US Open tennis finals analysis

Comparing the stats of Serena and’s what’s clear. Caroline has a better record in these stats:
2nd service return points won, 58.1 to 50.6
1st serve: 70.1% to 58.7
Return games won: 44% to 42.9
Serena leads in all others.  
This will be their 10th match together, Caroline winning just once, in 2012. Serena, 7-0 in the head-to-head on hardcourt, has taken 16 of their 22 sets. Their last 2 matchups went the distance, with the Montreal matchup their most divisive since their first encounter in Sydney 2009. That one included 2 tiebreaks.   
Caroline makes her 2nd ever Grand Slam finals appearances, this one also at Forest Hills. The Denmark native is currently the world #11, and is a former #1.
With Serena as a huge favorite, my job is to see what benchmarks Caroline has to reach to potentially win. Here’s what I came up with, using their prior matches and her best variables in each:
80% first serve in
At least 1 more ace than double-fault
68% 1st service points
50% 2nd service points
50% break point conversion
Woz routinely gets her first serve in along with converting break points, yet this has translated to just one win. 

Not promising. She’s going to feel lifeless, and must rely on her mental game, which is as sharp as it can be, and use more finesse than power. I believe she will feel the respect from the fans and compete well regardless of physical condition.

Physically, Serena is at her peak. Today, she’s very susceptible to mental errors, and will tend to get rather down on herself, along with a lot of unforced errors.  I’m not certain she’ll connect with her audience.

This is a tale of two tennis players, really.  Serena can outplay her opponent, but Caroline can outthink her, and she will feel more inspired to see this match through.
I see Wonziacki winning in a 3-set match, tho each set will be rather one-sided.
I rooted hard for Gael Monfils, hoping he’d seal the deal against the world #1, whom, in fact, will not be in the final.  Neither will Gael, not after having several match points in hand. It was a world-class choke job.  Ironically, Greg Norman was spotted watching the action.  That shot gave you an idea of how bad things would get for ‘Sliderman’.   I want to like Gael, maybe the purest athlete on tour. He deserves to get to a Grand Slam final. But he can’t seem to do it. There’s definitely something technical to adjust, such as keeping focus, going to the net more, working on crosscourt volleys.   I’m sad we won’t see him in the final. But that sadness is tempered knowing that Federer won’t be in the final.   And our final pits world #10 Kei Nishikori, the top ranked Asian player in tennis history, and Marin Cilic, from Croatia, and world #16.
It is Kei’s first Grand Slam finals appearance. He will move up in the top 10 regardless of today’s result.  Cilic owns 11 titles and also makes his Grand Slam finals debut.
Who has the edge in stats? 
Cilic has the edge in these areas:
Overall singles record, .644 to .628
.675 to .608  in Grand Slam matches,
.667 to .635 on hardcourt.
426 more aces to double faults, Kei is +99
80% to 73% first service points won
65% to 64%  break points saved
85% to 84% service games won
67% to 66% service points won

And that’s it. Kei leads in all other areas.
Kei leads the head-to-head 5 matches to 2, Cilic winning in 2008 at first encounter in Indian Wells, first round, and in the 2012 US Open, round of 32.  Kei has a slight edge in sets, 12-9. 
With Cilic on the losing side here, let’s see what he needs to win the title today:
4 more aces than double faults
76% 1st service points won
54% 2nd service points won
81% Break points saved
31% 1st service return points won
66% total service points
40% total return points
And now for the cycles:



His cycles are not as pristine as Kei’s but his mental game is quite sharp, and he’s been treading uphill physically, getting better but not nearly 100%

Giving this title to Kei Nishikori in 4 exciting sets.

2014 Italian Open men’s final analysis

It’s the top 2, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, for the 41st time, and the 21th time in a final. And it’s the 5th time they duel in this particulart tournament, the ATP Italian Open.
Comparing career stats, Nadal is ahead on nearly all of the primary ones, except 1st service points won. (Djokovic leads 73 to 72%, along with a larger aces to double fault ratio)
Djokovic also leads in tiebreaks, 64 to 63%, deciding sets of a match 71 to 70%.

Otherwise Rafa holds the real edge, ever so slightly, in other categories.
In just 3 matches on clay, Novak actually won..these were the 2011 Italian Open, 2011 Madrid Open, and 2013 Monte Carlo.
I looked at those matches to see what Novak might need to do to win today.
58% break points saved
50% break points converted
71% first serve points won
Now we’ll examine via cycles, Rafa first:

Below average for Nadal today, tho he’s showing more strength day by day and still enough of a mental edge to make his power shots stick. But he’ll rather self-absorbed and not terribly motivated as in prior matches.

Here’s Novak:

Doesn’t look for Novak himself, as he’s coming in with weak power, hardly any mental game. He has plenty of heart and will have to rely on that. His overall athletic ability is rather low, along with his focus.

