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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Novak Djokovic Thrashes Davidovich Fokina To Set Nishikori Showdown At Olympics

Novak Djokovic moved into the last eight at the Olympics where he will face Kei Nishikori next.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic gold medal continues after a convincing 6-3 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

 

The world number one’s bid for the golden slam rolls on after a dominating straight sets win over the Spaniard.

Despite the win the top seed had to defend break points early on as Davidovich Fokina showed early signs of consistent aggression.

Davidovich Fokina’s all-round game was working effectively on return and the Spaniard managed to save two break points himself with some neat patterns of play.

However Djokovic eventually grinded out the break for a 3-1 lead as his defensive skills were too strong for the Spaniard.

After that the Spaniard did well to fend off Djokovic’s returning pressure as he maintained a good percentage of 1st serve points won.

However the Serb eventually served out the opening set in 47 minutes in a strong performance.

From there the Serb increased his level and intensity as he made Davidovich Fokina work harder than the first serve.

A flawless second set display was enough as Djokovic broke three times to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

The win means Kei Nishikori stands in Djokovic’s way of competing in a medal match as the Serb looks to win the one thing that has alluded his career and that is a gold medal.

Nishikori beat Ilya Ivashka to make the last eight after winning 7-6(7) 6-0 in just over two hours.

Alexander Zverev also went through to the Olympics quarter-finals with a straight sets win over Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The German will now face Jeremy Chardy in the last eight after the Frenchman ended Liam Broady’s run in Tokyo.

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Svitolina Beats Giorgi to Reach Semis in Tokyo

Elina Svitolina has guaranteed herself a medal match after beating Camila Giorgi in Tokyo.

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Elina Svitolina (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

The world number six booked her spot in the final four after beating Camila Giorgi of Italy.

 

Elina Svitolina is into the semi-finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics almost guaranteeing herself a medal after beating the world number 61 and Italian in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 serving 6 aces and hitting 13 winners in the while Giorgi hit 32 unforced errors in the loss.

The Ukrainian went on the attack from the word play earning two breakpoints in the match’s opening game as the Italian seemed to get off to a slow start and she made her pay by getting the early break.

After consolidating the break the number four seed was hungry for more getting two more chances to break and breaking once more to go up a double break.

At 5-1 the Ukrainian had two set points but failed to convert and the Italian took advantage of it breaking back the very next game with a stunning forehand winner to get one of the breaks back.

The world number six eventually served out the first set and continued to ride the momentum into the second set where just like the beginning of the first set she broke in the first game and cruised from there.

At 3-1, she had three more chances to go up a double break once again and she earned it with a sublime forehand winner up the line before getting broken the very next game.

Despite giving one of the breaks back, Svitolina could serve out the match and will play Marketa Vondrousova in the last four.

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Ugo Humbert Pulls Off Tsitsipas Upset In Tokyo

Ugo Humbert stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the Quarter-Finals at the Olympic Games.

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Ugo Humbert (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

The Frenchman sent the Greek packing in a three-set battle that went over two hours on court.

 

Ugo Humbert booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympic tournament after beating the world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in three sets 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 in two hours and 20 minutes hitting 34 winners in the win while his opponent hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

After both players held their opening service games it was the Greek with the first chance to break and at the second time of asking he broke to take an early 2-1 lead.

The world number 28 had two chances to break back the very next game but the number three seed saved both and consolidated the break before going up a double break the very next game.

Tsitsipas served out the first set and going into the second set it was a very tight affair with neither player budging on their service games as the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

That’s where the number 14 seed jumped out to an early lead and that lead was enough for him to take the second set and force a deciding third set.

There was a bit of a scary moment for the world number three when on set point he seemed to roll his ankle and took a medical timeout to get it treated.

It was clear the injury was affecting him during the third and final set as after both players again held their opening service games it was the Frenchman with three breakpoints and got the early break.

In the next game, the number three seed had a chance to break back on go back on serve but the world number 28 did a good job saving it and consolidating the break.

After consolidating the break the Frenchman smelled blood and sensed the match was his for the taking and broke the Greek for a second time to love and at 5-2 there was a long back and forth game that lasted over 10 minutes.

Humbert finally converted on his fourth match point to book his spot in the quarterfinals and a date with the Russian Karen Khachanov.

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