Sloane Stephens and Elena Vesnina To Face-Off In The Charleston Final - UBITENNIS
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Sloane Stephens and Elena Vesnina To Face-Off In The Charleston Final

The final of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, South Carolina will be played by the 7th seeded American, Sloane Stephens, and the Russian qualifier Elena Vesnina.

Jakub Bobro

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Sloane Stephens advanced to the final by retirement. The much anticipated match between Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens was decimated by Kerber’s viral illness, which caused her not to play her best tennis, and eventually to retire from the match at 6-1 3-0 ret.

 

“I just thought I’m going out to play a match,” Stephens said. “I just thought it was going to be a battle. And unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well. But I mean it’s understandable, it happens. I wish her well. I hope she gets better soon because I know they have Fed Cup coming up next week. That’s all you can really do in that sort of situation.”

Kerber seemed to be in a really good form, winning her last two matches 6-2 6-3 against first Kucova, and then Begu. Things got really unlucky for Kerber, the viral illness taking her out of Charleston will cause her drop to No. 3 in the rankings, and putting her Fed Cup appearance in jeopardy.

“When I was warming up this morning, I felt a little bit like something is wrong,” she said. “But I was thinking that when I’m going on court, the energy will come back and I will feeling okay. And it starts in the first few games in the first set that I was feeling that, yeah, something is not good.”

Stephens’ opponent will be the World No. 85, Elena Vesnina. The Russian is having a dream run in Charleston as a qualifier, gunning for her 3rd WTA Singles title. The live rankings monitor Vesnina as No. 51 right now, meaning that she will raise by 34 places in the rankings. If Vesnina manages to win the tournament, Vesnina will be at No. 39. In the semifinals, she pulled off the upset over the 5th seed Sara Errani 6-4 4-6 6-2 in 2 hours and 21 minutes. Vesnina won 8 out of 11 close games, which was definitely a factor in defeating Errani. Vesnina’s highest ranking is No. 21, but the shoulder injury which she suffered at the 2014 US Open was a major setback to her career, but now she seems to be getting back to her past heights.

“It took a while for me to recover after that,” said Vesnina, who is from Russia. “I was struggling with confidence, I was losing some points, I was dropping in the ranking, I was not winning matches. And it was really difficult to come up. I’m really happy that I actually doing well now, and I’m not actually looking at my ranking that much. I’m just looking at my game. That’s, I think, the most important thing.”

The head-to-head is in favor of the lower-ranked Russian, winning the only meeting so far between them in Hobart 2013. Vesnina seems to be in incredible form, losing only 1 set in her 7 matches here. All that said, Stephens is still the odds-on favorite, and will be less fatigued than Vesnina, having to play only 10 games, compared to a three set drama.

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EXCLUSIVE: The Big Business Of Data Analytics In Tennis

Ubitennis speaks with the founder of Tennis Data company Sportiii, whose company is currently working with Magnus Norman for Stan Wawrinka’s analytical team.

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Mike james with doubles player Mate Pavic and Tomislav Brkic at a Challenger tournament.

As tennis players head into their off-season, it is normally the same routine. A couple of days of rest followed by numerous training blocks to get them ready for the following season. They are guided by their coaches, physios and for a growing number with the help of a computer by their side.

 

With technology continuing to rapidly develop, the use of data statistics is becoming big business in the world of tennis. A method where players analyse the numbers behind their performance. Ranging from their service percentages to the average length of rallies they are playing. The idea being that their training is then customised to take into account those figures.

However, how much of a big deal is it?

Mike James is the founder of Sportiii Tennis Analytics. A company that provides detailed information on player’s strategies and patterns. They have a partnership with the prestigious Good To Great Academy in the pipeline and supply information to Stan Wawrinka’s analytical team. British-based James has more than a decade of experience in coaching and has previously mentored the likes of former top 20 doubles specialise Mate Pavic. At present Sportiii are working with several ATP and WTA players, but are unable to name them due to a confidentiality agreement.

“We are fortunate enough to be able to use Dartfish. Dartfish created a tagging part of their software package around 10 years ago. It allows us to make customized tagging panels or coding as they say in football or rugby. Essentially, we can tag or code whatever the player, coach or federation wants to look for.” James explained during an interview with Ubitennis.
“We are taking 30 KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) of information which allows us to take the data and move that into a strategy for the players and their teams to know what is working and what isn’t.”

Tennis is far from the only sport to be influenced by the rapid rise of technology. Although, is it really a necessity? During the 1980s with the likes of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, they both managed to achieve highly successful careers without detailed statistical information. Some would argue that they most important aspect is a person’s talent on the court and how they mentally cope with different situations. Not how many rallies they win in under five shots.

Although James points out that without services like his, there is a chance that player’s could be training the wrong areas of their games. Therefore hampering their own development in the sport.

