The 2014 Coach Smackdown

On the heels of the announcement that Boris Becker will coach Novak Djokovic, today we learned that Stefan Edberg will be part of Roger Federer‘s team for the first ten weeks of the season.  There will be more men’s Grand Slam champions in Australian Open coaching boxes than in the singles draw.

We’ve probably wrenched all possible commentary out of the head-to-head matchups of today’s slate of top players, so why not turn to their coaches instead?  Steve Tignor got us started:

I put together a list of 15 coaches and advisors, including Becker, Edberg, and Ivan Lendl, along with such names as Juan Carlos Ferrero, Goran Ivanisevic, and Michael Chang.  Many of them never played each other, since not all of their careers overlapped, but many of them did.

Becker, Edberg, and Lendl figure most prominently in these matchups, while Chang, Ivanisevic, and Sergi Bruguera also played plenty of matches against their fellow coaches.

Novak’s new coach barely edges out Andy Murray‘s coach as the king of his generation of advisors.  His 66-38 record against these 14 colleagues is slightly better than Lendl’s 47-28.  In eight of ten head-to-heads, Becker came out even or better. But one of those, as Tignor pointed out, is the matchup against Lendl, which the Czech leads 11-10.  If coaches can possibly accomplish such a thing, this pair might make Djokovic-Murray matches a little more interesting.

The other unfavorable head-to-head of Becker’s is my favorite quirky stat of the lot.  Twice in April 1993, when Becker was ranked fourth in the world, Franco Davin defeated him.  That’s a little better record for Davin than Juan Martin del Potro‘s 3-11 record against Djokovic.

Here’s the whole set of head-to-heads.  Don’t worry–in a few days the regular season will be back in full swing.

New Ranking Maps and Charts

I’m excited to share with you a couple of new features I’ve been working on for TennisAbstract.com.

First is an interactive ranking map:

rankmap

The above map shows the geographic concentration of teenagers in the WTA top 1000.  Click through to the full-size map, and you can mouse over any country to find out how many players they have in that category.

More importantly, you can customize the map in a variety of ways.  Choose from either the ATP or WTA rankings, decide how deep you’d like to go in the rankings, and if you’d like, limit the age range.  It’s a great way to see which countries are most dominant on each tour, and it’s also an opportunity to visually investigate which nations are likely to hold that power in the near future.

Next is an interactive ranking history chart:

rankchart

This chart shows ranking points for the big four over the past three years.  Again, if you click through to the full-size map, you’ll get more features: mouse over any line to see the date and the player’s ranking points at the date.

Like the map, the ranking chart is fully interactive.  You can select anywhere from one to four players–for now, only in the ATP top 100–choose a timeframe, and select either ranking or ranking points.

One option I want to call you attention to is one of the timeframes: “Year-end (by age).”  Here, instead of dates, the horizontal axis shows ages.  For instance, this graph shows the big four’s year-end rankings at each age.

Enjoy!

The 5 Biggest Comebacks of the 2013 ATP Season

Everybody loves a big comeback, but some of the best come-from-behind wins on the ATP tour this year were such unheralded matchups that they’ve already fallen out of the spotlight.  While everyone else ranks NadalDjokovic matches in their year-end lists, let’s look at the five matches in which the winner had to climb out of the biggest hole.

To do this, I ranked every match this season by Comeback Factor (CF), a stat that identifies the lowest ebb in the match for the eventual winner.  If a player breaks serve to open the match and sails to victory, his chance of winning never falls below 50%.  But if he goes down a set and a break, his odds fall much lower.  If the latter player comes back to win, his CF is much higher.

1. Indian Wells Masters R64: Gilles Simon d. Paolo Lorenzi 6-3 3-6 7-5 (win probability graph)

Lorenzi went up a double break in the final set by winning the first four games on the trot.  Simon held twice to force the Italian to serve for it at 5-2.  Lorenzi went up 40-15 in that service game, earning two match points, before losing four points in a row and dropping serve.  At 5-4, Simon broke him to 15, then broke again to love to seal the final set, 7-5.

At 5-2 40-15 in the 3rd set, Lorenzi’s chance of winning was about 99.8%, the highest recorded in a match this year by a player who didn’t end up winning.

2. Queen’s Club R64: Ivan Dodig d. James Ward 6-7(8) 7-6(2) 7-6(2) (win probability graph)

Dodig fought back from nearly the same hole that Simon found himself in, but did so in the second set instead of the third.  Ward won the first set in a tight tiebreak, then earned an early break in the second.  He held on until he served at 5-3, when he reached 40-15.  Dodig won the next four points to erase the break, improving his probability of winning from 0.5% to 21.1%.

Amazingly, the scenario repeated itself in the third set after Dodig won the second in a tiebreak.  Ward went up a break and served for the match again at 5-4, but failed to generate another match point.  The Croatian won a pair of points from 30-30 in that game, then sealed the match in yet another tiebreak.

Dodig wasn’t so lucky a couple of months later, when he nearly upset Juan Martin del Potro in Montreal.  In this year’s 7th-biggest comeback, Delpo came back from a double-break hole in the third set to deny Dodig a place in the third round.

