We're just a little way past the halfway mark in the year, and I thought it might be a good idea to look at some of the ATP statistics. Am I alone in thinking that I'd gladly trade the "Zagat Guide: Best of the WTA" feature on the WTA home page for some ... stats? Surely there's some sponsor out there willing to slap it's logo on a body of statistics — even if it's just a skeletal version of the Ricoh ATP Matchfacts. I mean, wouldn't be fascinating to know which WTA player has been broken the most times (I think we're looking at a 34-way tie, with 300-plus service breaks).
Seriously, though, there's always been a resistance in tennis to statistical analysis, and I'm not really sure it's justified, any more than is the belief that if you just had all the relevant stats, you would know exactly why this or that player won or lost a particular match. Here's but a recent example of what I mean. Rafael Nadal played a great first set against Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, but his nerve failed at the critical moment and he literally gave away two points at the climax (both forehand errors) to give Djokovic the chapter, 6-4. Those errors carry no more weight in the stats than comparable ones made at 40-0 at 2-2, or in the 1-5 service game, when all hope for a set is lost.
Nadal made just 15 unforced errors in the Wimbledon final, and he hit 21 winners. Djokovic had a dozen errors and 27 winners. This suggests a very close, high-quality match. But let's face it, the most interesting aspect of that clash is that while the shotmaking was at times breathtaking and the mental stress palpable, it was an epic win rather than an epic match. It was basically a hunt, and the match wasn't too far along when we saw the ending was inevitable.
BTW, there was a lot of discontent in the press corps over the way the stats were kept at Wimbledon, and very little confidence in some aspects of their accuracy. But that's another story. Now, let's look at each category in the Service Game Leaders tab of ATP Matchfacts and see what, if anything, is noteworthy and surprising. Tomorrow, we'll look at the Return of Service leaders.
Milos Raonic leads the tour with 509 aces, served up in 37 matches. Would you believe that Nicolas Almagro (No. 7 on the list) has hit more aces than Andy Roddick (No. 9)? Almagro has 378 and Roddick 362. But here's the catch — Almagro got his in 48 matches while Roddick played just 27. So right off the bat, we see how deceptive stats can be. Clearly, an aces-per-match stat would be far more relevant, and it could easily be added. Personally, I would rank the players on the basis of APM, so I took it upon myself to do some of the math.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Biggest surprise: Feliciano Lopez has clocked 502 aces, second only to Raonic in sheer numbers. Lopez's percentage is a very impressive 13.2 — almost identical to the numbers posted by Raonic and Roddick.
This is a valuable, straightforward statistic that needs no tweaking for relevance, and it also establishes a good baseline for performance. As of this moment, only one player is getting more than seven out of 10 first serves in, and that's the leader in this category.
But there it is. He's serving at 72 percent. Only one other man is getting 70 percent of his serves in, Nikolay Davydenko—and we certainly see where that's gotten him this year.
Here's something: only one of the top 10 ace blasters is in the top 10 when it comes to first-serve conversion rate. Isner, who's got 408 aces in 28 matches, is No. 6 on the ace leader board. He's also No. 3 on the conversion table (69 percent), where Ivo Karlovic is No. 11 (66 percent). Now, Karlovic is averaging almost three aces more per match than Isner, but doesn't Isner's significantly better percentage suggest that he's a more dangerous and effective server?
Well, no. The key there is how closely packed the men are in first-serve conversion rate. Only two are at or above the magical 70 percent mark, but 11 men are at the 65 percent mark or above. So the simple list is deceptive. Isner is serving just three percentage points better than Karlovic. That's negligible.
And in the good news-bad news department, Alexandr Dolgopolov is No. 12 in aces (320) but No. 64 in conversion rate, with a sorry 54 percent.
Biggest Surprise: Roger Federer is No. 14 on this list, at 64 percent. Given his smooth mechanics and No. 2 ranking in First Serve Points Won (we'll get to that), this tells me that he really goes for it with that first serve (he's also No. 11 on the ace production list). But again, 45 men are serving between 60 and 70 percent.
Rafael Nadal is currently ranked fourth in the world, but has had a dominant run lately as he has won seven of the last eight French Open titles. Mary Carrillo thinks we’re in store for a Nadal-Djokovic final.
Scenes from Down Under
Check out the best images from the 2013 Australian Open.
The best of Wimbledon
The best images from the Grand Slam tournament at the All-England Club.
French Open 2012: Top 10 Shots
June 10, 2012: John McEnroe, Ted Robinson, and Mary Carillo look back at the Top Ten best moments from the 2012 French Open.