Tennis And Data: What Is Actually Available For The Public? From Raw Numbers To Hawk-Eye Metrics - UBITENNIS
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Tennis And Data: What Is Actually Available For The Public? From Raw Numbers To Hawk-Eye Metrics

Here is the second episode of our ongoing series on the advent of advanced analytics in the game. Let’s draw a few lines – what are the types of data, and who are they available to? Only those who are willing to spend a lot of money (like Federer) will get the entire benefit.

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A "data dump” of the bounces and racket strikes between Roger Federer and Andy Murray in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games - image via nationalgeographic.com
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The first official statistics related to individual matches have been recorded since 1991. To give you an idea, if you visit the ATP site and try to retrieve the head-to-head tally between Edberg and Becker, you will find the details of their matches only from that year onwards. Therefore, the first thing we can say without any doubt is that players, coaches and journalists could only do one thing before 1991: try to guess what had happened.

Therefore, systematic data collection on tennis began in the early 1990s… and unfortunately has never changed since then, except for some charts generously provided during the Grand Slam tournaments and the Masters 1000 events. In the latest episode of our series of articles, we will focus on the ownership of that information and who is involved in the data’s collection. Today, we focus on how to describe these evanescent data nuggets.

Tennis is an optimal sport for data analysis. It features elementary units (any single point) and there is a hierarchical framework with a binary outcome (games and sets). Although a large amount of data is available, only a small part is shared with the public: aggregates of elementary units (points, games and sets won), relevant points won (break points saved and converted) and aggregate performance about the serve, the only shot tracked. Going back to the ATP website, only serve stats and not much else is to be found.

So, what are the data on which tennis players, coaches, journalists and fans would like to see? Let’s try to summarise the different types:

FIRST CATEGORY: RAW DATA

The summary data about points are the overall data, which tell us how many points have been won by a player, for example, or how many break points have been played. The perspective of this analysis are the points, the elementary unit in the hierarchy of the tennis point system. Therefore, the point is generally the basic unit of available statistics, to which only one information related to the shots played is associated, e.g. the serve. In practice, the point, despite being the elementary unit of the score, is a black box that can have a varied composition but the only known attribute is “point played on the first serve” or “point played on the second of serve”. End of the story. All hope will be lost while trying to give statistical representations of a match, at least with reference to the official data freely available and published by the ATP.

That the serve is the most important shot in tennis (perhaps along with the return) is well known – on average, 60-70 percent of all points fall into the under-five-shots rally category. Relying only on this information is quite limiting when you are trying to make an analytical framework based on solid experimental foundations of what happens in a match or try to draw general trends. The most interesting results we can get with these data are the correlation between the performance of won and lost matches with reference to serve and important points played. It is not surprisingly that in the Stats section of the ATP site – the ATP Leaderboards – only data relating to the serving, returning and under-pressure performances are to be found. We have already talked about the robustness of these indicators here at UbiTennis, and Stephanie Kovalchick, one of the most influential academics in the field of data analytics who also collaborates with Tennis Australia, wrote about this topic too. It is possible to carry out some historical analysis starting from these data; for example, the table below displays a statistic that compares the percentage difference – positive or negative – between the percentage of points won on serve and the percentage of break points saved by Federer in hard-fought matches:

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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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