3. Madrid Masters R64: Mikhail Youzhny d. Fabio Fognini 7-6(4) 2-6 7-6(5) (win probability graph)

Fognini never had the double break that led to such disaster for Lorenzi and Ward, but he did have something neither of those men did: a triple match point.  At 3-3 in the deciding set, Fognini broke the Russian then consolidated, leading to a chance to serve for the match at 5-4.  After winning his first three points for a 40-0 advantage, his win probability climbed as high as 99.1%.

It wouldn’t go any higher.  Youzhny won 12 of the next 13 points, breaking the Italian, holding his own serve to love, then earning two match points of his own on the Fognini serve before Fabio gathered himself sufficiently to force a tiebreak.  Fognini kept up his streakiness to the end, claiming a minibreak to open the tiebreak, dropping five points in a row, and fighting back to 5-5 before finally losing the match.

4. Roland Garros R32: Tommy Robredo d. Gael Monfils 2-6 6-7(5) 6-2 7-6(3) 6-2 (win probability graph)

Monfils won the first two sets, which you would think put Robredo at enough of a disadvantage.  But the Spaniard’s lowest ebb didn’t come until the fourth set.  He lost serve in the seventh game, and after fighting off a match point at 3-5, he needed to break serve just to stay alive.

The Frenchman went up 40-15, earning two more match points and a win probability of 98.9%.  Robredo won four straight points to get back on serve, easily held, and even challenged Monfils’s own serve (to 0-30) before landing in a tiebreak.  He won that breaker and, compared to the fourth set, won the fifth with ease.

5. Australian Open QF: David Ferrer d. Nicolas Almagro 4-6 4-6 7-5 7-6(4) 6-2 (win probability graph)

After Robredo beat Monfils, he faced Almagro in the 4th round and Ferrer in the quarters.  Conicidentally, those are the two men who, at the Australian Open, gave 2013 its fifth-biggest comeback.

As in Robredo did in his comeback, Ferrer dropped the first two sets.  Unlike his countryman, he found himself in the most danger in the third set.  Almagro broke in the seventh game of the third set and reached 5-4, an opportunity to serve for the match.  But here, history (or something) got in the way. Almagro reached his highest chance of winning, 98.7%, at 15-0, before Ferrer fought his way to 15-40, Almagro got back to deuce, but Ferrer won the game.

Almagro earned more chances to serve for the match, but his odds of winning would never again be so high.  After breaking in yet another seventh game, Nico served for it at 5-4 and again at 6-5.  At 6-5, he reached 15-0 and a win probability of 97.4%, but from that point on, it was all Ferrer.

Match Charting Project: Update, Tutorial, Tracking, Tools

Since I announced the Match Charting Project last week, the response has been tremendous.  More than one thousand of you read the post, more than one hundred people downloaded the match charting spreadsheet, and several people have already charted matches, helping build what is already a very useful resource.

We’re nearing 100 charted matches.  Here’s the full list.  A couple of notable recent additions are this year’s Wimbledon men’s final (thanks Verity!), and the 2009 French Open match in which Soderling upset Nadal (thanks Amy!).

New spreadsheet version

I’ve added functionality to note serve-and-volley points, using the plus sign (“+”) after the serve notation.  (I’ve added a bit more detail in the instructions sheet to help explain it.)  It’s optional, but it would be very useful information to have, and if you want to track serve-and-volley attempts this way, you’ll need the newest version of the spreadsheet.  Download it by clicking on the link.

Match charting tutorial

To give you an idea of what match charting is all about, I recorded my screen while charting the first few games of a match.  While it’s not the most captivating entertainment, it demonstrates how I set up my screen, and it may help you make sense out of the notation system we’re using.

Tracking

Now that several of us are charting matches, I’ve started a google doc to help us keep track of who is charting what.  When you’re about to start charting a match, head over to the doc and “claim” the match (and make sure that no one else has).  Please only claim one match at a time–the idea here is to prevent duplication, not store everyone’s wishlist.

Charting tools

Here are some tips and tricks that might help you chart a little more effectively.

I find it more convenient to watch video files that are stored on my hard drive–that way, I can work without an internet connection, or survive a weak wireless connection.  You can download YouTube videos using KeepVid, and you can download videos from many other sites with Jaksta.

Once you’ve downloaded a video file, I highly recommend using mplayer to view them.  The killer feature here is that it allows you to speed up or slow down playback.  When you’re starting out, you might want to go as slow as 50% or 60%.  As you get better, you can speed up.  Another great mplayer feature for charting purposes is the ability to skip forward or backward ten seconds or one minute.  It’s a very effective way to rewind and watch a point again, if you missed it.  You can also quickly skip through changeovers, or even through long delays between points, if you’re charting that sort of player.

Finally, if you’re watching videos in fullscreen, you might want to try the 4t Tray Minimizer.  It allows you to pin any program on top, so for instance, if you want to watch TennisTV in fullscreen but keep the spreadsheet on top, it makes that possible.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please email me or leave them in the comments.  Thanks for all your interest so far!