Davis Cup Final: Andy Murray levels the tie for Great Britain, beats flashy Ruben Bemelmans - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup Final: Andy Murray levels the tie for Great Britain, beats flashy Ruben Bemelmans

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Murray pulled Great Britain level after the early win for Belgium courtesy of David Goffin

World No.2 Andy Murray won the second rubber in the David Cup Final for Great Britain, defeating Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. The tie is now level after David Goffin’s comeback from two-sets-to-love down against Kyle Edmund.

Murray held his opening service game to fifteen, before immediately breaking the Bemelmans serve. A forehand error into the net and a pair of double-faults betrayed early nerves for the man ranked 108. A final forehand long past the Murray backhand side saw the no.2 ranked player break for a two-love lead.

Bemelmans earned fifteen-thirty in the next game, after a Murray error and a clever drop-shot, before attacking a Murray second serve to earn a break point. A second stunning drop-shot, this time off the backhand wing saw Bemelmans return to serve early on. Bemelmans then held a massively entertaining service game, another perfectly disguised drop-shot winner, and a serve-volley point that Murray eventually won, were included in a hold to fifteen for the Belgian.

Bemelmans failed to keep the level up though, and Murray earned three break points at love-forty in game six, with two shanked forehands from Bemelmans aiding the Brit’s cause. A smash winner and a rally that ended with Murray on floor, ensured two break points were saved. Another forehand error on the third saw Murray reassert control in the set. Murray made no mistake in consolidating the break, holding to love to lead five-two.

Bemelmans held yet another entertaining game before Murray served out the first set to fifteen when Bemelmans netted a return.

Bemelmans played some inspired, entertaining tennis at times, but could not cope with the sheer consistency from the World No.2

Murray earned a break point with a beautiful drop-shot-lob combination in the first game of the second set. Bemelmans saved, but Murray earned another with after a backhand error from his opponent. Murray then passed a serve-volleying Bemelmans for the break in the second set. Murray held a length game spanning more than eight minutes with an overhead smash for the three-one lead.

Bemelmans held, and was to his credit working hard to get back into the set, pushing Murray into another challenging hold to thirty in game six. It was all thrown away though, as Bemelmans crumbled behind some tremendous Murray returning, the World No.2 crushing a backhand return cross-court with beautiful angle. Murray now had the double-break and served the second out to love for a all but unassailable lead.

Bemelmans got back on track by holding his first game in the third set, before Murray also held. Murray was upset by some of the Belgian crowd, and was given a code violation warning for an obscenity. He earned a break point, but Bemelmans gamely held for two-one.

Murray was docked a point at fifteen-love in game five with Bemelmans serving, Carlos Garcia the man behind the decision. Murray then came back from forty-love down in the same game to force break points. Bemelmans held again, and then surprisingly broke Murray in a tense game.

Murray quickly fell behind love-forty, and complained to Carlos Garcia regarding the actions of the home crowd between first and second serves, resulting in the chair umpire penalising the Belgian Davis Cup Captain for the crowd behaviour. Murray saved one break point but Bemelmans broke with a deep return near Murray’s feet that he could only push into the tramlines. Murray immediately earned break-back points with a stunning pass. Bemelmans then blew a forehand to put the match back on serve.

Murray held, and Bemelmans then played another sensational service game, including a tremendous half-volley winner to hold for five-four. Murray double-faulted in his next game handing Bemelmans a precious set point. But the World No. 108 played his return long, and Murray would survive.

Tennis can turn quickly, and Bemelmans was soon under pressure, a Murray winner, return winner, and an error from the Belgian brought three break points for Murray. Murray only needed one, picking off an ever-retreating Bemelmans to serve for the match.

Andy Murray: “The third set was tricky, when the new balls came out he went for his shots more… obviously the crowd were getting wound up but you have to use that to your advantage… big match tomorrow we don’t know who they’ll play but we have good tactics for all of them”

Great Britain Davis Cup Captain Leon Smith on Kyle Edmund: “I don’t think he could have started better than he did… two sets up its a new experience for him… you have to say at one stage fair play to David (Goffin) for finding a way back into the match.

