EXCLUSIVE: Meet Shane Liyanage – The Data Analyst Behind Aryna Sabalenka’s Breakthrough - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Meet Shane Liyanage – The Data Analyst Behind Aryna Sabalenka’s Breakthrough

Ubitennis interviews the data expert who has been credited with helping improve the game of the world No.2 in recent months.

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Image via Australian Open Twitter

By Federico Bertelli

Last year Aryna Sabalenka’s serve was her undoing on the Tour as she hit more than 300 double faults in her first 37 matches played. 

The Belarusian sought to correct the problem with the help of a biomechanics expert who she started to work with last summer. Since then, Sabalenka’s game has risen considerably and last week she won the biggest title of her career so far at the Australian Open. So how has she managed to make such a considerable improvement? 

Ubitennis has spoken with the person in charge of the data company that has been collaborating with Sabalenka and other players. Shane Liyanage’s business, Data Drive Sports Analytics (DDSA), provides a range of data and analytical services for his clients. In the WTA spectrum, his top clients include top players 10 Ons Jabeur and Sabalenka, while on the ATP side he is collaborating with Emil Ruusuvouri and Taro Daniel. After the major accomplishment of Sabalenka, who has just won her maiden Grand Slam title, Liyanage opens up to Ubitennis about a variety of subjects in our interview which has been broken down into four sections. 

1. The process of data collection and context creation (minute 1:00)

In the first part, Liyanage sheds light on his work with Sabalenka, the effort in terms of both collecting data and producing tailor-made services and reports. Interestingly he confirmed that data is collected in many different ways (manual video tagging, AI automated video tagging and Hawkeye data). He said that there isn’t a unique blueprint for data, but each ATP and WTA tournament, including Grand Slam’s, devise a different approach in terms of data sharing, also in real-time. For example, tennis Australia developed an app for players and their teams to get access to insight and raw hawk-eye data.

Another interesting point is regarding data presentation: it’s not just a matter of data, but a matter of transforming data into actionable insights (providing contexts is probably the most challenging part from an intellectual point of view); in Liyanage’s team there is also a high-performance coach, as well as the experience of Shane both in tennis and data analysis. This is crucial to building a bridge between people with different skills.

2. Spotlight on Sabalenka (minute 9:22)

In the second part, we went into more depth on Sabalenka’s relationship with the data expert. One notable point is that Liyanage usually does not speak directly with her, but it is her coach who gathers the information and then feeds it back to his player. Liyanage says he is keen on the developing side of the game of the player: there’s no silver bullet, but what really matters is to make the player more conscious about their game plan and strategies.

3. Starting a relationship (minute 17.30)

Ubitennis gets an idea of how to start and develop a relationship with a player, and also what are the different perspectives between a junior and a pro player. What was taken away from the interview is that the relationship between data experts and player’s teams is the most critical part. For example, over the last three years with Sabalenka there was a tremendous evolution: players are different, so coaches change their perspectives and needs as a consequence. 

4. Miscellaneous: Tennis on Netflix and the mental part of the game (minute 24:12)

 In the final part of the interview, Ubitennis and Liyanage chat about non-data issues… Netflix breakpoint in the last week was a trending topic (but still has to gain steam considering that it’s not been able to break through the top ten in any country in the last 2 weeks). And it was a good starting point for talking about the mental part of the game. 

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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Danielle Collins Triumphs In Miami As Elena Rybakina Pays The Price For Three Set Marathons

Danielle Collins achieved a landmark title as Elena Rybakina paid the price for three set contests in the Miami final.

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Danielle Collins claimed her first WTA 1000 title of her career in Miami, defeating Elena Rybakina in the final.

The American claimed the title to seal a fairytale week as she prepares to say goodbye to Tennis after this season.

After a three set match against Bernarda Pera in the opening round, Collins won all her remaining matches in straight sets to claim a landmark title.

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis chief Ubaldo Scanagatta speak about Collins’ achievement and whether she would consider retirement. Plus there is talk about Elena Rybakina and whether the three set marathons cost her the title.

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VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Who Is The Better Player Between Jannik Sinner And Carlos Alcaraz?

Steve Flink joins Ubitenis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta to look back on events that took place in the men’s draw at the Miami Open.

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Jannik Sinner (left) and Carlos Alcaraz (right) - Indian Wells 2024 (photo Twitter X @BNPPARIBASOPEN)

On Sunday Jannik Sinner continued his stunning start to the season by convincingly capturing the Miami Open title.

The Italian dismissed an in-form Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets to achieve a series of new milestones in his blossoming career. Sinner has now risen to No.2 in the ATP PIF rankings which is the best-ever position achieved by a player from Italy. He is also the first man from his country to win multiple Masters 1000 titles and has now won 22 out of 23 matches played so far this season.

Carlos Alcaraz is the only player to have beaten Sinner in 2024 which was at the Indian Wells Masters where he went on to claim the trophy. The Spaniard fell in the quarter-finals in Miami to Dimitrov.

With Novak Djokovic opting not to play in the tournament, much of the focus was on these two players who are tipped to become the future heavyweights of the sport. However, who is the more complete player and why?

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink and Ubitennis chief Ubaldo Scanagatta provide their analysis of both players. The duo also reflect on other notable developments in Miami, including Dimitrov’s stunning run to the final which has secured his return to the top 10 for the first time since 2018. On top of that, what is next for Djokovic?

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(VIDEO) Miami Open Women’s Draw Preview: Is Iga Swiatek Unbeatable?

Ubaldo Scanagatta and Steve Flink discussed the dominance of Iga Swiatek as the world number one searches for the sunshine double.

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Iga Swiatek continued to show her dominance as world number one at Indian Wells and will look to do the same in Miami.

The Pole is aiming to complete the sunshine double in Miami after claiming her second Indian Wells title.

The world number one is the best player in the world and continues to grow in confidence as she extended her lead at the top of the rankings over Aryna Sabalenka, Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina.

Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta and Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink discussed Swiatek and how her dominance can translate into Grand Slam title.

There was also talks over Coco Gauff’s double faults, a more motivated Jessica Pegula as well as the return of Simona Halep.

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