#15 Rally Percentages

 2012 U.S. Open Analytics 

You think rallying is a good idea? Get ready to lose your lunch.

The best winning percentages for the entire 2012 US Open Men.

The best winning percentages for the entire 2012 US Open Women.

Men’s Quarter Finalists

Player Round Reached Baseline Winning %Totals
Novak Djokovic Finalist 54.2% 381/702
Andy Murray Winner 54.1% 499/922
David Ferrer Semi's 52.8% 443/839
J.M. Del Potro Qtrs50.6% 314/630
Janko Tipsarevic Qtrs50.4% 323/640
Tomas Berdych Semi's 49.5% 343/692
Marin Cilic Qtrs48.3% 337/697
Roger Federer Qtrs44.8% 143/319

Women’s Quarter Finalists

Player Round Reached Baseline Winning %Totals
Victoria Azarenka Finalist 56.8%320/563
Serena Williams Winner 56.3%216/383
Maria Sharapova Semi's 53.5%243/454
Ana Ivanovic Qtrs53.1%183/344
Sara Errani Semi's 51.9%262/504
Marion Bartoli Qtrs49.3%201/407
Samantha Stosur Qtrs48.3%176/364
Roberta Vinci Qtrs46.3%146/315

Men Average Baseline Points Won  (9459/20,466)

 Men Average Winning % = 46.2% 

Women Average Baseline Points Won  (5865/12,387)


 Women Average Winning % = 47.3% 

 These are the facts people. Rallying is a losing proposition.

It’s amazing how many hours a day are spent by players practicing and practicing and practicing – a proven failed strategy.

Now, this does not mean we should not rally because it is a very necessary part of the game. Just not a highly rewarding one!

Here is what you need to have a crystal clear understanding of.

Only 5%  (7/128) of men had a winning percentage from the baseline.

Only 10% (14/128) of women had a winning percentage from the baseline.

 2013 US Open Rd 1: Lleyton Hewitt def. Brian Baker 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 

Lleyton Hewitt spent 80 weeks ranked as the number one player in the world.

The main reason for this was his ability to own the back of the court. Even though those days at number one are behind him, he is one of the smartest players on tour winning points from the baseline.

Against Brian Baker the other parts of his game didn’t go well at all. Hewitt only made 46 percent of first serves, got broken seven times, hit only 28 winners to Baker’s 55 and just won half of his approach points (14/28). These are big numbers in today’s game and almost every other player in the draw would not be able to figure out how to win with such a big hole in their game. Not Hewitt. Hewitt baited Baker to go for big shots early in the point and it worked perfectly. It must also be noted that Baker was not 100% – his knee had some serious swelling.

  • Hewitt won 58 percent (70/119) of the baseline points in the match because he wrote the book on getting one more ball back in the court.
  • Hewitt won 55% (92/167) of rallies between 0-4 shots.
  • He won 52% (20/38) of rallies between 5-8 shots.
  • He was dead even at 50% (17/34) with points lasting longer than 9 shots.
  • Baker hit more forehand winners (17 to 10) and backhand winners (17 to 4).
  • Hewitt got the real edge in “unforced errors” – only 6 to Baker’s 32 over 4 sets.

 Rafael Nadal @ Roland Garros 

Rafael Nadal is Spanish but it’s fair to say he owns Paris. 

Rafael Nadal returned to Paris in 2013 as the winner of seven of the past eight French Open championships and an astounding 52-1 record.

A closer examination of Nadal’s eight attempts to win in Paris up to 2013 on the terre battue (beaten earth) reveal the inner workings of his game and how he is now the undisputed King of Clay. From 2005 to 2012 Nadal has played 9871 points at Roland Garros.

Nadal’s dominance is more clearly understood when we uncover over eight years he has won 98% of his matches, 89% of his sets, 65% of his games but only 57% of his total points. What looks like total domination is actually a minor tipping of the equation in the trenches where each point increasingly becomes more important than the one just played.

