Statistical Profiles: Stefanos Tsitsipas - UBITENNIS
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Statistical Profiles: Stefanos Tsitsipas

First installment of a series on the most effective weapons and the (few) weaknesses of the best ATP players, starting with the French Open finalist.

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This is perhaps one of the most difficult questions to answer in all sports: what does set a champion apart from a good player? The growing availability of match-related data, particularly at higher-level tournaments, allows us to address the question from a new point of view, which we might call a data-driven perspective.

 

In other words: we can identify a player of the highest level and analyse, in the most scientific way possible, what characteristics his many matches that end in a victory have in common, and what distinguishes them from the few defeats. In part because of his excellent start to the 2021 season, but also due to his continuity at high levels (despite the young age), our first choice was Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old Greek who has already been able to defeat Federer, Nadal and Djokovic at least once.

RESUMÉ

Tsitsipas began his career in the ITF Junior circuit at the age of 14 in 2013 and, by the end of 2016, he had won 11 Futures titles: five in singles and six in doubles. He played his first ATP match in the Rotterdam tournament in 2017, losing to Tsonga (who would eventually win the tournament). In the same year, he made his debut as a qualifier in a Grand Slam tournament, losing to Ivo Karlovic in the first round of the French Open. Again in 2017, he failed to qualify for the main draw of the US Open, but in that same period he won a Challenger tournament for the first time in Genoa.

The 2018 season was a turning point, particularly at the Toronto Masters 1000 tournament: Tsitsipas defeated four top tenners (Thiem, Djokovic, Zverev and Anderson), before surrendering to Nadal in the final. That year, he also won his first ATP title on the indoor courts of Stockholm, and he finished the season by winning the Next Gen tournament and rising to the 15th spot in the world rankings. Since then, Tsitsipas has been a constant presence at the highest levels: he has won six more titles (among which the 2019 ATP Finals and this year’s Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo) and has reached the semi-final of the Australian Open twice, in 2019 and in 2021. This year, he’s also played his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros (defeated by Djokovic in five sets). By now, his place among the very best is consolidated, and in 2021 he is second in the Race to Turin.

STATISTICAL OVERVIEW

Before delving into the analysis, in search for winning and losing patterns of the Greek champion’s game, we need to define a set of matches that will be discussed. We will focus on matches played in singles at the highest level, i.e. the Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open). Let’s try to frame Tsitsipas’ style of play with some statistics, the average values of which are shown in Figure 1, separating the three playing surfaces. First of all, the number of aces Tsitsipas hits is quite remarkable, especially on grass and on hardcourts (over 10).

Figure 1. Stefanos Tsitsipas’ average statistics in Major singles matches.

In addition, this report confirms, through the number of winners, the vivid image of the brilliant all-court player we’ve come to know and appreciate. On average, Tsitsipas hits over 30 winners per match on each surface: a considerable tally, even if it relates to matches played with the best-of-five format. The number of points played at the net on grass is also notable. It’s noticeable how Tsitsipas significantly changes his style of play, often trying to hit as many volleys as he can on faster turfs (on average, he does it over 30 times per game at Wimbledon).

Figure 2. Second set of stats relating to Tsitsipas’ Grand Slam performances.

This second group of statistics sheds light on a few elements: first of all, at the moment, Tsitsipas has obtained most of his Major wins on clay (after all, he was a set away from the French Open title) and hard. As for the grass, the Greek has never managed to go past the round of 16 (2018). At a first glance, these data seems counterintuitive, given his familiarity with the net accompanied by an excellent percentage of success: not only does Tsitsipas volley frequently, but on grass he gets the point in over 70% of these occasions.

Given the effectiveness of his serve (over 75% of points won on first serve and over 65% on the second), the disappointing results he has achieved on grass feel like a bit of a puzzle. It should also be noted that Tsitsipas, due to his young age and due to the pandemic effectively cancelling the 2020 edition, has only played four times at the Championships. Therefore, the unexpected defeat in the first round of the 2019 edition against Thomas Fabbiano undoubtedly weighs on the stats, and the same does this year’s early loss against Frances Tiafoe.