On Murray/Bemelmans: ” I’ve never seen Bemelmans play that way before… it was very, very good

 

 

 

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Statistical Deep Dive: Sinner At Rotterdam One Year Later

Jannik Sinner’s Rotterdam title compared with his run to the final last year.

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By Federico Bertelli

Let’s delve into Jannik Sinner’s triumphant journey at the ABN Amro Open and compare it with his 2023 campaign. Service and down-the-line backhands were the keys to victory.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. This is the version of Sinner that his opponents tasted, and it’s also the title of a Daft Punk song; the clip particularly reflects what the rest of the ATP circuit has been thinking about Jannik for some months now: an android emerging after a heavy upgrade. Jokes aside, as the sunshine double is about to start, we thought it wise to rewind and closely examine Sinner’s recent victories.

The focus of our analysis is the Rotterdam tournament: Sinner’s performance was spotless, a feat not seen since 2001 when Lleyton Hewitt, after his victory at Flushing Meadows over Pete Sampras, managed to repeat his success in Tokyo. If the Italian were to win next week under the California sun as well, he would be the first in ATP tennis history to win two consecutive ATP tournaments after the first Slam. But before we dive into the action of the Indian Wells, let’s scratch the surface of Sinner’s victory in the Netherlands a bit. The comparison is plausible as the Italian reached the final in both editions, playing 5 matches in each case.

Draw: The 2024 run was undoubtedly smoother compared to 2023, both on average and in absolute terms. In 2023, the average ranking of Sinner’s opponents increased significantly, from 50.6 in 2023 to 97 in 2024. This means that, in general, we can assume that the journey, at least on paper, was easier. Also, in absolute terms – considering the lowest ranking of an opponent faced – there was a notable difference. In 2023, the insurmountable obstacle was the Russian Medvedev, then the blue’s nemesis and number 3 in the rankings. In 2024, it was a more approachable De Minaur – number 11 in the ATP ranking – against whom the H2Hs have also always been in favour of Jannik.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Opposing Players’ Rankings

Break Points: One aspect frequently discussed about Sinner in the last 12 months is his overall growth in all areas: technical, physical, and mental. However, it’s not news that Jannik is mentally tough. Surely, Sinner will continue to tirelessly work on this aspect, as he has always stated, but his starting base has always been enviable. And the results are there for everyone to see. Despite facing a number of break points in the tournament equal to 20 in both 2023 and 2024 – which perhaps was unexpected given the more modest caliber of opponents – the Italian’s response was undeniable. An 80% break point save rate, compared to 65% in 2023 and against an ATP tour average of 61%. (Note: The tour average refers to the average of the last 52 weeks of players who have competed in ATP level tournaments). This figure, among other things, underscores Jannik’s solidity, already above average in 2023.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Break Points Saves, Years 2023-2024

Service – Overall Statistics: Another aspect that has been frequently discussed is Jannik’s improvement in his service game; indeed, the data speaks for itself. Both in terms of the percentage of first serves in play and in terms of effectiveness in converting such a play situation into a point, Sinner has significantly elevated his game. Working on the percentage of first serves in play was the number one priority to improve the Italian’s game performance, and the efforts of Vagnozzi, Cahill & co. have paid off handsomely. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the percentage of first serves in play was 57%, in line with the general performances recorded by Sinner up to that point. Considering that the ATP tour average was 62%, it’s clear this was an aspect still needing improvement until last year. However, the conversion rate from good became excellent. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the conversion rate of points on the first serve stood at 74%, a figure above the tour average, which is at 72%. In 2024, however, we witnessed a further leap forward, reaching the 80% threshold.

Source, ATP Data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Service Performance Comparison

To understand how high this figure is, just look at the leaderboard rankings of the last 52 weeks. In terms of first serves converted into points, 80% is the threshold of absolute excellence. Consider that the two most impressive serving machines ever seen on a tennis court, Karlovic and Isner, had career averages of 83% and 80%, respectively.