Only once in 53 matches has Nadal been stretched to play a fifth set – a first round encounter in 2011 against #39 John Isner where he trailed two sets to one before winning 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4. This was the second longest match (4 hours and 1 minute) he has played  after a 2006 Rd 32,  four-set battle with Frenchman Paul Henri Mathieu which lasted 4 hours and 53 minutes.

Every element of Nadal’s game goes up a level when he arrives in Paris destined for Grand Slam glory.

 2013 Miami Final: Agnieszka Radwanska def. Maria Sharapova 7-5, 6-4 

Agnieszka Radwanska’s is a very smart tennis player with very unconventional weapons. 

Radwanska’s stunning victory over Maria Sharapova will be remembered far more for the things that didn’t happen than the things that did.

To begin with, Radwanska did not lose her serve once in the final. She got broken six times in her 6-4, 6-2 semi-final win over Marion Bartoli – who didn’t even hold serve once for the match! Radwanska fought off three break points in three separate service games against Sharapova, who gifted two easy forehand errors from around the middle of the court and badly missed a backhand return of serve long to squander the handful of opportunities she saw.

The other thing that didn’t happen in this match was winners. Radwanska did not one single groundstroke winner from the back of the court in the opening set which lasted 57 minutes.

The only winner off her racquet in the opening set came in unusual circumstances after she hit a drop shot at 2-2, deuce and had to race to the net to retrieve Sharapova’s return drop shot. All she had to offer the stat sheet was a slice backhand bunt down the line on the dead run in the shadow of the net.

In an era dominated by players hitting at two speeds – hard and harder – Radwanska’s first forehand winner of the match happened in the third game of the second set, exactly 72 minutes into the final. Things are clearly not normal here.

In one of the oddest combinations you could ever imagine on the WTA tour, Radwanska won the opening set against the world’s #2 ranked player without dropping serve, without double faulting once and without hitting a solitary winner standing at the baseline.

She is smart. She is very tennis savvy and has figured out a way to go around people instead of trying to go through them. Sharapova hit 31 winners for the match to Radwanska’s six which normally provides enough information to who controlled and won the match – but not on this occassion.

Radwanska is clearly okay with Sharapova hitting five times more winners than she did – because it is the bait that produces almost four times more errors and the real key to victory.

  • Radwanska only made 12 unforced errors for the match.
  • She won 74 points for the match with 62% of that total donated by Sharapova’s 46 unforced errors.
  • Radwanska won 91% of her points through a Sharapova error (forced and unforced).

Radwanska beats you the old fashioned way – by letting you take so many punches that you fall down exhausted from the effort. She overuses slice on her forehand, regularly will go into a full squat to hit a backhand and massages the ball side to side in a way that dares her opponent to over-hit early in the point to avoid the mental and physical pain of having to constantly go so deep in the rallies to win a point.

While her opponents are stronger with their strokes, she is stronger with her mind. Mental toughness and the ability to lay traps all over the court make her a nightmare to play. She doesn’t stop running and the ball doesn’t stop coming back. The awkward mechanics of her strokes are more than compensated for with her three biggest weapons – her feet, her heart and her head.

Radwanska’s point construction is about setting an ambush so the bluff of her lack of firepower actually works in her favor. She is so fast and anticipates so well that she shrinks the edge of the court with her speed – forcing balls long and wide because of the smaller targets they are intended for.

 2013 Miami Rd 16: Tommy Haas def Novak Djokovic 6-2, 6-4 

Tommy Haas had a game plan. A game plan is always a good thing.

It was developed from three separate areas and came together perfectly in Miami. The first part of the game plan was born from getting crushed 6-1, 6-2 in the round of 16 at Indian Wells last week by Juan Martin Del Potro. Haas admitted in his post-match interview that against Del Potro he “sort of had a game plan” that quickly fell apart. He was not going to make that same mistake again. “I went out (against Del Potro) and nothing seemed to really work, you know, and I didn’t really have a game plan B. I was just frustrated with the way I played and tried to totally, you know, focus and tried to, you know, approach this match totally different,” Haas said after beating Djokovic.