In addition, on a more analytical level, the statistics relating to the percentage of break points saved may perhaps come to our aid and provide us with an explanation. Despite his excellent serve, Tsitsipas saves less than 60% of the break points he faces on grass (as of the 2019 edition), a percentage comparable to what he gets on clay but much lower than what he achieves on hardcourts (on which he saves about 70% of chances). Therefore, so far on the lawns Tsitsipas has perhaps lacked that extra bit of calm under pressure to thrive in clutch situations – this could be due to his ball toss, which (especially before 2021) could represent, in the most critical moments, his Achilles’ heel.

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PATTERNS AND KEY ELEMENTS OF TSITSIPAS’ GAME

So far, we have focused on Tsitsipas’ game by examining one aspect at a time: let’s now try, with the help of technology, to consider several aspects at the same time in order to develop a multivariate analysis. In particular, we will try to understand which of the various statistics discussed above (that represent our input variables) are key, and how they impact victory and defeat in a match (these two represent our output variable).

For greater clarity, we will ensure that the classification algorithm used automatically returns, based on the variables available, a model consisting of a set of rules representing the statistically most significant patterns that lead the Greek to victory or defeat. Below, we illustrate the three most important rules so calculated:

1 – “If Tsitsipas hits at least 1.3 more winners per set than the opponent and commits fewer than 6 double faults, then he is the winner of the match”. This pattern is very strong: in the 17 Grand Slam matches in which this combination has taken place, Tsitsipas has always been the winner. We conclude that when the Greek manages to be proactive (more winners than his opponent) and remains focused (limited number of double faults), he wins the match.

2 – “If Tsitsipas hits more winners than the opponent per set (or the difference in favor of the opponent isn’t greater than 0.5 per set), if he plays fewer than 20 points at the net, and if the match does not last more than 55 games, then he wins the match”. In this case, the pattern occurred in 22 matches and, in all 22 cases, Tsitsipas is the winner. We can perhaps interpret it this way: if the Greek doesn’t let his opponent dictate too much (the difference in terms of winners can be unfavourable, but contained), doesn’t let the match drag on for too long (no more than 55 games) and does not spend too many energies rushing forward, he then wins the match.

3 – “If Tsitsipas commits an average of more than 1.4 unforced errors than those of his opponent per set, if he does not hit at least 3.75 more winners per set, and if the average number of hits per rally is less than 4.6, then the Greek is defeated.” This pattern occurs in fewer matches: only seven. In this case too, however, the prediction is extremely precise: in all seven cases, Tsitsipas lost. It seems natural to infer that, if in a match that is played with short exchanges Tsitsipas proves less concentrated and does not have a very significant contribution from his own winning shots, then the Greek is forced to concede.

Let’s now summarise which are the decisive elements of Tsitsipas’s game, that is, the most decisive with respect to the outcome of the match. To obtain this result, we will evaluate which elements of his game (for example, winning strokes or unforced errors) appear in patterns such as the three mentioned above, allowing to predict the outcome of the match with great precision. The more a game feature appears as a relevant condition within these patterns, the more we can define it as a key element of the Greek champion’s game. We will therefore be able, on the basis of the data, to draw up a feature ranking of the various aspects of his game, distinguishing those that, alone or in combination with others, prove to be key.

Figure 3. Feature ranking associated with Tsitsipas’ Grand Slam matches. The length of the bar represents the relevance of the feature, the direction represents the correlation to a winning outcome (direct for bars that develop to the right, inverse for bars that develop to the left).

As can be seen in Figure 3, which shows the feature ranking, the average difference between the winners of Tsitsipas and those of the opponent is the most relevant element to his wins, and therefore earns the value 1 (maximum) in the feature ranking. In second position, we find the average difference of double faults and, in third position, the number of unforced errors. Of course, in these cases (double faults, unforced errors) lower values correspond to a greater probability of winning, so the correlation is associated with a negative coefficient (inverse correlation). Similarly, and with almost the same weight, we observe how an excess of net points, as already mentioned, tends to decrease the chances of Tsitsipas, thus constituting another example of inverse correlation.

In fifth position is to be found Tsitsipas’ number of double faults, in this case measured independently of those of his opponent. The fact that two out of five of the most relevant features are associated with double faults, an element that generally seems marginal in a match’s economy, can perhaps be traced back to the difficulties that Tsitsipas encounters (less and less as time goes by) with his ball toss, and consequently with the serve, in moments of great tension and fatigue.

