Expected Points, my new short, daily podcast, highlights three numbers to illustrate stats, trends, and interesting trivia around the sport.
Up today: Novak Djokovic adds to the long list of players he’s beaten three times, Ashleigh Barty gets the most out of a small package, and Elise Mertens lays more groundwork for a remarkable doubles career.
Scroll down for a transcript.
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Music: Love is the Chase by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2021. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: Apoxode
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Rough transcript of today’s episode:
The first number is 51, the number of players who have faced Novak Djokovic at least three times without winning a single match. En route to his 20th career major title and 6th Wimbledon crown, Djokovic added three more names to that list. He scored his third career wins over Denis Kudla, Marton Fucsovics, and Matteo Berrettini. In the semi-final, he improved his head-to-head with Denis Shapovalov to 7-0. Djokovic has played 117 different opponents in at least three pro matches, and he’s undefeated against nearly half of them. In that sense, Berrettini has little to be ashamed of. He took a set from the world number one in both the French Open quarter-finals and the Wimbledon final, winning tiebreaks in both contests. In that department, he’s one of the few men to get the better of the Serbian. Berrettini is one of only seven players to have a perfect record in two or more tiebreaks against Djokovic. The challenge, as the Italian discovered for the last two hours of yesterday’s match, was simply getting that far.
Our second number is 48, the number of women in the WTA top 50 who are taller than Ashleigh Barty. The only woman ranked near the top who is shorter is Yulia Putintseva. Barty is five feet, five inches tall, a stature that wouldn’t stick out on the street, but one that puts her at a disadvantage against opponents with longer reach and serves that start their trajectory that much higher above the net. That’s the theory, anyway. Looking up at the rest of the field has hardly held Barty back, and it didn’t stop her against the six-foot-tall Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s final. While the Australian’s proximity to the ground helps with the low bounce on grass, it hardly limits her offensive capabilities. She struck 53 aces in her seven matches at this year’s championships, compared to 60 for Pliskova. Her 9.2% ace rate between last summer’s restart and the start of Wimbledon was second on tour to Serena Williams. Tall men may be gradually taking over the final rounds at the All England Club, but with recent titles for Barty and Simona Halep, a select group of women are holding out against the six-footers.
Today’s third and final number is 6, the number of different partners with whom Elise Mertens has won a tour-level doubles title. After teaming with Hsieh Su-Wei to win the Wimbledon trophy on Saturday, Mertens is three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam. She won both the US Open and Australian Open with Aryna Sabalenka in a partnership that eventually earned both players the #1 spot in the official rankings. There are plenty of doubles players who have won titles with at least six different partners, and a fair number who have won three slams. But Mertens has done all of it by age 25, racking up over 350 career doubles matches while maintaining a spot in the singles top 20 as well. And while Roland Garros is the only major she hasn’t won, it doesn’t mean she’s hopeless on clay. She’s won two tour-level titles on dirt—with different partners, of course—not to mention multiple singles tournaments on clay as well. The women’s doubles tour is overloaded with top-notch talent, and the unassuming Belgian stands on top of a very competitive heap.