“If we know the 70% of the returns are going back into the court in the men’s game, then we know the first ball after the serve is extremely important. Also, if we know that 70% of the match is between zero and four, the serve and return is vitally important.” He said.
“Players hitting 20, 30, or 40 balls in a row before they have a break. They are not training the game, they might be training the technical aspects of their game but they cannot train tactically playing this many balls without a break.”

A method for the many, not the few

There are still a few stigmas when it comes to companies such as Sportiii. Many would think this service would be something mainly of interest to coaches and nobody else. However, James reveals that this isn’t always the case.

“Of course, some coaches want to know the information, but we have players we deal with without their coaches because they are the ones interested. If it’s going to work best with statistics, numbers and strategy, you’re going to want both the player and coach fully buying in to this way of thinking. That’s going to get the best result for sure.”

Novak Djokovic has previously worked alongside Craig O’Shannessy, who is the founder of Brain Game Tennis and writes numerous statistical articles for atpworldtour.com. Meanwhile, Alexander Zverev once said ‘all the big guys are using data analysis, they just don’t like to talk about it.’ There is clearly a market, but is it only for those who can afford it?

Despite the rise of prize money earnings, the disparity on the tour remains substantial. Rafael Nadal was the highest earner of 2019 on the ATP Tour with $12.8 million in winnings. In contrast, the 300th highest earner, Federico Coria, made just over $81,000. Less than 1% of Nadal’s tally. According to one report from The Telegraph, leading agencies in the tennis data industry are selling their top packages in the region of £80,000 ($103,000) per year.

“We look to do individual tailor made packages depending on a player’s ranking, age, experience, support team, if they are funded by their federation or if they are funded by private sponsors.” James commented on how Sportiii handles the situation.
“But at the end of the day, of course the first part of a player’s budget is for their coach and then maybe the Physio. But I think having an analyst or strategy consultant is becoming higher in the pecking order for players going into 2020.” He added.

The future

James pictured with Magnus Norman (left) and Jonas Arnesen (middle)

Next year Sportii will officially begin their work with Swedish tennis academy Good To Great, which is located to the north of Stockholm. Regarded as one of the top academies in the country, it was founded by Magnus Norman, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillström. Their role will be providing information to those who use the facility.

“We’re really looking to steepen the learning curve and support their academy pro team. But also help develop their junior players they have coming through.” James explained about the collaboration.
“We support their team with educational workshops and I think this is the next phrase for data analytics. That will be going into junior tennis and not just looking at the top of the game.”

The desire to focus more on the younger generation of athletes emulates that of the ATP with their Next Gen Finals in Milan. An end-of-season event that features the eight best players under the age of 21. At the tournament, they use a series of new innovative methods. Including electronic line calling, the use of a handset to speak with coaches during changeovers and wearable technology.

There is no doubt that the new generation of players is more comfortable with the use of technology. But what does that mean for the future of coaching? Would it be possible that one day the profession could be replaced by a computer instead? This could appeal to those looking to save costs, however James isn’t convinced the complete removal of the human element will happen.

“If players are more certain and confident in knowing what they need to do, in my opinion the level goes up.” He states. “Then, if the level goes up, maybe we are not at the pinnacle of the sport seeing Rafa, Roger, Stan and Novak playing video game tennis. I think we are still going to get another level of tennis in 5-10 years, which is very exciting for the sport.”

It is inevitable that technology will have a greater presence in tennis over the coming years in some shape or form. The only question is where do you draw a line?

To find out more information about Sportiii you can visit www.sportiiianalytics.com or check out their social media pages.

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Andy Murray’s Presence In Davis Cup Quarter-Final Clash Undecided

Will the former world No.1 be chosen to play or not?

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 16: Andy Murray of Great Britain during a training session of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 16, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mateo Villalba / Kosmos Tennis)

Great Britain’s bid to reach the last four of the Davis Cup could take place without three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray amid his current fitness on the court.

 

Murray, who is the only British man in the Open Era to reach world No.1, was absent from his team’s clash with Kazakhstan on Thursday. Instead the duty was down to Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans. Edmund was in impressive form as he downed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3, but Evans was edged out in three sets by Alexander Bublik. Leaving it down to the doubles pairing of Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski to clinch the crucial win to claim the overall 2-1 victory.

“I had every confidence in Kyle, saw firsthand what he was playing like indoors in Paris and what he’s been doing in practice. I thought he was going to play well, and he did play well, he played really well.” Team captain Leon Smith told reporters in Madrid.
“Then Evo (Evans) again was totally in the match, a bit like yesterday, bar a couple of points.’
“And then Jamie and Neal got into a great head space again. And the doubles players expressed themselves. And I think that’s where, you know, it is an advantage for us in these situations.”