The relevance of double faults, as well as that of unforced errors, also reminds us how, in addition to his undoubted technical qualities as a proactive player (aces, winners), the Greek needs to stay focused to highlight his excellent skills as a fighter, raising his level of play just when the number of games grows or when the going gets tough. This is a feature that he shares with the great champions, perhaps to a greater extent than with his other remarkable qualities.

Article by Damiano Verda; translated by Alessandro Valentini; edited by Tommaso Villa

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WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Coy Over New Injury Speculation

After the foot problems in Paris, there is a strong possibility the Spaniard could be experiencing another injury issue.

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image via twitter.com/atp

There are fresh concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal after he declined to go into the reason why he was wearing abdominal taping during his fourth round match at Wimbledon. 

 

The 22-time Grand Slam winner was seen wearing some kind of protection in the abdominal area after changing his t-shirt during one of the breaks. In recent weeks Nadal has been dealing with physical issues due to a long-term foot condition he has. At the French Open he revealed that he had to undergo injections in order for him to continue playing en route to winning the tournament for a 14th time.

Playing 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, Nadal battled his way to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6), win. Speaking to reporters after his latest win at The All England Club, the Spaniard sidestepped a question about a potential abdominal problem he could be experiencing. 

“I am a little bit tired of talking about my body. It’s not that I don’t want to answer your question, but at the same time sometimes I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now,” he replied.
“I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Continuing to stay coy about his form and health, Nadal offered an alternative perspective when asked if he was nearing his best level once again. He has dropped just two sets in four matches played so far at Wimbledon which is his first grass-court event since 2019. 

“It’s always the same here. It’s not about how close I am to the level or not. I don’t know that. I can’t predict what can happen.” He said.
“But the positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good. Then two days ago I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the matches, again, at a very positive level.”

The straight sets scoreline failed to tell the true story of Nadal’s roller-coaster win on Center Court. Taking on Zandschulp, a player who burst onto the main scene last year by reaching the US Open quarter-finals as a qualifier, the 22-time major champion engaged in a match of two halves. Nadal looked on the verge of an easy victory after breaking once in the first set, twice in the second and storming to a 5-2 in the third. However, the Dutchman refused to go down without a fight by displaying his best tennis of the match to draw level. 

Now engaged in his first real test, Nadal was under intense pressure to close it out in three. If he didn’t there would have been an inevitable delay for the roof to come on due to poor light. If that occurred, there would be less than two hours of play left before the 11pm curfew began.

Nevertheless, Nadal didn’t need the roof as he squeezed through the tiebreaker. After squandering three consecutive match points, he prevailed on his fourth with the help of a lob that triggered Zandschulp to smash the ball out. 

Nadal is through to his 47th major quarter-final and is only the third man in the Open Era to do so at Wimbledon after celebrating his 36th birthday. In total, he has won 309 main draw matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

In the last eight, the Spaniard has a shot of revenge when he takes on Taylor Fritz who ended his 20-match winning streak earlier this year in Indian Wells. During that match, Nadal had a rib injury and he had beaten the American earlier that month in Mexico. 

“That last match (in Indian Wells) was zero because I had a stress fracture on my rib, and it was difficult to learn many things because the pain was terrible playing that match.” He said. 

As for Fritz, he believes their upcoming clash will be at a higher standard given the form both players are currently in. Fritz is currently on a eight-match winning streak after recently claiming the Eastbourne Open title. 

“It’s going to be a lot different match obviously. Indian Wells was kind of crazy with both of us being extremely beaten up before the final. This time I think we’ll get healthier versions of both of us, we’ll see.” Fritz previewed.

The question for nadal, is how healthy is the current version of him really is? Only time will tell. 

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Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios Shakes off Injury Trouble During Epic Clash To Reach Quarter-Finals

The Australian is through to the last eight but how will his body fair in the next round?

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Nick Kyrgios has reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final in eight years but fresh concerns have risen over his current health. 

 

The world No.40 ousted America’s Brandon Nakashima 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-1, in a marathon last-16 encounter but at times looked to be in discomfort. Throughout the match, Kyrgios clinched his right shoulder on multiple occasions and required a medical timeout during the third set. The issue comes two days after his dramatic clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas who has since accused the tennis star of bullying. 

Despite the injury scare, Kyrgios still managed to produce a total of 35 aces and dropped serve only three times in the match. Overall, he hit a total of 78 winners against 42 unforced errors. 