ATP Leaderboard

Finally, a somewhat surprising data point is the success performance on the second serve. The Italian won 60% of the points on his second serve in 2023, while in 2024, “only” 56%. This rate is evidently more than sufficient to win matches and tournaments, but in 2023, it was not a problem at all, on the contrary.

Delving further into detail and referring to more detailed analyses (for the metrics used, we also refer to the general description found here), the analysis is further enriched. The data reported are the result of TennisViz processing, on data owned by Tennis Data Innovations (TDI).

Service – Detailed Data: The service performance, in terms of precision and reliability of the shot under pressure, has improved from all perspectives. Among the various metrics available, there are some of interest. Starting with the accuracy on the first serve, i.e., the distance with which the serve is placed from the service lines, measured in cm. Referencing a post from the X Tennis Insights account, we have an overview.

Source: TennisViz on TDI Data

In Rotterdam in 2023, Sinner executed this shot with an accuracy of 57 cm, better than what was measured over the course of the year. But in 2024, this figure impressively dropped to a notable 52 cm, in line with that of Hurkacz. We’ll spare you the statistical details, but the result (highly debatable, given the small sample size) is as follows.

Of course, there are many other variables that explain the yield on the first serve, but the inverse correlation between serve speed and precision is not bad, and generally leads us to say that serving at 125 mph with an accuracy of 52 cm, combined with an average quality in return shots, guarantees an untouchable performance of 80% of points won on the first serve. If the quality is that of Sinner’s serving machine, even less will suffice.

Continuing with the quality of the service shown by Sinner, another data point that deserves further exploration is that of unreturned serves, where the opponent fails to return the serve back into play. Here too, Jannik performed exceptionally well, with aces and opponents’ missed returns bringing home an impressive 40% in 2023 and an exceptional 42% in 2024. Remember, in tennis, variations of 1% can make the difference between a solid top ten player and a Grand Slam title winner. To put it in perspective, the ATP average is 38%.

Source: @Tennisinsight

Finally, to conclude the chapter on the serve, one last piece of data, which we’ve kept in reserve for the most deserving who have persisted in reading up to this point; do you know what the percentage of first serve balls on break points was in 2023? And in 2024? Well, we’ll present it to you in a table, and we’ll add nothing more:

Source: TenniViz on TDI Data

In 2023, when serving on break points, the first serve landed much less than usual in crucial moments. In 2024, however, the Italian did not lose his composure at all, serving as if it were any other point… not bad at all.

Performance in rallies: in this case, we rely on [metrics developed by TDI and TennisViz, which obviously carry the ATP brand](https://www.atptour.com/en/news/insights-introduction); (bonus: if you happen to watch a match on ATP TV, these advanced metrics are just a click away, in the stats section of the App).

Source: TenniViz on TDIData

It’s notable how Jannik has leveled up both in his ability to convert points where he had the advantage (conversion score) and in managing to seize the initiative from opponents when they were in a favorable position during the rally (steal score). Lastly, the final data point: from the baseline, with the current form of Jannik, it’s tough to come out on top, and if we consider his aptitude for turning defense into offense, the puzzle for his opponents is almost unsolvable. Indeed, this explains the overwhelming 56% of points won from the baseline, significantly above the ATP average. This data also finds an explanation in a significant tactical adjustment, the more pronounced use of the down-the-line backhand variation. The backhand crosscourt is already a comfort zone for Sinner, which he can comfortably use to extract points, like a boxer working his opponent with jabs; if we add that now Sinner is also able to find the down-the-line solution at the right moment, again, it spells trouble for his opponents. In 2023, Sinner hit 19.5% of his backhands down the line, while in 2024 this percentage rose to 31.4% in the Rotterdam tournament. A change that helped him tip the scale further in his favor in baseline battles.

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Andrey Rublev Reclaims Prize Money, Points After Appealing Against Dubai Disqualification

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Andrey Rublev will receive ranking points and prize money from the Dubai Tennis Championships despite being disqualified from the event for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Russian world No.5 has won an appeal against the sanction he received last week at the ATP 500 event. Rublev screamed in the face of a lines judge during the third set of his semi-final match against Alexander Bublik. A Russian-speaking official told supervisor Roland Herfel that the tennis star had sworn in his native language, which he denied doing. As a consequence, he was defaulted from the match which usually carries an automatic penalty of that player losing all their points and prize money earned at the tournament.

