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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Monte-Carlo Masters Sunday Preview: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev Battle for their First Masters Title

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Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

The winner of Sunday’s singles championship will also hold the No.1 ranking in the 2021 ATP Race to Turin.

 

Since the start of 2020, no one has won more matches than Andrey Rublev.  The 23-year-old is now 65-14 over the past 16 months, with six titles (seven if you include the ATP Cup, a team event).  He has been racking up 250 and 500-level trophies.  But perhaps his biggest win yet came on Friday, as he earned his first victory over his idol, Rafael Nadal.  Rublev has now reached his first Masters 1000 final, and he’s been simply stellar on recent championship Sundays.  Andrey has won his last seven finals, and has dropped only one set in those matches.  That one set was dropped to his opponent today, in a heartbreaking loss for Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Last September in Hamburg, Tsitsipas unsuccessfully served for the title at 5-3 in the third.  That came just a few weeks after another devastating defeat for the Greek.  At the US Open, he was up two-sets-to-one and two breaks against Borna Coric, but Tsitsipas would fail to convert six match points, succumbing to defeat in a fifth set tiebreak after nearly five hours.  Just two days after the loss in Hamburg, Stefanos found himself down two-sets-to-love in the first round of Roland Garros.  However, the 22-year-old survived on that day, and went on to reach the semifinals, avenging his loss to Rublev along the way.  Stefanos would equal that result at this year’s Australian Open, and has now advanced to his third Masters 1000 final.

Sunday’s play will begin at 12:00pm local time with the doubles championship, followed by the singles final not before 2:30pm.  However, there is a chance of rain throughout the afternoon in Monte-Carlo.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Andrey Rublev (6)

They have split six previous tour-level meetings, and also split their two clay court encounters.  Four of those six matches occurred since September of last year, and they’ve split those as well.  Their recent history starts with the aforementioned Hamburg final, which Rublev claimed 7-5 in the third.  Less than two weeks later, Tsitsipas avenged that loss in the Roland Garros quarterfinals, defeating Rublev in straight sets.  In the round robin stage of the ATP Finals, Tsitsipas again prevailed, this time in a third set tiebreak.  And just last month in Rotterdam, Rublev was victorious in straights.  With each gaining recent wins on different surfaces, as well as both indoors and outdoors, their rivalry has been extremely even.

Tsitsipas has advanced much more easily this week, comfortably capturing all seven sets he’s played.  And he’s spent about three less hours on court than Rublev, who fought through three-setters against both Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut.  But that also highlights the tougher road Rublev has faced, which included two top 10 players.  Tsitsipas is yet to face a player ranked inside the top 20.

In looking at their two recent clay court clashes, the player whose second serve percentage dropped below 50% lost the match.  In Hamburg, Tsitsipas was down at 40%, while in Paris, Rublev was down at 38%.  As Jim Courier highlighted on Tennis Channel, no top 50 player has a bigger discrepancy between their first and second serve speeds than Rublev.  It will be crucial for Andrey to hit a high percentage of first serves, and avoid striking passive second serves.

But in one of the biggest matches of their careers to date, the way they handle this moment may be the most important factor.  Stefanos certainly has the experience edge on bigger stages like this.  He’s reached three Major semifinals, two previous Masters finals, and was the 2019 ATP Finals champion.  While Rublev hasn’t attained any of those milestones yet, his dominance in recent 250 and 500-level finals may be a huge confidence boost on Sunday.  By contrast, Tsitsipas has struggled in championship matches.  He’s just 5-8 in his career, and has lost his last three, which includes the Hamburg loss at the hands of Rublev.  And most concerning is Stefanos’ dismal 1-8 record in finals played outdoors.  Based on those shortcomings, as well as Rublev’s wins over tough competition this week, I slightly favor the red-headed Russian to win his first Masters 1000 title.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Dan Evans and Neal Skupski – Mektic and Pavic are 28-3 on the year, and are already vying for their fifth title.  This is only Evans and Skupski’s second tournament as a team, and yet their second time making the final, as they did the same in Miami two weeks ago.  And this is also Evans’ 10th match of the week.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Canada Sweeps Serbia to advance to Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers

Leylah Fernandez sealed Canada’s place in the Billie Jean King Qualifiers.

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Leylah Fernandez (@TennisCanada - Twitter)

Leylah Fernandez beat Nina Stojanovic in the third singles match to seal the tie for Canada.

 

Canada has booked a spot in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers after beating Serbia 3-0 after Leylah Fernandez beat Nina Stojanovic in three tight sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that last two hours and 46 minutes with the Canadian hitting 31 winners.

“I’m honestly very proud of myself that I was able to push through the nerves of this match, It wasn’t going to be easy with the way that she played at the beginning of the first set and it proved how great of a player she is, today I tried to fight through everything, the Serbian team, my emotions and I was happy that I was able to pull through in the third set with all the match points I missed and then when the lights went out that was a moment to remember but I’m glad I was able to just get the win for Canada and for us to qualify for the next round.”