“It was a hell of an effort by Brandon. He is a hell of a player. He is 20-years-old and he is going to do some special things (in the future), that’s for sure,” said Kyrgios.
“It wasn’t anywhere near my best performance but I’m super happy to get through. I fought really well today and the crowd was amazing. it was special stepping out here (on center court) once again.”

Kyrgios’ use of unorthodox antics was on display from the start. Besides a series of heavy-hitting, his first use of the underarm serve occurred just three games into the match. Although it was canceled out by a let call. It was soon after that when the alarm bells first began to ring with the Australian showing visible discomfort with his right shoulder. Appearing to clutch it after almost every point. At 5-4, Nakashima was the first to draw blood after a forehand shot from his rival landed beyond the baseline to hand him the break to clinch the opener.

Whilst Kyrgios initially looked to be far from his best, he was handed a lifeline at the start of the second frame. 20-year-old Nakashima produced a double fault followed by a forehand shank to hand Kyrgios an early break. The American was making his second main draw appearance at the tournament and sixth overall in a major.  Seizing the moment, Kyrgios consistently served around the 130 mph mark to close in on leveling the match. Doing so with a serve down the middle of the court his rival returned into the net. 

However, the shoulder still proved problematic for the 26-year-old who had to take a medical time out for treatment half-way through the third frame. Visibly bothered by the issue and shaking his head, he continued playing on Center Court and somehow managed to go ahead. During the third set tiebreak, a Nakashima double fault handed Kyrgios an early break as he worked his way to a 6-2 lead. He then sealed the set with a blistering forehand return.

The roller-coaster continued into the fourth frame with Kyrgios buckling after hitting back-to-back errors to go down a break. It was at this point that he fumed at a comment made by somebody in the crowd.

“It’s the same sh*t over and over again. I’m trying to obviously make my first serve. Stop saying that. Obviously, I’m trying to f**king make my first serve.” He was heard saying during the changeover.

Nakashima continued the momentum with a three-game winning run to force the encounter into a decider. 

Despite the blip, Kyrgios managed to find another level by storming through the decider by winning six out of the last eight games played.

“I’ve played a lot of tennis in the last month-and-a-half. I’m just proud of how I managed to steady the ship,” Kyrgios replied when asked about his shoulder. “He came out firing in the fourth set. My five-set record is pretty good and that is what I was thinking about.’
“I was like ‘I’ve been here before, I’ve done it before and I can come through again.’”

Kyrgios is the sixth Australian man in the Open Era to reach the last eight of Wimbledon on multiple occasions after also doing so in 2014. The run continues his fine form on the grass this season where he has already reached back-to-back semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle.

In the next round, he will play Chilean underdog Christian Garin who edged out Alex de Minaur 2-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6 in an epic clash to become only the fourth man from his country to ever reach the quarter-final stage. Garin saved two match points en route to victory after four hours and 34 minutes of play. 

“I was really excited to play de Minaur, to be honest. He has been flying the Aussie flag for so long. I came on the court when he was two sets to love up and I was expecting to play him but I’m not going to think about that,” said Kyrgios.
“I need a glass of wine for sure tonight.”

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Former Champions Nadal, Halep Headline Monday’s Play

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Simona Halep after her first round victory (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are both currently on 10-match win streaks.  Nadal has won his last 10 matches overall, going back to his 22nd Major title run in Paris.  Halep has won her last 10 matches at Wimbledon, going back to her title run in 2019.  On Monday, both face seeded opposition on Centre Court.  Rafa takes on one of the sport’s fastest-rising players of the last 12 months, Botic van de Zandschulp, while Simona faces the No.4 seed Paula Badosa.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Nick Kyrgios vs. Brandon Nakashima – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Kyrgios helped create yet another circus during his four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last round, in a match where both players behaved quite terribly.  But Nakashima is a player who will not fall for Nick’s theatrics, as he is extremely composed on court.  The 20-year-old American was ranked outside the top 100 a year ago, yet is projected to debut inside the top 50 with this result, his deepest run at a Major.  Brandon collected 45 match wins at all levels last season, with two Challenger titles and two ATP-level finals.  Nakashima is a consistent player, with strong groundstrokes off both sides.  But he does not possess the serving prowess of Kyrgios, nor the experience on big stages.  And there’s no bigger stage than Centre Court, Wimbledon.  Nick has fond memories on this court, as it’s where he made his Major breakthrough eight years ago with an upset over Rafael Nadal.  That remains only one of two Slam quarterfinals Kyrgios has achieved.  But in his first career meeting against Nakashima, he’s the favorite to reach that stage at a Major for the first time in over seven years.


