Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wimbledon Semis: A Look at the Numbers

Wow! How about those quarterfinal matches! Just a little warning for you: If you aren't a numbers person, this may not be your cup of tea. If you are a numbers person, you should love this post. 

A Quick Hit 
The Germans won the numbers game through the Quarterfinals, with four players, two men and two women, making the final eight in their respective draws. No. 8 Seed Angelique Kerber and No.15 Seed Sabine Lisicki faced each other in the Quarters guaranteeing the ouster of one of the Germans left in the Women’s Draw. No.31 Seed Florian Mayer faced No.1 Seed Novak Djokovic and No.27 Seed Philipp Kohlschreiber took on No.5 Seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both German men exited the tournament after advancing well beyond expectations.  How about some numbers for those still in the event?

The Men
Semifinal No.1
Novak Djokovic
On serve against No.31 Seed Florian Mayer, No.1 Seed Novak Djokovic produced 65% first serves winning 76% of those, with seven aces against three double faults. His serve speed averaged 120mph on first serves and 100mph on second. He converted 59% of his second-serve points, and saved all but one of the eight break points he faced. 

Florian Mayer
In his receiving games, Novak won 45% of points played, winning 39% and 55% of points on Mayer's first and second serves respectively. He converted five of the nine (56%) break point opportunities he had. Novak’s most impressive stat may be his 50 winners against 20 unforced errors (+30) in the 27 games played.

Roger Federer
On serve, No.3 Seed Roger Federer served 62% first serves and won 88% of those points, despite serving just two aces against No.26 Seed Mikhail Youzhny. Roger averaged 116mph on his first serve, faced only two break points, and saved them both. He averaged 99mph on second serves, and won 52% of the points played. 

Mikhail Youzhny
Receiving, Roger won 49% of points played, but won 49% and 48% respectively on Youzhny’s first and second serves respectively. Roger broke six times, but that was on 20 break opportunities, for a mediocre 30% conversion rate. He produced 25 winners against 13 unforced errors (+12), which is pretty conservative, but good, for Roger.  One can place a very safe bet that those numbers won’t be similar against Novak in the Semis.

Despite my pulling for Roger to get another Slam, the numbers, current and recent past, favor Djokovic. As has been the case with Federer for a few years now, he fails to convert a high percentage of his break point opportunities, which ramps up the pressure on his own serve, especially against the top players in latter rounds of Grand Slams. 

Roger’s numbers are similar to Novak’s in terms of efficiency at Wimbledon, posting a plus-23 versus a plus-25 for Novak. The stats aren’t provided to help us measure confidence and mental toughness, but bottom line is that while Roger is the class of the field on serve, and Novak is class of the field on return, Novak is better on serve than Roger is on return. However, if Roger brings his A-game and can get over his mental breakdowns against the top two players in the world, he has a good shot. If not, it’s all Novak.

Semifinal No.2
While Novak and Roger posted dominating performances against, No.4 Seed Andy Murray and No.5 Seed Tsonga had stiff tests against their opponents. 
Andy Murray
Murray’s performance against No.7 Seed David Ferrer was as good as any I’ve seen from him in a big Grand Slam match. Murray took two of the three tiebreaks played against Ferrer with superb tennis. On serve, Murray won 80% of his first serve points, serving at 61%, and bombing 18 aces with just three doubles. He averaged 116mph and 85mph respectively on first and second serves, and converted 59% of his second serve points. Murray saved 10 of 12 (83%) break points against him against one of the best returners in the game. 

David Ferrer
On the receiving end, Murray won just 35% of points played, but a relatively healthy 47% on Ferrer’s second serve.  He converted just three of nine (33%) break opportunities, and will likely have to do better against the bigger serving Tsonga. Murray’s efficiency numbers (+22) were second only to Djokovic’s, cracking 61 winners against 39 unforced errors.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
On serve against Phillipp Kohlschreiber, Tsonga produced 63% first serves winning 80% of those, with 17 aces and zero doubles. He averaged 120mph on first serves and 95mph on second serves, winning 59% of his second serve points. Tsonga faced five break points and saved three of them. 

Philipp Kohlschreiber
In receiving games, Tsonga won just 35% of the points played, winning 43% of Kohlschreiber’s second serve points. However, he converted just three of 10 break points (30%). His efficiency was on par with Rogers (+16), posting 43 winners against 27 unforced errors. Tsonga’s penchant for lowering his level of play at times could cost him against Murray, as it did in losing the second set against Kohlschreiber, where his efficiency rating (+2) was the lowest of the four sets.
Both Murray and Tsonga have been known to have some struggles mentally during big matches, but Murray looked mentally sound throughout his match with Ferrer, and Tsonga has been able to turn it on seemingly at will after his lapses. In this matchup we have Tsonga with the tournament’s best efficiency numbers (+29), against the player with the worst (+21). However, Murray has won five of six times the two have met, including the past four, one of those a quarterfinal win at Wimbledon in 2010. 

Will the crowd provide the boost that Murray needs, or will the pressure prove too much? Will Tsonga be able to erase the memory of his five-set loss to Djokovic at the French after having three match points? Murray had a very physical test against Ferrer, and if this one goes deep, Tsonga should have the advantage. But if Murray plays a controlled yet aggressive match, as he did against Ferrer, he stands a good chance of taking it in four or less.

Some Numbers on All Four
On the year, Novak is No.1 on second serve points won on opponents’ serves and No.2 in return games won on Tour. Federer is No.24 and No.22 respectively. Murray is in the top five in both (No.2 and No.4 respectively).  Tsonga is in the top ten in break points converted at No.6 (47%), while Djokovic is No.11 at 45%, and Federer is No.23 at 42%. Murray is at No.22 also at 42%. 

