Indian Wells briefing: part 2

Before you start reading: a quick note. You’ll notice there is an industrial-sized table of data in the middle of this post. If this post was public policy, its wonk factor would be Beltway. However, I hope the data presentation makes the table sufficiently easy to read to be a welcome and frequently consulted aide memoire for the upcoming Masters 1000 tournament in Indian Wells.

Whereas yesterday’s post outlined the likely speed of playing conditions at Indian Wells (average to medium-slow) and the types of successful players at the tournament (big servers and baseliners, albeit few clay court specialists), this post provides data on each of the main draw entrants.

Some analysis is provided in this post. The idea, though, is not necessarily to provide analysis but to provide information to be used as background in analysing and anticipating matches at the Masters 1000 event.


The table draws together three datasets for each main draw entrant. The datasets are explained below in greater detail but are:

1)      January 2014 ATP rankings data vs March “Race to London” data

2)      Career win-loss records at the Indian Wells Masters 1000 event

3)      Aggregated 2014 serve / return-of-serve data for indoor/outdoor hard court events

1)      Rankings / Race to London data – Columns 1-4 (purple)

  • The main draw consists of 96 entrants. 79 places are reserved for the top 79 ranked ATP players 42 days before the start of the tournament [20 January, Column 2]. If a player in the top 79 is injured (eg Ferrer), his place is taken automatically by the next highest ranked player. Due to injuries in 2014, the “last direct acceptance” is Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan.
  • The remaining 17 places in the 96 are given to 12 qualifiers (outside the top 79) and to 5 “wild cards”, players typically chosen by the organisers because of their nationality (here, US) or because of past performance at the tournament. Qualifying matches start today so I have not included the 12 qualifiers in the table below.
  • [Column 3] Whereas column 2, the player’s ranking, is based on their results over the last 52 weeks, column 3, the “Race to London”, is based only on results since the start of the 2014 calendar year (9 weeks). Eventually by the end of this year, column 3 will become the player’s ranking.
  • [Column 4] At this stage, if a player’s Race to London position is higher than their ATP 20 January ranking, it is an indication that the player has had better results so far this year compared to 2013 and their ranking is heading in the right direction – for now (after all, three quarters of the season remains). The reverse is indicated by a lower Race to London position. However, this may also indicate that a player has not played due to injury (eg Raonic).

2)      Career win-loss records at Indian Wells – Columns 5-8 (blue)

  • Columns 5-8 is a player’s win-loss record at Indian Wells since 2002. For most players, this is their entire Indian Wells record, but it does cut off pre-2002 appearances from the older players eg Federer, Haas, Stepanek. The win-loss records here are only for completed main draw matches. Qualifying matches, retirements, withdrawals don’t count.

3)      Aggregated serve / return-of-serve data – Columns 9-11 (red)

  • The final 3 columns show the percentage of service games and return games won by each player in 2014; and the number of matches the percentages refer to (for an indication of sample size). These refer to matches played on hard courts or indoor (hard) courts only.


Datasets for Indian Wells 2014 main draw entrants

21 Indian Wells 2


As mentioned above, there is extensive analysis that could be undertaken on the table above. I’ll let you do that for the most part. Here below though, are my rules-of-thumb for what the different sections mean drawing out some examples.

1)      Rankings / Race to London analysis

  • The key here is column 4, the differential between ATP ranking and Race to London position. Positive numbers reflect players who are in form; negative numbers reflect players with less form or injuries.  Small positive / negative numbers increase in significance the higher up the rankings they are.
  • In the top 10, Berdych and Wawrinka are the main movers, although Stan may have some rust after a month off. Outside the top 10, Anderson, Gulbis and, especially, Dimitrov are the form horses. Others with a welcome start to the year include Cilic, Monfils, Dolgopolov and Karlovic.
  • On the other hand, Gasquet and Tsonga seem most vulnerable in the top 10 while Benneteau and Brands are among those who have so far struggled to repeat their form in 2013. Seppi’s loss to an injured Llodra in Marseille is as reflective as anything of his early season woes.
  • Injured or ill at some point: Raonic (ankle), Pospisil (back), Youzhny (immune system amber warning).


2)      Indian Wells career win-loss records analysis

  • Playing at a certain tournament or in a certain country can make a big difference. In the latter part of his career, Yevgeny Kafelnikov would book tournament hotels for one night year round but know that come an autumnal Sunday in Moscow he would walk away with the Kremlin Cup. For others the reverse will be true. Confidence or potential vulnerability can be seen in these win percentages.
  • Aside from the Big Four (Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Federer), Australian Open champ Stan Wawrinka has a decent record here (Win-Loss 68%) as does Tommy Haas (72%), although the German will have concerns about his injured shoulder. Lleyton Hewitt (74%) will also have good memories here.
  • I’m going to deal with Team America tomorrow but Russell, Harrison, and Querrey post surprisingly good numbers here as well as John Isner (finalist in 2012).
  • On the flip side, Radek Stepanek may find time to watch Petra Kvitova (17%), Judy Murray better catch Feliciano Lopez while she can (22%) and Kei Nishikori (17%) will want to avoid a sixth loss in seven matches.


3)      Aggregated serve / return-of-serve analysis

  • The basic rule of thumb is this: if there is a high difference (60 points+) between serve and return-of-serve percentages, expect fewer breaks and more tie-breaks; whereas a small differential (50 points or less) is a harbinger of a number of breaks of serve in a match. (Although in Gulbis’s case, expect a number of breaks, and a nervous Wilson racquet supplier at the courtside.)
  • High percentage of service games won; low percentage of return games won. Isner, Karlovic, Raonic, even Anderson. Explains why Isner and Karlovic have fought out 7 successive tie-breaks.
  • Low serve, high return. where low is less than 80 per cent and high is greater than 25 per cent. Indicative of multiple breaks in a match. Youzhny, Simon, Hewitt are good examples.
  • High serve, high return. Pretty much your Big Four.
  • Low serve, low return. Goodnight.


In part 3 tomorrow: Team America

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