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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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Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev And Taylor Fritz Looking Forward To Diriyah Cup

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz will start their Australian preparations in Saudi Arabia next week.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (@WeAreTennisTR - Twitter)

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz are looking forward to boosting their Australian Open preparations when they compete in the Diriyah Cup in Saudi Arabia.

 

The tournament takes place from the 8th-10th of December with the 12 player tournament offering the perfect preparation for the first Grand Slam of the year.

As well as Tsitsipas, Rublev and Fritz, the field includes some of the world’s best players including Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Cameron Norrie, Nick Kyrgios, Dominic Thiem and Stan Wawrinka.

Speaking ahead of the event Tsitsipas claimed that the event will be very good preparation ahead of the Australian Open which starts on the 16th of January, “This is going to be very good preparation for me,” Tsitsipas told The National.

“Most players choose to have an off period from tennis but for me, it’s very important to get matches in before I travel to Australia. So having good competitors to compete against (top players), this is the best preparation that I can have before starting the 2023 season.

“I know that the people in Saudi Arabia may not have the opportunity to see tennis players like us very often. So, for sure, I’m going to give it my best. I’m going to have a good time.”

Saudi Arabia has held a whole host of events including formula one and Golf events with there being more and more concerns from fans over sports-washing given the country’s human rights record.

However the Greek isn’t too concerned about that and is looking forward to exploring the country’s culture:

“I’m happy they’re introducing a big event like this, and in the heart of Saudi Arabia to give opportunities to citizens from all over the world to explore this beautiful country, through its sports, through its very rich heritage and culture, and through other activities that are available within the country.”

As for Fritz, the American is coming off a career best season having won his maiden Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells as well as reaching the semi-finals at the ATP Finals.

The 25 year-old said that playing against the best players in the world will only help his preparations for the Australian Open, “I think it’s going to help prepare for the Australian Open and for the rest of the year because I can start out by playing against the best players in the world,” Fritz claimed.

“The field is so strong, so it’s always great to surround yourself with a lot of great players. People should come to support because hopefully it’ll be a lot of good tennis.

“Hopefully they’ll be cheering for me to win. They can expect a lot of big hitting, big serving, and hopefully some nice shot-making.”

Finally Rublev said that competing in Saudi Arabia will help find his level with the Russian having an inconsistent end to the season at the ATP Finals.

Rublev is looking to break more ground in 2023 as he searches for his Grand Slam breakthrough, “I think it’s really great because sometimes when you finish the season and you have eight weeks of not playing tournaments, you start to feel a bit stressed or nervous because you can’t tell if you’re improving or not,” Rublev admitted.

“So these kind of events help to check how your level is at the moment because you compete against other great players.”

The tournament begins on Thursday and will last for three days.

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Emma Raducanu Draws Inspiration From Andy Murray Ahead Of 2023

Emma Raducanu spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career.

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(@HeartThamesNews - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu has spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career and is optimistic about turning her form in 2023.

 

The former US Open hasn’t had too bad of an off-season after receiving her MBE for her services to sport.

Raducanu made history in 2021 as she won the US Open as a qualifier at 18 years of age.

However the Brit has yet to back that up with Raducanu changing coach on a number of occasions as she looks for some stability in 2023.

Speaking in a recent interview with Grazia Raducanu said that she believes that momentum can change quickly in tennis and that confidence is the key to success, “[In tennis] it could look like it’s all going down, down, down and just not getting any better,” Raducanu was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Just one match can have a big influence on your confidence and once you have confidence and the momentum comes, you feel like you can’t lose. It’s a very individual sport – people are friendly but it’s difficult to be really close with those you’re competing with.”

One player that can relate to what Raducanu is saying is Andy Murray with confidence being a key theme of the highs and lows of Murray’s career.

Raducanu said that she talks to Murray regularly about the highs and lows of tennis, “Andy Murray is so good to talk to because he’s been through pretty much what I’ve been going through,” Raducanu said.

“I have always looked up to him and watched him winning his first Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

Raducanu will hope that she can use Murray’s words as inspiration for next season as she currently sits at 75 in the world.

The Brit will start her season in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand on the 2nd of January.

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Fernando Verdasco Given Two Month Doping Ban

Fernando Verdasco has been banned from tennis until the 8th of January.

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Fernando Verdasco (@UniversTennis - Twitter)

Fernando Verdasco will miss the first week of the 2023 season after being provisionally suspended for two months after testing positive for the drug methylphenidate.

 

The former world number seven tested positive for the drug at the Challenger event in Rio De Janeiro and has accepted a voluntary ban until the 8th of January.

As well as testing positive for the drug methylphenidate, Verdasco had also forgot to renew his Therapeutic Use Exemption despite the Spaniard admitting that he was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In a statement published today the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), explained why his ban has been shortened from two years to two months, “The ITIA accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” they said in a statement on his website.

“In the specific circumstances of this case, based on the player’s degree of fault the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme allows for the applicable period of ineligibility to be reduced from two years to two months.”

The 39 year-old will as a result miss the first week of the new season with the Spaniard being currently ranked at world number 125.

In 2022, Verdasco’s best results on the ATP tour were quarter-final performances in Buenos Aires and Estoril while he also won a challenger title in Monterrey in March.

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