2. Court speed – Act Two: Your real estate or my cannon?

In the previous post, we noted that there are empirical differences between the four court surfaces/conditions in which tennis is played (outdoor hard, indoor, clay, grass). By using a metric known as cross-courts or XC*, we found that indoor and grass court tournaments were quicker than outdoor hard court tournaments and clay court tournaments.

Further evidence of this is found when analysing individual tournaments. The table below ranks ATP Tour level tournaments according to their average XCs across the 2008-2013 period.  Of the top 10 tournaments, 8 are played indoors or on a grass court surface. Even the appearance of the one clay court tournament, Gstaad, is logical: the event is played in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 1,050m (The Masters 1000 event in Madrid is considered to have quick conditions because of the city’s altitude of 645m).

XC by tournament by surface

Rank

Tournament

Surface

Average   XC (2008-2013**)

1

Atlanta

Hard

60

2

San Jose

Indoor

59

3=

Montpellier

Indoor

59

3=

Marseille

Indoor

59

5

Memphis

Indoor

58

6

Gstaad

Clay

58

7

Queens

Grass

58

8

Vienna

Indoor

58

9

Newport

Grass

57

10

Eastbourne

Grass

57

* XC or cross-courts is a betting market from Sporting Index and others. In the cross-court markets, the two game scores in each set are multiplied together. So a set that finishes 7-6 scores 42 XCs; 6-4 will score 24 XCs. A match that finishes 6-4 3-6 7-6 will score 84. The higher the XCs, the faster the court: not always, but typically. It is a more reliable indicator of court speed than the number of games in each match.

** To date in 2013

When I was serving in Memphis

A simple tournament XC average for 3-set hard court tournaments between 2008 and 2013 is 54. Accordingly, the averages for Atlanta, San Jose and Memphis are between 7 per cent (Memphis) and 11 per cent (Atlanta) higher than the average for hard court or indoor tournaments.

These North American tournaments typically feature the tour’s biggest servers and least successful returners. What is their effect – as opposed to surface speed – on the increase in XC for these tournaments?

  • The table below features the 16 players who have played a total of at least 15 completed matches at San Jose, Memphis, and Atlanta between 2011 and 2013.
  • The table compares these players’ XC average at these tournaments with their hard court XC average as a whole for the same 2011 to 2013 period.
  • The table also ranks the players based on their ability on a hard court in 2012 to hold and break serve. The population for this group is the 88 players who played 15 or more matches on hard courts in 2012.
  • Of particular significance are those players whose XC increase falls outside the 7 per cent to 11 per cent range (7 per cent being the XC increase of Memphis compared to the mean; 11 per cent Atlanta).  For these players, we can infer two conclusions.

North American hard court analysis

 

Hard   and Indoor Court Average XC

San   Jose, Atlanta, Memphis 2011-2013

%   difference

Rank   (88) Service games won

Rank   (88) Return games won

Player

2011-2013

Matches

Average   XC

in   XC

2012

2012

Stepanek

51

29

59

16%

35

29

Malisse

53

16

61

15%

56

70

Hewitt

50

22

57

14%

68

41

Fish

47

27

53

13%

13

11

Anderson

60

19

67

12%

13

75

Young

50

16

55

10%

80

41

Querrey

56

31

61

9%

16

59

Harrison

57

21

62

8%

37

49

Istomin

53

24

56

6%

29

59

Isner

71

34

75

6%

3

86

Haas

52

17

53

1%

29

29

Blake

57

24

57

0%

56

16

Becker

58

17

58

0%

56

66

Muller

67

15

67

0%

9

87

Raonic

66

23

64

-3%

1

81

Russell

54

27

49

-9%

N/A

N/A

Average

56

60

Analysis

The type of players that play these tournaments are responsible for approximately 50 per cent of the increase in XC for the three tournaments. How do we know this?

  1. These three tournaments have average XC of about 5-6 points higher than the tour average.
  2. The hard and indoor court XC average for the 16 players is 56.5, about 3 points more than the tour average for hard/indoor tournaments of 54.

2 Isner-SanJose

Co-conspirators

We note the significance of players who’s XC increase at the three US tournaments is either less than 7 per cent or more than 11 per cent.

  1. When playing these three tournaments, 8 of the 16 players have a XC differential of less than 7 per cent, suggesting that it is their own playing style rather than surface itself that generates high XCs and in so doing raises the tournaments’ XCs by 7 per cent or more.
  2. For example: Isner (34) and Raonic (23) played more than 50 matches between them but their XC increases are below the 7 per cent threshold.
  3. The table of 16 players features 5 of the tour’s 13 most successful servers; and 3 of the tour’s 8 least successful returners.
  4. Only 5 of the 16 players increased their XC by more than 11 per cent. For this minority, the quicker speed of surface of these three tournaments is the predominant factor that explains their XC increase.

2 thoughts on “2. Court speed – Act Two: Your real estate or my cannon?

  1. We’ll get to Wimbledon for sure. For this post, I was looking at vanilla ATP Tour tournaments over 3 sets. No doubt that Wimbledon is the grand papa when it comes to XCs and total games. Exhibit A: Isner-Mahut.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s