The second part of his game plan was the unusual Miami weather with very cold and blustery conditions for their featured night match. He would use the adverse conditions to his advantage. The final part was all about making Djokovic as uncomfortable as possible in the four main areas of the sport: serving, returning, rallying and approaching.

Haas forced Djokovic to play horrible – something that Haas must take full credit for. Djokovic said in his post-match interview “It’s definitely the worst match I have played in a long time.”

In baseline points Haas opted for a forehand to forehand strategy to take Djokovic’s dominant backhand out of the equation. Djokovic’s backhand is typically rock solid and would have ben an asset in the wind but his forehand can become inconsistent and  be more affected by the blustery conditions.

  • Haas hit 54% of all groundstrokes to Djokovic’s forehand in the deuce court – a crystal clear indicator of his smart game plan
  • Djokovic hit 66% (212/319) of total groundstrokes as a forehand for the match while Haas hit 52%  (174/333).
  •  Haas hit 13 winners and made 28 unforced errors while Djokovic hit only 5 winners and made 38 unforced errors.

When Djokovic did get the point going backhand-to-backhand in the Ad court Haas mostly refused to bang with him, instead hitting a lot of slice backhands which Djokovic hated in the cold conditions. SAP match analytics showed Haas hit 25% of his total strokes as a slice to stay low under Djokovic’s hitting zone while Djokovic only hit 9% slice.

With Haas leading 6-2, 3-1 Haas had hit 55% of all his backhands as a slice.

Djokovic said it was one of the coldest conditions he has ever played in his career. “It’s quite cold. Yeah, basically no air in the balls. As I said, low bounce, which is more suitable to his style of the game.”

If you can’t play through somebody, try playing around them – or in this case under them.

 Player Focus: Rafael Nadal @ Monte Carlo 

Rafael Nadal also owns Monte Carlo.

Rafael Nadal’s dominance in Monte Carlo winning the prestigious Masters Series event for the last eight year’s offers three key insights into the make-up of the world’s greatest claycourt player

The truth is in the details

On the surface it looks like Nadal uses Monte Carlo’s center court as a torture chamber for his opponents – only dropping two sets in the past six years. That should be a typo but it isn’t. Overall he is 44-1 for nine tournaments with his only loss coming to Argentinian Guillermo Coria 7-6 (3), 6-2 in 2003 (Nadal was injured and didn’t play the following year). But while the bigger picture looks extremely one-sided, the point-to-point play is a lot closer than you would think.

Nadal at Monte Carlo Won Lost Winning %
Games638322 66.5%
Points34802669 56.6%

The truth of the matter is that Nadal has only won 56% of his total points in Monte Carlo. He tips a 50-50 battle slightly in his favor, plays the big points unbelievably well, and beats most of his opponents as much mentally as he does physically.

It should be encouraging to all of us that complete domination in our sport is only a six percent swing from an even battle.

Nadal really wins the French Open in Monte Carlo.

This is the first clay court tournament Nadal plays every year as he sets himself for the French Open just over a month later on the ATP calendar. In 2010 before his first round match against Thiemo de Bakker he was asked in a press interview which was more important for him to win that year – the French Open or Wimbledon?

His response – “Wednesday is my most important match,” in reference to playing de Bakker, who he defeated 6-0, 6-1 in exactly one hour on court.

Quite simply, Monte Carlo serves as a fabulous dress rehearsal for Paris and winning Monte Carlo gives him the necessary confidence and mojo that he needs to go and win the French, which he has done seven times.

Go Do This

Winning 55% of all points for a year puts you at No. #1 in the world.

Everybody can grind & dig a trench running side to side. Make this part of your game – not the whole game.

To typically find the winner of a match don’t look for the most winners – look for the least errors. 

Make 4 shots in a rally before you pull the trigger. Give your opponent time to miss first.

Put your opponent first – you are the second most important person on a tennis court.