On points won while returning opponents’ first serves, Novak is No.4 while Roger is No.34. Murray comes in at No.9 and Tsonga at No.12. On all return measures, Roger is the weakest of the four semifinalists.

Where Fed makes up the difference on the other Semifinalists is on serve. He’s leads the pack in aces at No.4, with Tsonga coming in at No.8. Novak is well down the list at No.20, and Murray is No.22. Roger is also tops in the group in second serve points won (1st), first-serve points won (4th), service games won (2nd), and break points saved (6th). Tsonga (14th), Murray (15th), and Ferrer (16th) all lead Novak (31st) in break points saved. 

In fact, the only listed serving category in which Roger isn’t in the top ten is in service percentage where he comes in at No.36. Djokovic is at No.29, Murray at No.53, and Tsonga is not in the top 75. Novak is right behind Roger in second serve points won at No.3, and isNo.12 in service games won, so although he isn't among the leaders in first-serve numbers, he's right there on second serves. Tsonga comes in at No.15 and Murray at No.28 in service games won.

These two Semifinals provide terrific storylines for Wimbledon, and some of the best tennis that will have been played on the planet. No way do you want to miss either of these if you are a tennis fan…even if your guy Rafa isn’t in the mix.

The Women
Semifinal No.1
Victoria Azarenka
No.2 Seed Victoria “Vika” Azarenka was dominant in her match against Tamira Paszek, the only unseeded player to reach the Quarters. Vika served an impressive 75% first serves and won an even more impressive 78% of those points, while serving seven aces against three doubles. She won 60% of her second-serve points. She had an average first-serve speed of 100mph and second-serve average at 83mph, faced four break points and saved two. 

Tamira Paszek
On the receiving side, Vika won 46% of receiving points and converted on three of the nine (33%) breaks opportunities she had. Her aggressive but efficient 33 winners versus 18 unforced errors, was very key in her dominant performance (+15).

Serena Williams
No.6 Seed Serena Williams played her best match against No.2 Seed Petra Kvitova. Serena served 59% first serves, but won an incredible 86% of those with 13 aces against zero double faults. She averaged 109mph on first serves and 91mph on second, winning 56% of second-serve points. Serena faced just one break point in the two sets, and saved that. While receiving, 

Petra Kvitova
Serena won just 40% of points played against the big-serving Kvitova, but converted on two of the four (50%) break points she had. In addition to her stellar serving, Serena’s efficiency was responsible for her advance to the Semis. She delivered 27 winners against 10 unforced errors (+17).

Just looking at the numbers, as well as the players’ records, it would appear that the semifinal-matchup between Azarenka and Williams would be more fitting in the final. The numbers presage an epic battle, but only if both players bring their A games, or both bring sub-par games. If either is on and the other off, a blowout would be in the making. 

Azarenka has appeared to be more stable mentally throughout the event, but Serena has navigated her way through some tough mental moments. Serena has beaten Azarenka five straight times and seven of the eight they’ve played. Will Azarenka’s newly-found confidence as a result of her stellar year trump Serena’s experience as a 13-time Grand Slam singles winner? Only time will tell.

Semifinal No.2
Angelique Kerber
No. 8 Seed Angelique Kerber served 66% of her first serves winning 61% of those points, with only two aces and three double faults. She averaged 94mph on her first serve, and posted an impressive 60% of second serve points won despite an average second-serve speed of 74mph. Kerber was broken five times, but broke No.15 Seed Sabine Lisicki eight times. 

Sabine Lisicki
On return, Angelique won 48% of receiving points, despite Lisicki’s 105mph on first serve and 82mph on second. She made 19 winners against 13 unforced errors for the lowest efficiency number (+6) of the remaining players.

Agnieszka Radwanska
No.3 Seed Agnieszka “Aga” Radwanska served 77% on first serves with five aces, but won just 59% of those points, slightly more than the 56% of points she won on her second serve.  Her average first-serve speed was 93mph and her second-serve average was 76mph. Aga was broken five times in the three sets she played against the big hitting Kirilenko, but saved seven other break points. 

On her receiving games, she won 44% of the points played, but won 50% of points on her opponent’s second serves. She broke Kirilenko six times, but only converted 33% of break point chances. Despite her less than superb serving numbers, her outstanding efficiency rating, firing 36 winners against 22 unforced errors (+14), along with her strong return numbers got her over the hump.

The second Semifinal couldn’t be more even. The numbers above indicate a pretty even matchup with Radwanska holding a slight edge on serve and a better efficiency rating. However, the two are so evenly matched that it will likely come down to who manages the moment better. They are 2-2 in head-to-head battles, with three of the four matches going three sets, and have split the last two. 

Kerber has been in one Grand Slam Semifinal (US Open last year), while Radwanska has never been to a Grand Slam Semi. She has made five Quarterfinal appearances in Slams and is having as good a year as she has had on Tour.  This ought to be another very competitive match, with the winner having nothing to lose in the Final.  

As with the men, we have two terrific matchups with similar styles in both Semis. Like Roger, Serena is trying to secure yet another Grand Slam title. Like Djokovic, Vika is trying to cement her standing as one of the top two women in the world. Radwanska is comparable to Andy Murray, hanging around the top five in the world without being able to get over the hump to claim a Grand Slam. Unlike Tsonga who has been a resident in the men’s top ten for some time, Angelique Kerber is a relative newcomer in the women’s top ten. However, like Tsonga, she is looking to claim her first Grand Slam title. Should be fun! Game, set, match…T. A.

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