Stat based men's tennis articles
by Joel Mallett | 9 Jan 2012
How can one sleep in when he has a free pass to the game he's most passionate about? Easy. Start with a king sized bed, add the softest sheets and pillows and all night climate control and walla. In fact I only woke up from the cleaners want to fix up my room at 11am. In my defence I was up to 2am the night before finishing my reports.
I missed the last free direct bus but still made it in time to see the end of Ivan Dodig versus Lukasz Kubot on court 5. The video below will give you some indication of their styles because I want to talk about the weird match stats. Dodig won 76 points to 74, it's strange enough that the loser win more points in a three setter, but it's almost unheard of for a straight set match. Kubot broke to love to win the match 7-6(4) 7-5 after saving set points in the first set.
I then headed towards the media centre (as there wasn't a men's singles match scheduled second on any court) and was lucky enough to catch the end of Ryan Sweeting versus Gilles Muller. Yes, Sweeting. Justice was served as he was given a lucky loser place in the draw after Feliciano Lopez pulled out. Read my Sweeting versus Russell article and you'll understand why I call it justice. In a twist of circumstances he actually benefited from losing yesterday as he now has a seeded place in the draw (Lopez was the 5th seed).
I've already given away the winner of the Sweeting and Muller match, but it was a very close 3-6 7-6(2) 7-5 with just one break of serve each. I must be Sweeting's good luck charm as he won every single point I saw! Granted I only saw the last nine points (from a good vantage point outside the court's bounds), but breaking Muller's serve to love is no easy task.
Once at the media centre I took in my surroundings as I may never have such access again. I think everybody can tell I'm not the typical sports journalist. For starters, everyone else has laptops; I choose to take written notes and compile them once I get back to the hotel. Plus they all seem to just stay in that room all day. Sure they're right there when a press conference is called, but what about the actual action?
Back to the action and back to court 5. The court was packed as there were two Australians playing; Marinko Matosevic and Colin Ebelthite paired up against Poland's Mariusz Frystenberg and Marcin Matkowski. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of doubles and the only reason I was there was because James Duckworth and Jarkko Nieminen were next on court. I lucked out with my seat as I was on the back row and able to clearly watch Pablo Andujar versus Denis Istomin on court 4.
Istomin was playing the same game as yesterday while Spaniard Andujar was playing a classic clay court game. Off forehands, angles and generally far behind the baseline. The video below shows the difference in their court position, particularly when returning. Not seen in the video is Andujar's fondness for the forehand slice. Typically only resorted to by players when heavily on the defensive, Andujar produced this shot regularly when only slightly behind neutral in a rally. I also found that he didn't put away a lot of killable short balls, instead working into a corner and coming to the net.
As Matosevic and Ebelthite upset the 3rd seeds 7-6(4) 7-6(3), I couldn't help but think that Matosevic should be ranked higher. His career high of 131 doesn't seem right when I look at how easy he can generate power on his forehand and how well he moves for his height. Maybe it's his attitude. I was not impressed when I saw him hit a ball out of the court at the change of ends at 5-4 2nd set (for seemingly no reason - they had just won that game). Nevertheless, hopefully with a decent draw he can win a match at the Australian Open and push his career forward from there.
Duckworth and Nieminen started at 3:30pm after Istomin had won the first set on the neighbouring court 6-3. Just like Duckworth's only two other tour level matches (in Brisbane last week), he went down 0-2! However this time he was able to break straight back for 1*-2 and set the scene for what looked like would be a great match. That 3rd game was particularly long and the guy sitting next to me said 'play like this, you use all your energy, it's bulls***'. His candid remarks (and Nieminen acknowledging them) and Scandinavian accent told me he was Nieminen's coach or similar.
I wrote a few things he said and almost s*** my pants when he started reading them. My writing was all over the place so hopefully he couldn't make it out. I also almost had an embarrassing reaction when witnessing Duckworth's defensive skills. He retrieved a smash with a backhand twist smash of his own. That's my best description and I'm sticking to it.
Duckworth's play was reminiscent of that moment: it was flashy. He could trouble his vastly more experienced opponent, but would go through awful periods which cost him dearly. For example at *1-2 1st set he missed the same down the line forehand three times. At 0-1 in the second set Nieminen literally only had to hit two shots in a return game to break Duckworth (to spell it out, Duckworth double faulted twice and missed both groundstrokes he hit in that game). When Duckworth went down 0-3 in the 2nd, half of the court's seats emptied.
I apologise for not having much of Nieminen in the video below. In general, I enjoy Duckworth's game, but dislike his double handed backhand. It's too jerky. Sure it can generate power, but it's error prone. Duckworth often plays an aggressive backhand off second serves to the deuce court and comes to the net. I've seen him miss with this play a lot. I would like to see him slice this ball instead (the old chip and charge).
Nieminen ran out an easy 6-2 6-2 winner. Duckworth was 1 of 10 on break points, but a large chunk of these opportunities were in the 3rd game of the match and Duckworth broke that game anyway. He held no break points in the second set. After the match, Benjamin Mitchell's dad (I think that's what he said, but I'm not definite) who was also watching the match congratulated Nieminen's outspoken team member. I also overheard how he was still bothered with the way his charge played: Nieminen was not aggressive enough for his liking.
I stayed on court 5 for Sergiy Stakhovsky and Bobby Reynolds. This beginning of this match was awful! In the first four games at least 20 of 30 or so points ended quickly from unforced errors. It was painful and I was wishing Duckworth could've drawn one of these two instead. It took me a lot of footage to get some half decent rallies. I left mid first set but I see tonight that Reynolds won 7-5 6-3.
When I got back I saw the end of the Matthew Ebden and Marcel Granollers match on television. It always amazes me how different tennis looks live compared to on TV. I personally find it a lot easier to analyse players' games on TV. I suspect a lot of this is because you're behind and above the court rather than beside it.
The ultimate camera angle, in my opinion, is right behind the player, as opposed to above him. This gives a much better indication of speed and spin. Unfortunately this angle is only used occasionally. But I digress, Ebden rescued a bad day for the Aussies by winning 6-1 3-6 6-3. I better hit the sack to give myself some hope of catching the 11am bus.