, one of the more aggressive returners on the tour leads the way, earning on average 10.4 break points in the last 52 weeks on a hard court.

Muguruza’s hard-hitting style mixed with controlled placement puts her in pole position to punish her opponents on return.

There are also other big hitters in the top 10 such as Petra Kvitova, who averages 9.6 break points while Aryna Sabalenka earns 9.5 break points on a hard court.

While 2020 grand slam champions Iga Swiatek (9.8) and Naomi Osaka (9.3) also feature on this list.

Meanwhile on the men’s side it is Roger Federer who leads this list on average earning 10.8 break points, slightly more than Garbine Muguruza who is on top of the women’s list.

Federer is just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut with 10.5 break points. This shows just how much Bautista Agut has improved on hard courts in the last 12 months being able to create so many break point opportunities with his return game.

Also featuring on this list are Alexander Zverev (9.2), Novak Djokovic (8.5) and Daniil Medvedev (8.3).

These are the players to look out for when seeing the players who are most likely to create opportunities in their respective draws and who the biggest servers may want to avoid in the Australian Open.

Here are the full lists of the top 10 from each tour and remember the Australian Open is set to begin on the 8th of February.

WTA Top 11 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Garbine Muguruza – 10.4
  2. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – 10.2
  3. Saisai Zheng – 9.9
  4. Iga Swiatek – 9.8
  5. Anett Kontaveit – 9.6
  6. Petra Kvitova – 9.6
  7. Petra Martic – 9.6
  8. Aryna Sabalenka – 9.5
  9. Ons Jabeur – 9.5
  10. Simona Halep – 9.3
  11. Naomi Osaka – 9.3

ATP Top 12 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Roger Federer – 10.8
  2. Roberto Bautista Agut – 10.5
  3. Alexander Zverev – 9.2
  4. John Millman – 8.9
  5. Dominic Thiem – 8.9
  6. Guido Pella – 8.8
  7. Cristian Garin – 8.5
  8. Novak Djokovic – 8.5
  9. David Goffin – 8.4
  10. Adrian Mannarino – 8.3
  11. Daniil Medvedev – 8.3
  12. Grigor Dimitrov – 8.3

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The Strange Talent Of Daniil Medvedev: The Further He Stands Behind The Baseline, The More He Wins

A few statistics on the return position of the Russian during the 2020 ATP Finals. In the match against Zverev, he returned the serve as far as seven (7!) meters behind the baseline.

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Let’s go back to the year-end tournament, the ATP Finals won by Daniil Medvedev, as seen through Craig O’Shannessy’s lens. This analysis compares the Russian’s return position with that of the opponents he defeated and of the players who featured in the 2018 and 2019 editions of the tournament. Here, we complete the analysis begun by Andrea Canella in this article, which focuses on the return and the serve of the Russian.

 

First off, a technical caveat: we do not have access to the full dataset analysed by O’Shannessy, but only to the data the article provides. This includes the interactive screens of Medvedev’s matches against Zverev (round robin) and Thiem (final).  At any rate, the statistics refers to 44 of the 45 matches played in the past three editions of the ATP Finals.

O’Shannessy’s comparison shows that nobody returned serves as far behind the baseline as Daniil Medvedev – he has played eight matches at the 02 Arena, with five of these placing him in the Top 5 of this special ranking.

While the top players returned the first serve on an average 1.9 meters behind the baseline, Medvedev return position was between 4.51 and 5.51 meters off, a record distance registered in his opening match against Zverev, whom he defeated 6-3 6-4. 

Medvedev’s return hit point in the match against Zverev

Medvedev returned so far off the baseline that even the ATP Infosys graphic system struggled to show the dots indicating his position – the Infosys system observe returns up to 5 meters off the baseline. But visual inspection suggests that a few returns happened about 7 meters behind the line: it’s almost the width between football goalposts.

The antipode of the Russian’s approach was Federer’s against Nishikori in 2018, a match won in two sets by the Japanese. Perhaps to save some energies, the Swiss hit 36 returns on the first serve at an average of 22 cm behind the baseline, barely three palms. Federer is obviously a player who contributes to lowering the average returning distance, but despite this, the gap has significantly increased during the 2019 and 2020 editions – not surprisingly, the two years when Medvedev qualified for the Finals. 

Average first serve return distance:

• 2018 = 1.41 meters
• 2019 = 1.73 meters
• 2020 = 2.55 meters

Before we get back to Medvedev, let us take a look at the top-players’ stats concerning the return on the second serve. Needless to say, most tennis players place themselves as close as possible to the baseline (or even inside the court) when returning the second serve. Interestingly, tennis players over the past few years have gradually moved back from the baseline to a point where the average return position of the second serve in 2020 equals that of 2018 – but on the first serve!

Average second serve return distance

• 2018 = 0.23 meters
• 2019 = 1.25 meters
• 2020 = 1.43 meters

In 2018, tennis players returned the second serve having their feet inside the court on average 15 times out of 30 (the ATP Finals have 15 matches, meaning 30 performances in return). In 2020, that number dipped to 6 out of 30. Going into details on second serve returns, O’Shannessy makes a controversial point here, suggesting that tennis players nowadays move further and further back when returning the second serve than the first – usually, things are not like this. However, that was the case in this year’s semi-final between Medvedev and Nadal. Let’s have a look to the detailed data: 

Medvedev

• distance vs Nadal’s first serve = 3.15 meters
• distance vs Nadal’s second serve = 3.85 meters

Nadal

• distance vs Medvedev’s first serve = 3.58 meters
• distance vs Medvedev’s second serve = 4.13 meters

The Russian and the Spaniard both have a natural tendency to need room on their serve returns, partly because they trust their own ability to return a serve this deep, even far off the baseline, and partly because they are inclined to play closer to the canvas than to the court. Both are extraordinarily defensive players, a behaviour reflected in their return positions. Still, we cannot say that they always take a step backwards on the second serve rather than on the first without analysing the data.

