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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Rafael Nadal Announces First Tournament Since Injury

Rafael Nadal will make his ATP tour comeback in Brisbane.

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Rafael Nadal (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal has confirmed the date for his comeback to the ATP tour as he looks to add more Grand Slam titles to his collection before his potential retirement.

 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has announced that his comeback will take place on the first week of the calendar as he will play the ATP 250 tournament in Brisbane which starts on the 31st of December.

It will be Nadal’s first tournament since last year’s Australian Open after he suffered a hip injury at the event.

In a video on social media Nadal announced his return to the tour as he looks to make an impact in Brisbane, “After a year away from competition, it’s time to come back. It will be in Brisbane the first week of January,” Nadal stated.

January’s event will be a welcome sight to Nadal as he had initially been expected to return during the clay court season but the hip injury was much worse than expected.

That lead to Nadal doing a press conference in Mallorca where he not only said that he was withdrawing from Roland Garros but also hinted that 2024 could be his last year, “My idea and my motivation is to try to enjoy and try to say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me in my tennis career during [next] year, and just try to enjoy that, being competitive and enjoying being on the court, something that today is not possible,” Nadal was quoted by The News as saying.

There is a high level of motivation for Nadal next year as he will want to win the Olympics at Roland Garros in Paris.

However before Nadal can think about the end of his career, the Spaniard will be determined to make an impact in Australia as he looks to stop Novak Djokovic’s dominance.

The tournament in Brisbane starts on the 31st of December while the Australian Open takes place on the 14th of January.

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Nick Kyrgios Opens Up About His Self-Harm Battle And Murray’s Support

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) in the third round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

Nick Kyrgios says he became addicted to pain during his battle with self-harm that lasted between 18 and 24 months.

 

In an exclusive interview with Piers Morgan Uncensored on TalkTV, the former Wimbledon finalist spoke about his mental health issues. Kyrgios has previously spoken publically about the topic but has now revealed further details about the extent he went through and the role Andy Murray played in supporting him. He was admitted to a psychiatric ward in London and contemplated suicide following the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.

“It was pretty dark to be honest,” Kyrgios told Morgan. “I won tournaments on the professional tour, drinking every night, self-harming, burning things on my arm, cutting myself for fun. It became an addiction of pain. I hated myself. I hated waking up and being Nick Kyrgios.”

One of those who tried to help the Australian address his self-harm problem was three-time Grand Slam champion Murray who noticed cuts on Kyrgios’ arms during one of their practice sessions four years ago. According to The Times, the former world No.1 then alerted Kyrgios’ manager John Morris about the cuts.

Paying tribute to the Brit, Kyrgios says Murray has supported him throughout his career. The 28-year-old has been ranked as high as 13th in the world and has won seven ATP titles. Besides his run to the Wimbledon final last year, he has also reached the quarter-final stage of a major on three other occasions.

“Andy was always a big supporter of me,” Kyrgios said. “As soon as I came on the tour, he kind of saw a work in progress and took me under his wing. Then he realised later in my career that I don’t think I was coachable or I was on my own path, but he was always someone that was looking out for me.
“He saw it [the self-harm] and he said, ‘What’s that on your arm?’ It was pretty bad at that stage. Andy obviously was trying to give me advice on it. But I was just so stuck in my ways at that time that I didn’t listen. Obviously I’m very thankful. I thank him a lot.”

Kyrgios, who has only played one match on the Tour this season due to injury, hopes that he can help others by speaking publicly about his mental health battle. Something he describes as ‘the most powerful thing in his career.’

“I feel like I’ve helped so many people after I opened up about it and put it on social media,” Kyrgios said.
“I’ve almost been a beacon for people who are struggling. When they feel like they’re overwhelmed and they’re going towards drinking, drugs and stuff, they open up and they feel like I’m relatable.
“That’s been the most powerful thing in my career; people coming to me with genuine issues.
“They send me photos in my Instagram, direct messages, self-harming and genuinely wanting to commit suicide.
“I have conversations with these people. Sometimes I’ve had phone calls with these people. That’s making a real difference and I’m just really proud.”

Kyrgios recently had a stint in broadcasting after working for The Tennis channel during the ATP Finals in Milan. He is continuing his rehab from injury but it is unclear as to when he will make his return to professional tennis.

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Hamad Medjedovic earns first place in Red Group at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah

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Hamad Medjedovic beat Abdullah Shelbayh 3-4 (6-8) 4-2 4-3 (7-5) 4-2 to earn first place in the Red Group with a perfect 3-0 record at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah. 

 

Medjedovic needed to win at least one set to reach the semifinals, while Shelbayh needed to win the match in three or four sets. Luca Van Assche qualified as the second-placed player from the Red Group.

Medjedovic will face Dominic Stricker in the semifinal, while Van Assche takes on Arthur Fils.  

Medjedovic fired 18 aces and won 88 % of his first-serve points. He saved all three break points against Shelbayh. 

Medjedovic fired a tournament-leading 45 aces and was broken twice. 

Medjedovic saved three break points to hold serve in the fourth game of the first set. Shelbayh went up a mini-break twice, but Medjedovic pulled back on serve both times. Shelbayh won the final three points to clinch the tie-break 8-6. Both players went on serve in the first five games before Medjedovic earned the break to win the second set 4-2. 

The third set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Shelbayh earned the first mini-break to take a 3-2 lead. Medjedovic pulled back on serve to draw level to 3-3. The Serbian player earned a second mini-break to close out the tie-break 7-5. 

Medjedovic started the fourth set with an early break in the first game. He held on his next service games and sealed the win on his first match point. 

Medjedovic set up a semifinal match against Dominic Stricker. Luc Van Assche will face Arthur Fils in an all-French semifinal.“It was a great match. I played really good after the first set He is a very good friend of mine. He is a very good player and obviously the crowd here loves him and I respect that. It was a pleasure to play in front of the crowd”, said Medjedovic. 

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