Tennis Data: Who Uses Advanced Statistics To Win? The Examples Of Thiem, Medvedev And Djokovic - UBITENNIS
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Tennis Data: Who Uses Advanced Statistics To Win? The Examples Of Thiem, Medvedev And Djokovic

UbiTennis is launching a series of articles on the topic of data in tennis: why will the future of sport be characterised by more and more detailed numbers?

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In the weeks preceding the Australian Open, we have decided to open up a new front and treat it with the calm that only the absence of the tournaments’ daily grind can give us. In this series of articles, we will talk about the topic of tennis data, with the purpose – a bit ambitious, to be honest – to guide you from the simplest to the more complex concepts of this field to help you understand why the future of tennis, and the present too, will be strongly characterized by numbers and data.

 

Describing the history of a match to obtain patterns and tactical indications is not a trivial process. It is even less easy to get out of the perspective of a single match in order to draw trend lines to recognize styles of play. Curiously, a binary sport such as tennis, with discreet scores and phases of play (and thus perfectly suitable for statistical analysis), is among those lagging behind in this field. Despite a significant delay when compared to other sports such as basketball and baseball, rooted in sabermetrics-centric America, tennis has also taken a step forward in this direction in the last few years.

On the WTA Tour, the analysis tools provided by SAP allow coaches to receive detailed information on match performances in real time – and the new deal signed with Stats Perform promises to take the concept to an even higher degree. On the ATP Tour, another IT giant like Infosys (an Indian company with over 200,000 employees) has recently renewed its agreement as Global Technology Services Partner and Digital Innovation Partner until 2023.

The use of data analysis techniques is becoming more and more common among top players, and is also giving rise to a cultural change that requires data analysis experts to assess large amounts of data on the one hand and to show coaches easy-to-read information on the other. These can be used by an athlete’s team to set both tactical plans for individual matches and long-term developments of his or her playing style.

The data collection and processing issue is addressed with a professionalism that varies from semi-handcraft to more sophisticated approaches. At the same time, to respond to this growing demand, companies are also starting to provide analysis and support services in statistical interpretation, whose forerunner is probably Dartfish, a video tagging tool (assignment of ‘tags’ to the different match events, broken up into each of its 15) first used by Craig O’Shannessy, the most famous analyst who collaborates as a tactical analyst in Djokovic’s team.

At one end of the spectrum, we find the classic approach, the one for which statistical information are useful, even though it’s not structured in a decision-making process: information that from time to time are intercepted by the coach who, on the basis of his experience, elaborates them with a layman’s perspective. An example is Nicolas Massù, whose contribution to the growth of Thiem is unquestionable and based on his tennis wisdom.

At a higher level of awareness, we probably find the majority of coaches who, not having the time and skills needed to embark on a structured process of data analysis as Massù, nonetheless feel the need to have this information funnelled to them in some way. It would be ideal for this type of coach to have a qualified counterpart, mixing tennis and data analysis skills, being able to take part in decision-making processes, speaking the same ‘language’ of a tennis coach, and providing easy to understand insights. An example is Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara (up to a certain point in his career), who until the summer of 2019 didn’t use this type of analysis but left the door open to possible collaborations.

The next step is a well-defined collaboration, in which statistical analysis finally finds a place in the player’s team. At this level we find collaborations with individual players who combine tennis skills with a professional approach based on data collection and processing. We are talking about situations in which tennis competence is predominant, which, combined with craft (but effective) match charting techniques, allows to obtain additional high-value information that can be successfully integrated in the tactical preparation of matches. An example is constituted by Gilles Cervara… 2.0, who began his collaboration with a Swiss consultant, Fabrice Sbarro, in the summer of 2019. It turns out that this professional has brought a significant added value. He’s another example of ‘craftsmen’ with tennis wisdom who have paved the way for tennis analysis. Finally, the last step of this curve of acceptance to statistical analysis schemes is represented by the inclusion in the coaching process of the services offered by specialised companies, such as Golden Set Analytics (GSA), which assesses the performances of more than 150 players of the ATP circuit through the work of a team of experts. In addition to GSA, a leader in this sector, other companies provide advanced services such as Data Driven Sports Analytics or Sportiii Analytics. This link will take you to an interview with the founder of the latter company, which mix advanced big data and data representation techniques and is moving, just like DDSA, in the direction of incorporating automatic capture techniques from video sources.

