Friday, September 24, 2010

Stats in Tennis: Who Wants More?

Where can I learn how many times this guy served and volleyed while facing a break point?
More stats. Fans want 'em and coaches do too - still, our collective yearning for them doesn't seem to change anything. The list of available tennis stats is stuck in neutral at the moment.

Sure, cool stuff like break points won, and return games percentage won/lost are available, but there isn't a whole lot beyond that.

Think...what if we could log on to a players profile and look at their record in deuce games, or the amount of second serves they hit out wide while serving against lefties? The possibilities are endless, and who knows, maybe coaches would really be able to mine the data for game-changing clues about certain opponents.

But at the moment, it doesn't look like the days of tennis sabermetrics lie just around the corner. It feels more like they are in the next country over.

Why? Maybe the ATP or WTA tours don't possess the budget to expand their current level of statistical analysis, but I often wonder why some enterpriser doesn't just up and form a company that monitors obscure yet useful emerging trends in tennis? That company could then package them all into a neat little series of graphs, charts, and lists so that everybody who wanted them had them at their disposal.

Tennis is a cerebral game that demands that players implement strategies that takes into account strengths and weaknesses of opponents. Sure, you can look at a player and see what he does or doesn't do well, but it's never as simple as it looks. Concrete numbers never lie, but impressions gained from sight sometimes do.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim is a regular campaigner for deeper stats for tennis. Yahoo Sports (Chris Chase) and the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective have brought up the subject in recent posts.

Now it's my turn.

Here are five stats I'd like to see made available by the ATP, WTA, or an independently operated company that takes up the cause.

  • Ratio of forehands to backhands by 1) balls put in play 2) winners 3) errors
  • No. of rallies extended beyond 8 or more strokes, and who won them.
  • M.P.H of ground strokes, so that average pace could be calculated by player and by shot (forehand, backhand).
  • Error counts that contain backhand errors, volley errors, forehand errors. overhead errors - basically every error goes into a category.
  • Shot selection stats, i.e. how much of each did a player hit per match? Forehand flat, forehand topspin, backhand slice, backhand topspin.
What are your five?


  1. You make some awesome suggestions for statistical analysis. I'd like to see all of your proposals rolled up with the statistical discrepancy between players that use a two-hand backhand and players that use a one-hand backhand.

  2. Thanks for commenting Tyler - -

    Somebody needs to form a company that does tennis stats and sells them to the ATP, WTA, and various other media outlets, such as ESPN, the newspapers, TV, and all that good stuff.

    The only trick is getting good data from all tournaments. How many people (and what do we pay them?) What stats do we gather?

    So many questions. Have to ask some coaches what they want...


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