Alize Cornet vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Second on No.2 Court

Cornet became the player to end Iga Swiatek’s 37-match win streak, and she did so with a comprehensive straight-set win.  This is the Frenchwoman’s 18th season of Grand Slam play, and she finally achieved her first Major quarterfinal six months ago in Australia, where she took out both Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep.  Tomljanovic achieved the same milestone a year ago at this event, when she defeated Emma Raducanu, Jelena Ostapenko, and Cornet.  On that day, Ajla prevailed over Alize 6-3 in the third.  Overall they have split four previous meetings.  Neither player was having a stellar season prior to this tournament, with both owning losing records on the year.  But on this surface, and in a highly-important matchup, I give the spunky competitive spirit of Cornet the slight edge.


Paula Badosa (4) vs. Simona Halep (16) – Second on Centre Court

Their only prior encounter occurred earlier this season in Madrid, where Halep was easily victorious by a score of 6-3, 6-1.  And while Badosa possesses the better ranking at this time, Halep actually has a better record on the year.  And Simona is now 9-1 on grass in 2022, which was the same record she had on grass in 2019, when she last played on this surface.  The two-time Major champion missed this event last year, as well Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympics, due to a calf injury.  Neither player has dropped a set this fortnight, with Badosa taking out another two-time Slam champ, Petra Kvitova, in the last round.  That was a high-quality affair, with both Paula and Petra effectively applying their aggressive nature on this surface.  While Halep is the much more accomplished grass court player, I favor Badosa’s strong baseline game to again be rewarded on Monday, and to even her head-to-head with Halep.


Amanda Anisimova (20) vs. Harmony Tan – Third on No.1 Court

Both of these players already achieved phenomenal wins during the first week.  Anisimova came back from a set down to defeat Coco Gauff, while Tan prevailed over Serena Williams after over three hours of play.  Tan had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major, but followed up the biggest win of her career with two straight-set victories.  Anisimova is vying for her best result at a Slam since her 2019 run to the Roland Garros semifinals.  And it was during that run when her only previous matchup with Tan took place, with Amanda prevailing 6-3, 6-1.  Anisimova is in the midst of a strong season, with a record of 28-10.  Her outstanding backhand should allow her to dictate play and earn another win over Tan, despite Harmony’s diverse game filled with guile, drop shots, and tweeners.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp (21) – Third on Centre Court

This is a rematch from the third round of the last Major, when Nadal won in straight sets at his beloved Roland Garros.  Rafa did not look his best during his first two rounds here, but upped his level significantly in a comfortable victory over Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday.  Van de Zandschulp’s rise the last 12 months in his mid-20’s has been remarkable.  He reached the US Open quarterfinals as a qualifier, and has now advanced to the third round or better at the last four Slams.  And just a few weeks ago on grass at Queen’s Club, Botic was a semifinalist.  He may provide Nadal with his sternest test of this tournament yet, but defeating the 22-time Major champion, and ending Rafa’s bid for the calendar-year Grand Slam, would be extremely surprising.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Alex de Minaur (19) vs. Cristian Garin – De Minaur has only dropped one set to this stage, though he’s yet to face opposition ranked higher than 80th in the world.  Garin is into the fourth here for the second straight year, and also has only lost one set.  Alex leads their head-to-head 3-0, which includes a grass court contest right before this event in Eastbourne.

Elena Rybakina (17) vs. Petra Martic – Every set Rybakina has played in these Championships has been a tight one, but she’s yet to lose one.  Martic has also claimed all her sets thus far, which includes a victory over the eighth seed, Jessica Pegula.  Both players are vying for their second Major quarterfinal.  Elena is 1-0 against Petra, as she prevailed in two tiebreak sets a couple years ago in Dubai.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Jason Kubler (Q) – Fritz is on a seven-matchwin streak, dating back to his title run a week ago in Eastbourne.  Across the last two weeks, his serve has only been broken four times.  Kubler is a 29-year-old Australian who has been plagued by a heredity knee condition throughout his career.  He was 2-6 in the main draws of Slams prior to this fortnight.  At the 2018 US Open, Fritz was up two-sets-to-one over Kubler when Jason was forced to retire.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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