If we want to refer to the graphic representation at the beginning of this article, the tennis world is entering the phase of awareness by the business domain (i.e., players and coaches) and is taking the first steps towards data analysis applications, which, enriched over time with advanced data processing features, will allow the full deployment of data science techniques.

https://www.ubitennis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Image-2.jpg

In conclusion, the panorama is extremely varied: it ranges from enthusiasts like Djokovic, who has started to use statistical reports thanks to the collaboration with O’Shannessy, in order to identify those game patterns to be used in crucial moments. Another player who has declared to use O’Shannessy’s services is Berrettini, who, unlike Djokovic, prefers not to receive very granular information, but only “pills” of statistical data that can be of immediate help without running the risk of getting too confused. Another player who declared to use data analysis services is Zverev, who talked about it at ATP Finals 2019 as an important help to better frame his rivals’ playing style. A further example of virtuous collaboration in the women’s category is the one enjoyed by Bianca Andreescu, who, thanks to the support of Tennis Canada, was able to receive ad hoc analytical reports for her own match preparation.

On apparently more vague positions we find Federer, who has repeatedly declared how data are interesting, but must be carefully handled not to be misleading. However, in addition to being a GSA client, according to a leak reported some time ago by the Telegraph Federer has a privileged relationship and so for a higher price he would have access to exclusive insights that are not available to his opponents.

Nadal’s position is much more conservative. He has repeatedly reiterated that he elects to rely on Moya’s tennis savvy for his matches preparation (and given the masterpiece of the last final in Paris we don’t dare to reproach him). According to Nadal, the use of analysis techniques is mostly limited to the use of sensors for the bio-mechanical representation of his shots and to acquire information about his game, but without pretensions of tactical comparison with his opponents.

Concluded this first overview of the most prominent tennis players using a ‘data driven’ approach, we wait for you with the next article in the series, in which we will specifically analyse which are the most important metrics to be analysed in the tennis world.

Article by Federico Bertelli; translated by Alice Nagni; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Bianca Andreescu delays season won’t travel to Australia

Bianca Andreescu will miss the start of the season in Australia after a tough 2021 season.

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Bianca Andreescu (@OduNews1 - Twitter)

The Canadian went on social media to break the news that she needs a little more time to rehab, prepare and focus on mental health.

 

Bianca Andreescu’s most recent tennis season wasn’t easy and amid a difficult year with highs and lows with twists and turns, she has decided to delay the beginning of her season.

The Toronto native took to Twitter to break the news to announce she was going through a difficult time including the fact she was worried about her grandmother who was in the ICU due to Covid.

Andreescu got off to a slow start last season losing in the second round of the Australian Open but bounced back in Miami in the first WTA 1000 tournament of the year making the final.

In that final, she faced the world number one Ash Barty but was actually forced to retire after a scary tumble for her first injury of the season. The clay-court season was even more hectic as she had tested positive for Covid herself and played one tune-up event prior to the French Open.

She won two matches in Strasbourg before pulling out of precaution due to an ab tear and ended up being upset in the first round of Roland Garros to the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek.

She then turned to the grass-court season where she won one match in Eastbourne, one where she struggled to get past the American qualifier Christina Mchale but managed to pull it off in three sets.

She lost her next match to the Estonian Anett Kontaveitt in straight sets and went on to her next grass-court event in the German capital of Berlin. She was upset once again by Alize Cornet of France.

She faced Cornet once again in round one of Wimbledon but again failed to get the win. She then played her home event the National Bank Open in Montreal where she lost in the round of 16 to the Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

In Cincinnati, she suffered another first-round exit at the hands of the Czech Karolina Muchova but managed to have a great US Open run in New York where again she made the round of 16.