Both players did a good job holding serve the first couple games and we didn’t see a breakpoint until 2-2 when the Serb had three looks and managed to convert at the third time of asking to take a 3-2 lead.

At 5-3 with Fernandez serving to stay in the set Stojanovic picked up her level and earned two set points on the Canadian serve and managed to seal the set on the second opportunity to take a one set lead.

The Canadian kept fighting despite the fact she was down and in the first game of the second set she earned a breakpoint but was unable to convert. The Serb continued to play well and earned two breakpoints at 2-1 and broke to take a 3-1 lead.

Once again the Montreal native battled and managed to get the break back the very next game playing some great tennis. She would earn the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and would break once again to win the second set on her opponent’s service game.

Before the third set would commence Stojanovic would call the trainer and take a medical timeout to have work done on her foot. Despite that she was able to break the Canadian in the first game of the final set as Fernandez had a poor service game.

The Canadian once again using her fighting spirit and determination not to give up earned six breakpoints in a very long service game that lasted 10 minutes but was finally able to get the break back.

The next game the Serb tried to regain her lead and earned two more breakpoints but the Canadian hung in and saved both and would hold serve.

At 3-3 the Serb kept pushing for the breakthrough and earned another breakpoint but the Canadian once again saved it. The very next game it was the Montreal native turn to have a chance to break and at the second time of asking the Canadian would break with a superb passing shot to take a 5-3 lead and serve for the match and the tie.

Another poor service game followed and Fernandez was broken at love and the next game the Canadian had five match points but the Serb saved all five. Then out of nowhere the lights went out and there was a 10-15 minute delay to resolve the issue.

After the short delay the Canadian would earn a sixth match point and this time she would win it to seal the win and the tie for Canada. With the tie sealed the two countries decided to play doubles for the dead rubber and it was Rebecca Marino and Carol Zhao who faced off against Aleksandra Krunic and Ivana Jorovic and it was the Canadians who would come back from a set down to win 6-7, 6-3, 10-0 to make it 4-0 Canada after two days of action.

After the final doubles match Hedi El Tabakh spoke to the Canadian media and gave her final thoughts of the tie this weekend.

“It was a battle from start to finish, I know the score-line is 4-0 but it was much closer than that, were up 2-0, two tough matches yesterday and we were able to pull it off, and obviously Leylah match today was the decider, in my opinion, it could have swung either way so it was a battle till the end, Nina played incredible tennis and congrats to her for all her work on the court, she improved a ton and she’s broken the top 100 so Leylah had to earn it today so I’m really happy with the way things turned out for us and couldn’t ask for a better result”.

She told Ubitennis afterwards if she thinks it was her best tie so far as captain of team Canada.

“This was the toughest, I mean for us to come back and win these last two ties was huge and the way the girls performed on the court was very satisfying and this was a very important tie for us so I am pleased with the way we handled things this week, everything was smooth from start to finish, the girls had a great week of practicing leading up to the matches and they were match ready and they delivered which was big and we needed that and I congratulate them for that”

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Ons Jabeur Seeks Revenge On Kovinic In Charleston Semis

Ons Jabeur will be seeking revenge in the semi-finals of the MUSC Health Women’s Open.

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Ons Jabeur (@VolvoCarOpen - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur is looking for revenge on Danka Kovinic as they meet in Charleston for the second week in a row.

 

The Tunisian will look to gain some revenge after losing to Kovinic in the Volvo Car Open semi-finals 6-3 6-2 as the Montenegrin levelled their head-to-head record.

Now on the same court in the same round, Jabeur and Kovinic meet again after the top seed dismantled Nao Hibino 6-0 6-1 in 45 minutes while Kovinic defeated the third seed Shelby Rogers 7-5 6-1.

Speaking to reporters on Friday Jabeur hopes that her more dominating play this week will work in her favour, “That was the main goal today for me, to be more aggressive and very dominant on the court,” Jabeur said.

“I tried to use my forehand as much as I can. That was the plan for me today. Obviously, it worked pretty good.

“I’m definitely going for my revenge. I’m going to really play like I never played before. I really want this win. I will be brave and not let the stress play the match for me.”

Jabeur has won 17 of her 24 matches in 2021 and is in confident mood as she approaches the European clay-court swing.

Only Garbine Muguruza can boast more wins this season which is a testament to Jabeur’s hard work and improved consistency.

As for Kovinic consistency is something that she is very proud of this week regardless of whether she reaches the final or not, “Definitely feels good, because this is first time in my career I had a really good week and then the following week I’m still playing good and competing,” Kovinic told the WTA website.

“I still have this fire to beat everyone on the court. It is good for me after the big tournament last week that I’m already on the court keeping my mind busy. It’s not all you, know everywhere. It’s still on the tennis court.”

So far this season Kovinic has won more matches than in the last two seasons combined as she looks to seal her place in the world’s top 60 next week.

The other semi-final in Charleston is Bogota champion Maria Camila Osorio Serrano taking on Astra Sharma. The semi-finals start at 19:00 BST time.

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