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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Monte-Carlo Masters Friday Preview: Rafael Nadal Faces Andrey Rublev in the Quarterfinals

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Rafael Nadal on Thursday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

Novak Djokovic’s shocking defeat to Dan Evans leaves Nadal as the top remaining seed.  Can anyone stop the King of Clay from winning this event for an astounding 12th time?  Andrey Rublev tied Djokovic for most wins on the ATP Tour last season, and he’ll try to secure his first over Nadal on Friday.

 

The other three singles quarterfinals feature seeded players against unseeded ones.  But those unseeded players are all dangerous, as each upset a top eight seed to claim their spot in the quarters.  And in doubles, three of the top four seeds are still alive, as are a veteran French team who were the champions of this event in 2016.   

Throughout the week, this preview will analyze the most prominent match of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Friday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Andrey Rublev – Fourth on Court Rainier III

Their only previous clash occurred during Rublev’s breakout event.  At the 2017 US Open, a 19-year-old Rublev reached his first Major quarterfinal.  However, he was promptly destroyed in that round by Nadal, earning only five games across three sets.  And Nadal has been in destroy mode thus far this week, dropping only five games across four sets.

Four years later, Rublev is a much more developed, accomplished player.  Since the start of last season, he’s 63-14, with six titles.  And while he’s not the King of Clay, he’s 12-2 on this surface during that same span.  So his rematch with Nadal should be a much more competitive affair.  But the Russian is coming off a grueling, nearly three-hour contest on Thursday evening with another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.  And Nadal is a strong favorite just about every time he walks onto a clay court.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Fabio Fognini (15) vs. Casper Ruud – Fognini is the defending champion from 2019, and is yet to drop a set this week.  Ruud came back from 5-2 down on Wednesday, saving two match points against Carreno Busta.  The 22-year-old Norwegian is 2-0 against the Italian, which includes a victory on clay last September in Hamburg.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – This is their first meeting, and the 21-year-old Spaniard’s first time advancing this far at a Masters event.

David Goffin (11) vs. Dan Evans – The British No.1’s three victories this week represent nearly half of his career total on this surface.  Goffin took out fifth-seeded Sascha Zverev on Thursday.  Evans claimed their only previous encounter in straight sets, at last year’s ATP Cup.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (7) – Mektic and Pavic are an outstanding 26-3 on the year, with four titles.  The Frenchmen own a career Grand Slam as a team, as well as seven Masters 1000 titles.  At the Australian Open, Mektic and Pavic outlasted Herbert and Mahut in a third-set 10-point tiebreak.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Fabio Fognini and Diego Schwartzman – On Thursday, Cabal and Farah dominated two other top singles players, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz.  This is Fabio and Diego’s first event as a team since three years ago in Madrid, where they lost to Cabal and Farah in straights.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Novak Djokovic Blasts ‘Awful’ Performance After Monte-Carlo Exit

Novak Djokovic described his performance as awful as he fell to Dan Evans in Monte-Carlo.

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Novak Djokovic (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has labelled his own performance as ‘awful’ as he exited the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

 

The world number one managed to hit 45 unforced errors as he uncharacteristically produced a bad performance to fall to a 6-4 7-5 defeat to Dan Evans.

It was the Brit’s first win over a top five players as he moved into the quarter-finals where he will play David Goffin.

However after the match, Djokovic didn’t take long to make it known how he felt about the performance, “To be honest this has been probably one of the worst matches and performances from my side I can recall in the last years,” Djokovic admitted.

“I don’t want to take anything away from his win, but from my side, I just felt awful, on the court overall. Just nothing worked. It’s one of those days. I mean, just awful performance. I can’t take anything positive away from this match.”

Speaking on the future, Djokovic acknowledged there is a long way to go before Roland Garros and knows that he needs to improve, “Today was completely the opposite of what I felt yesterday,” the Serb explained.

“Just was obviously very, very windy, tough to play in these conditions against a guy like Evans who makes you move. He’s very unpredictable with his shots. He dismantled my game.

“I was just not feeling it and playing pretty bad. As I walk off the court I’m disappointed with the way I played. But it’s a long clay season. Still plenty of tournaments, plenty of room to improve.”

The Serb will look to improve straight away, starting with his home tournament in Belgrade which starts on Monday.

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Nadal Clinical in his win over Dimitrov in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal produced another statement win as he dismantled Grigor Dimitrov in the third round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The Spaniard and the number three seed needed less than an hour and only lost two games in his win over the Bulgarian.

 

Rafa Nadal continues to show he is the king of clay despite not playing many matches as he demolished Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets 6-1, 6-1 in a mere 56 minutes on court hitting 11 winners while his opponent hit 32 unforced errors.

“I am sorry for him, he played a bad match, he made a lot of mistakes, I was there, I was doing the right things but It’s true that today was more his fault than my good tennis”.

The conditions didn’t suit the number 14 seed as it was cold and windy and that seemed to affect his serve and his play. After holding serve the world number three had his first chance to break and took full advantage as an out of sorts Dimitrov double faulted to give the early break.

After consolidating the break the Spaniard had a chance to go up a double break and on his second chance would break again as the Bulgarian would hit one of many unforced errors.

Nadal would serve out the first set in a mere 28 minutes and was in full control of the match.

The second set was more of the same and the Bulgarian looked out of it getting broken once again in the first game and then being broken once again to stare down a 3-0 defecit.

After being broken again the number 14 seed finally exploded and destroyed his racquet in anger and what was becoming a very bad day. The number three seed would serve out the match in less than a hour to book his spot in the next round.

He will either face Roberto Bautista Agut or Andrey Rublev and in an on court interview gave his thoughts on the match.

“I know It’s tough when you are out for a while on the tour but I think I did the right thing both days to stay focused on every single point even if the score was in my favour don’t lose the concentration, don’t lose the intensity and that’s the goal today but at the same time when I am playing well just don’t lose it, just keep going and keep making the things that I need”

In other action today spots in the quarterfinals were on the line and Fabio Fognini booked his spot by beating the Serb Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 7-6 (1), David Goffin the number 11 seed upset the number five seed Alexander Zverev 6-4, 7-6 (7), and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina beat the Frenchman Lucas Pouille 6-2, 7-6 (2).

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