She eventually lost to Maria Sakkari of Greece in a tough three-set match and played two more events in Chicago and Indian Wells. In the windy city, she lost her opening match to Shelby Rodgers and made the second round in California losing once again to Kontaveitt.

After all her 2019 points dropped off she is now ranked 46 in the world.

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Davis Cup: Great Britain Handed Wildcard For 2022 Finals, Qualifiers Draw Announced

The Davis Cup Qualifiers draw was announced with Great Britain and Serbia handed a wildcard to next year’s finals.

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Great Britain and Serbia have been handed a wildcard for the 2022 Davis Cup Finals as the qualifiers draw was announced.

 

As this year’s Davis Cup comes to a conclusion, plans for next year’s competition have been put in place.

Although it is still unclear if the Finals will be held in Abu Dhabi next year, we do know which four countries have qualified for the year ending competition next month.

Russia and Croatia will contest the 2021 final, therefore earning themselves an automatic spot in next year’s finals.

However joining them will be two wildcards and they have been given to Novak Djokovic’s Serbia who reached the semi-finals this year as well as Great Britain.

To the surprise of many there was no wildcard for Spain, who are hosting the final this year, further indicating that next year’s competition is unlikely to take place in the country.

Spain join a whole host of other top nations such as Germany, France, USA, Canada and Australia in March’s qualifiers.

Spain will host Romania for a place in next year’s finals while France and USA have been given home ties against Ecuador and Colombia respectively.

Here is the full draw for the qualifiers which will take place on the 4th and 5th of March:

France v Ecuador

Spain v Romania

Finland v Belgium

USA v Colombia

Netherlands v Canada

Brazil v Germany

Slovakia v Italy

Australia v Hungary

Norway v Kazakhstan

Sweden v Japan

Argentina v Czech Republic

South Korea v Austria

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Iga Swiatek Working With Agnieszka Radwanska’s Former Coach After Recent Coaching Split

Iga Swiatek has made some coaching changes ahead of the 2022 season.

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Iga Swiatek will start working with Agnieszka Radwanska’s former coach Tomasz Wiktorowski on a temporary basis after splitting up with her long term coach.

 

The Pole announced the news on Instagram yesterday that she and Piotr Sierzputowski had split up after five years working with each other.

Swiatek had achieved ultimate success with Piotr having won Wimbledon Juniors, reaching her first WTA final in Lugano and the most important achievement of winning her first grand slam title at Roland Garros.

However the 20 year-old now feels its time to move on ahead of the 2022 season, “I’ve started my pre-season, but today I would like to tell you something significant,” Swiatek wrote on Instagram.

“After more than 5 years I’ve decided to finish my cooperation with my coach Piotr Sierzputowski. This change is really challenging for me and this decision wasn’t easy, either… As tennis players we meet on our path a lot of people who contribute great value into our work and, often, into our life too, because we spend almost the whole year on tour together.

“I found out that sometimes in our professional life we need changes to develop more, evolve and meet other people with whom we’re going to create a cooperation for the next stages of our development. 

“I would like to thank you Coach for everything that you did for me. We gave each other so much and I hope that we’ll continue to grow and develop with this experience we’ve gained together. I owe you a lot and truly appreciate the time we’ve spent together. All those years enabled us to be in the place that we are now. 

“I suppose you may have questions about what’s next. I have everything I need to be able to work and I would like to focus on my pre-season without any outside pressure. I hope you’ll understand it.”

https://twitter.com/Sierzputowsky/status/1467456169161678851

Although the news comes as a surprise given that Swiatek was the only woman to reach the last 16 of every grand slam 2021, it is always better for players to change coaches at the end of the season rather than mid-season.

Swiatek’s long-term replacement is yet to be discovered however the Pole has appointed former coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, Tomasz Wiktorowski as an interim replacement according to TenisKlub.Pl.

Wiktorowski was there for most of Radwanska’s successes and knows the polish tennis system well so will have a good working replacement with Swiatek.

The former Roland Garros champion is now starting preparations for the new season as she looks to win a second grand slam title at the Australian Open.

The first grand slam of the season in Melbourne will start on the 17th of January.

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