Unfortunately, the ATP does not provide these statistics on a seasonal basis, but the link in O’Shannessy’s article specifies that he’s discussing “historical” data, indicating that Medvedev’s distance on first-serve return was 4.07 meters, while the distance on second-serve return was 2.73 meters. We do not know exactly what those data cover, however – it could be this tournament or the whole of 2020, or, indeed, every match played by the Russian in the tournaments which collect this kind of data. But the sample is large enough to raise doubt that Medvedev actually moves further beyond the court on the second serve than on the first serve.

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, the match between Nadal and Medvedev was statistically anomalous for other reasons as well. Proof of the semi-final’s peculiarity, and of Medvedev’s chameleon-like nature, emerges from the numbers of the final against Thiem, where the Russian’s strategy was almost opposite to the patterns shown in the semi-final against Nadal. He moved forward and very close to the baseline on the second serve, returning at an average distance of 85 cm. What’s more, he got progressively closer on the second serve over the three sets (1,11 m – 0,87 m – 0,50 m) while at the same time increasingly moving back in order to return the first serve (2,87 m – 3,34 m – 3,88 m). It would follow from this that Medvedev tried to exploit Thiem’s technical flaws, e.g. pretty wide backswings, which make he finds it difficult to handle the balls returning to him faster than expected after his serve, especially with the lower bounce of indoor play. Furthermore, the Austrian just needs the slightest chance to crush the opponents with his fast pace, and it is likely that the Russian simply tried to obstruct this. 

O’Shannessy emphasises that Medvedev’s tendency to retuning the serve from far behind the court could be an attempt to turn the game into a neutral baseline battle. In this scenario, Medvedev can move like a carp in a freshwater lake (possibly with no fishermen around): “it’s essentially just another groundstroke,” says the expert. 

In conclusion, the analysis is interesting (even if only partial), because it tells us a number of things about Medvedev:

  • he doesn’t need to stay glued to the baseline to win tournaments
  • he moves back and forward on returning depending on game situations and the characteristics of his opponents 
  • because of him (as well as Thiem), the average return-distance at the Finals is increasing.

But the present numbers are not enough to say that tennis players generally return the serve further from the baseline – larger samples are needed to draw firm conclusions – and that they return the second serve further than the first.

Article by Alessandro Stella; translated by Claudia Marchese; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Novak Djokovic’s Quarantine Letter Fails To Win Over Officials

Three senior government figures have dismissed a list of demands set out by the world No.1 over the weekend.

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Efforts by Novak Djokovic to make adjustments to the conditions for players quarantining in Australia have been overwhelmingly rejected by government officials.

 

On Sunday it was reported that the 17-time Grand Slam champion wrote a letter to Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley in which he outlined a series of measures he would like to see implemented in order to make the current conditions for players better. Among his list of suggestions, Djokovic called for players to be moved to private housing with access to tennis courts. He also urged for more testing to be conducted in a bid to reduce the length of ‘hard quarantine’ some are going through.

Djokovic’s letter comes as at least 72 players are currently placed in stricter quarantine after being classed as a close contact to a positive case. En route to Melbourne a series of flights reported at least one person on board have tested positive for COVID-19. Under regional rules, all those on board the plans are classed as closed contacts. Those affected are required to stay in their room for 14 days and will not be allowed to train.

Responding to the letter Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has shut down Djokovic’s ideas without any hesitation. Speaking to reports Mr Andrews insisted that no special treatment will be given.

“People are free to provide lists of demands but the answer is no,” he said.
“I know that there’s been a bit of chatter from a number of players about the rules – well, the rules apply to them as they apply to everybody else, and they were all briefed on that before they came and that was a condition on which they came.’
“There’s no special treatment here … because a virus doesn’t treat you specially.”

Emma Cassar, who is the COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Commissioner, shares a similar view to the Premier regarding Djokovic. Stating that there will be no changes made to the current rules.

“It’s a firm NO from me,” Cassar told 3AW Radio.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is showing little sympathy to Djokovic’s initiative as he called for everybody to continue following the rules implemented.

“I think it’s just time people followed the rules, do their quarantine, play Tennis,” Morrison commented on the matter. “I’m sure they’ll put on a great spectacle and the Australian Open will go ahead.”

Under a plan set out by Tennis Australia, Djokovic is spending his quarantine in Adelaide along with the three highest ranked players on both the ATP and WTA Tour’s. Meanwhile, others are residing in Melbourne.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

The things Djokovic asked for

  • Fitness and training material in all rooms
  • Decent food, according to the level of the tournament and from an elite athlete
  • Reduce the days of isolation for the 47* isolated players, carrying out more tests that confirm that all are negative
  • Permission to visit your coach or physical trainer, as long as both have passed the PCR
  • If the previous proposal has the green light, that both the player and his coach are on the same floor of the hotel
  • Move as many players as possible to private houses with a court to train

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