However, the ATP appeals committee has concluded that those penalties are ‘disproportionate ‘ in this case. Regulating in Rublev winning back more than $150,000 and 200 ranking points. However, a fine of nearly $30,000 has been upheld. 

“The ATP has reviewed an appeal from Andrey Rublev, following the player’s default from the semi-finals of the ATP 500 tournament in Dubai,” the I Newspaper quoted an ATP official as saying
“The appeal process took into consideration testimonies from the player, officials, as well as a review of all available video and audio materials.
“The appeals committee concluded that, beyond forfeiting the match, customary penalties associated with a default – namely loss of rankings points and prize money for the entire tournament – would be disproportionate in this case.
“As such, Rublev retains semi-final points and prize money for the tournament.”

The initial penalty issues against Rublev caused criticism from some players with Daria Kasatkina saying it was a ‘joke’ that no video replay system was in place. The ATP plans to implement electronic line-calling at all of its events by next year. Meanwhile, Bublik said shortly after the incident that he had doubts that Rublev ‘said something crazy.

Rublev will return to action in Indian Wells later this week where he will be seeded sixth in the draw. 

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Indian Wells Chief Haas Backs Djokovic, Sabalenka For Title Glory

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Tommy Haas - Wimbledon 2018 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic should be considered the favourite to capture the men’s title in Indian Wells despite not playing at the event for five years, according to its tournament director. 

Tommy Haas has lent his full backing behind the world No.1 who is set to return to action later this week for the first time since his semi-final loss to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open. Djokovic hasn’t played at Indian Wells since 2019 due to reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the event was cancelled in 2020, he was unable to play the next three years due to travel restrictions that were in place. Under an emergency health law, foreign visitors to America were required to be vaccinated against the virus and the tennis star wasn’t. He applied for special exemptions to play but was refused by authorities. These restrictions ended last year. 

Djokovic, who has previously named Indian Wells as his favourite event, is a five-time champion. The only other male player to have won the tournament as many times as him is Roger Federer. He was also runner-up in 2007 to Rafael Nadal. 

Looking ahead to this year’s tournament, former world No.2 Haas told Eurosport that he considers the 24-time Grand Slam champion as the title favourite and played down the significance of his recent loss in Australia. 

“Djokovic has had such success there, he’s coming back. I feel like every time he doesn’t win a tournament, we all look at it as a failure, right? And I hate to use that word anyway,” Haas said.
“But even the semis at the Australian Open, we all look at it like, ‘Oh, he lost in the semis, he didn’t win the Australian Open.’ But you know how many people of players would love to get to a semi-final one time.
“It’s really outrageous, so you can never count him out. He’s obviously always gonna be a favourite and he’s always gonna look at himself as like, the favourite to win the title.”

Among those challenging the Serbian for the title will be Sinner, who is currently on a 12-match winning streak after also winning Rotterdam last month. Meanwhile, defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will be out to prove a point as he seeks his first title since Wimbledon last year. Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the final to Acaraz 12 months ago, will also be hoping for a strong run. 

As for the women’s event, Haas has not picked world No.1 Iga Swiatek and instead chose Aryna Sabalenka as the one to watch. After capturing her second Australian Open title, Sabalenka suffered a shock defeat in Dubai where she lost 12 out of the last 15 games played against Dona Vekic. The Belarussian was runner-up in Indian Wells last year to Elena Rybakina. 

“On the women’s side, Sabalenka, you know, she has such a big, powerful game. Gives her a little bit more time sometimes in Indian Wells too,” Haas explained.
“But she moves well, she’s feeling obviously very, very good about her game — defending her title at the Australian Open. So I kind of give her the edge also going in, no matter what happens the next couple of weeks.”

The first round of matches at Indian Wells will get underway on Wednesday. This year’s singles champions will each earn $1.1M in prize money. 

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