Prologue: O for a Muse of Fire

“Tennis has a data problem”, a Wall Street Journal blog reported in the aftermath of the 2013 US Open. That and other blogs criticised the inanity of IBM statistics at the US Open: one IBM “key to a match” for one player was reportedly to serve at less than a specific miles per hour.

In truth, the tennis world as a whole has dedicated surprisingly little time to identifying meaningful data that might drive some of the sport’s variables, such as career success. To borrow from Nate Silver, there has been plenty of noise, but little signal. And nothing like what Bill James did for baseball.

So, by focusing on results and rankings from the ATP Tour over the last few years, this blog will contribute to fixing that.

The data presented will surely ask as many questions as it answers. The hard work is neither in having an opinion nor in having data, but in reconciling the two, or overriding one with the other where necessary.

All contributions welcome.

One thought on “Prologue: O for a Muse of Fire

  1. The IBM keys to the match seldom seem to reveal anything worth knowing. And yet… If a given player has a low win percentage on his second serve, and is pretty likely to serve a successful delivery on his first serve if he doesn’t push too hard, then the key to a higher percentage result on serve might well be to avoid going above some critical speed on the first serve. In fact, I can remember Mats Wilander three or four years ago suggesting exactly this strategy would suit Andy Murray.

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