The Brits have topped their group with two out of two wins after beating the Netherlands earlier in the week. Their reward is a quarter-final meeting with Germany, who has three top 100 singles players and two top 20 players in doubles. However, it is uncertain if Murray will be present in the tie after recently admitting that he is not in his best form. Saying he had ‘lots of cake and junk’ following the recent birth of his third child Teddy.

“I told you guys I wasn’t feeling in the best shape coming in, and it showed a little bit in the match,” Murray said earlier in the week.
“The weight and things like that, that’s my fault. I won’t put myself in that position again.
“If you’re weighing four or five kilos more than you’re used to, that is probably going to affect how you feel moving around the court.”

The frank admission has placed Smith in a predicament concerning who to play in the quarter-final clash, which only features a total of three matches. The tie will not take place until tomorrow afternoon. Meaning a final decision on Murray will likely occur tomorrow instead of this evening.

“It’s important after five weeks of not playing any competitive tennis that you play a match. It wasn’t his ideal match at all, but it was a match nonetheless, and that gets you going again, it gets you going.” Smith said of Murray.

Meanwhile, Germany is keeping quietly confident over their chances of ending British hopes. They have already scored wins over Argentina and Chile in the group stages. It has been 26 years since they last won the Davis Cup trophy.

“I think this new format is a little bit closer, the nations are a little bit closer together. So we have actually a very, very good doubles team, and I think every other nation knows that. So they are a little bit tight also against us to win both singles.” German captain Michael Kohlmann said.
“We are going to prepare the best and hopefully our singles guys and everybody’s fit and ready to play tomorrow.”

The upcoming tie will be the first meeting between the two countries since 1973.

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Rafael Nadal Backs Djokovic In Calls For Merger Of Davis Cup And ATP Cup

Will the comments from two of the biggest names in the world of men’s tennis have any influence?

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MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 20: Rafael Nadal and Marcel Granollers of Spain celebrate during Group B match between Spain and Croatia of Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2019 at Caja Magica on November 20, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Diego Souto / Kosmos Tennis)

World No.1 Rafael Nadal has reiterated his stance that the two biggest team tournaments in men’s tennis should be condensed into one event after similar comments made from rival Novak Djokovic.

 

The 19-time grand slam champion said he, ‘doesn’t personally see’ the prospect of both the Davis Cup and ATP Cup co-existing in the future. Just over a month separates the two events, which is run by different organisations. The Davis Cup is overseen by the International Tennis Federation and the ATP managed the newly revived ATP Cup. Once occurs at the end of the season and the other at the start of the next.

“I don’t see another way, honestly. I don’t see two World Cups in one month on our calendar. That’s something that I personally don’t see.” Nadal told reporters on Wednesday evening.
“I cannot talk for the ATP. I cannot talk for the other players. But, personally, we have an opportunity to finally have a great competition.”

There have been tentative talks between the ITF and ATP in the past, but they both have their own vision and are reluctant to change their events. The Davis Cup recently had a revamp with a 25-year $3 billion investment from Kosmos. Meanwhile, their rival event will officially begin in 2020 and is the only team tournament in the sport that can offer ranking points to players.

Amid the impasse between the two, Nadal believes it is time to work together. Branding the involvement of Kosmos in the sport as ‘important.’

“It’s important, in my opinion, to share efforts between ATP and ITF. And at the same time, have an important company that is able to work hard to bring this competition to the next level, like Kosmos.” He said.
“My personal opinion is, there is no other way than have only one big, big competition. ATP, ITF, Kosmos, Davis Cup, World Cup. Doesn’t matter the name.’
“I think Davis Cup is the right name because it’s part of the history of our sport. And it will be great if we are able to put everything together.” He added.

Nadal’s rival Djokovic believes there is a chance of some form of a merger in the future. He is currently the president of the influential ATP Player Council and won the Davis Cup back in 2010. The world No.2 believes a better solution would be a Super Cup taking place in September. However, the issue to that is the Roger Federer-back Laver Cup. Which already has a place in the ATP calendar and takes place during that month.

“I’m sure that the organizers of (the Davis Cup) are doing their best to make this a successful week, a successful event,” Djokovic said during a press conference.
“It’s a lot of responsibility and pressure on them because this is the most traditional, historic team event in our sport. There’s a tremendous burden of history on them to make it right.
“But then, of course, scheduling has been always an issue, for both ATP Cup and Davis Cup. In my opinion, which was an idea, that it could happen, was a merger between the two.
“And so I think it’s still open for the future.”

Football player Gerard Pique is the founder of Kosmos, who has become a key figure in the world of team tennis. Responding to concerns over the scheduling of the Davis Cup, he has played down the significance. Even though the issue has been raised by many players.

“It’s not ideal because they end up tired all year.” He told marca.com.
“For me to play in the last week of the calendar makes sense. We’ll try to find the best [solution] with ATP but, for now, we’re comfortable.”

40 days separates the end of the Davis Cup from the start of the ATP Cup.

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