I’m giving this one to Nadal, in 3 very close sets. Get the popcorn.

Madrid Open men’s singles final analysis

Kei Nishikori and Rafael Nadal do battle in the Mutual Madrid Open for the championship of this Masters 1000 tournament.

Kei, based on his success in the tournament will move up from his world #12 ranking to inside the top 10 regardless of how he fares today. He also makes further history in representing Japanese tennis players in the rankings. 62% lifetimes wins, 5 career titles. Under fellow countrymen Michael Chang’s tutelage, he’s already won two titles and got as far as the 4th round in the Aussie Open (taking on Nadal, no less). This is his first ATP Masters 1000 final, in a year that’s, percentage, his best of 8 years on the tour.
Enough’s been written about Nadal and his accomplishments, especially that of his success on clay. He reached the final of this year’s Aussie Open. He’s in his 3rd reign as the world’s best player, achieving the rank last July. He added wins in Doha, Rio on the ATP tour this year.
Comparing career numbers, Rafa has a clean sweep of all major stats. Kei does have a slightly better record in finals, 71% to 69% wins, along with a 76 to 70% edge in deciding sets.
In the head-to-head, its’ all Nadal, winning all 6 matches, dropping just 1 set. Kei, at his peak, might be able to compete a bit, but, I can’t even confidently point to one variable where may consistently have an edge. Normally in a final with two great players there are things the somewhat weaker player can attack. Here, in this final, Nadal is fully dominant. But, you know, watching Kei exercise his all-around play, playing at the top of his game lately, he’ll need to continue to ride that wave .

Let’s move onto the cycles, Nadal first:

Rafael on the cooldown, physical (it’s my new phrase, ‘on the cooldown”), but the heart is there, the mental game is strong. He won’t be as tenacious as in prior matches in the tournament. He might execute well but he won’t deliver as well or counterpunch consistently.
Now for Nishikori:

A tougher tournament overall for Kei…who’s only now starting to come out of a triple low. He did, indeed drop one set in his last 3 matches and gone to tiebreak in 3 that he won. Nothing at easy at all. I’d say in general he’s got a tougher uphill battle than Rafa.

Neither player is at their best today, but Rafa’s got stats and history, plus home crowd on his side. I think Rafa wins the first, Kei will make it very interesting in the 2nd set but I can’t see this quite going to a 3rd.
Rafa in straight sets for the win.

ATP Barcelona Open finals analysis

The ATP 500 Masters series winds up its two weeks in Barcelona with a decent, and rather surprising matchup for the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Kei Nishikori, one of the leading lights in the series, takes on Santiago Giraldo, who is playing in just his 2nd ATP final and seeks his first win on the tour in his 11th year.

Giraldo defeated Nicolas Almagro, who delivered the shock of the tournament by defeating the world #1 and perennial winner here in Rafael Nadal. Santiago is a clay court specialist winning the bare majority of his games there. Today’s win would be number #100 for him outdoors. Notably he has a 77% record after winning the first set, and 16% when losing it. Currently he’s #65 in the world for singles, and actually has a losing record in singles matches combining ATP, Grand Slam and Davis Cup matches.

Nishikori ,world #17, in his 8th year in ATP, with 4 titles and a 61% win record. His last 2 title wins have come at Memphis on an indoor hard srurface. Was a finalist once before on clay in 2011 in Houston. 4-2 in finals lifetime, and 76% in the deciding set of a match. Good on clay but better still on hardcourt. 91% match wins after winning the first set, 30% after. This is his first clay tournament of the year.

ATP stats thus far in 2014:
Giraldo wins returning first save at 31%. Nishikori at 32%
Return games won: Giraldo at 24%. Nishikori at 32%. (top 10)
Points won returning 2nd serve: Giraldo at 47%. Nishikori at 55% (top 10).
Points won returning 1st serve: Giraldo 31%. Nishikori 34% (top 10)
Both players save break points at a rate of 64%.
Break points converted: Nishikori is 20th at 44%. Giraldi is 23 at 43%.
Service games won: Nishikori 82%, Giraldo 76%.
1st service points won: Nishikori 72%, Giraldo 70%.
2nd serve points won: Nishikori 51%. Giraldo 49%.
1st service %: Nishikori 61%. Giraldo: 56%

In comparing lifetime ATP stats across careers, Nishikori has a sizeable advantage in his return game, including 53% of 2nd serve return points and 27% of return games won, at least 5% better than Giraldo.
Giraldo has one advantage,and that’s his total of aces to double faults. +502 and counting.

In the head to head, Kei has a 4-1 match edge, winning 12 of 15 sets, 2 match wins at Indian Wells and a thrilling 5-set match in the 2010 French Open where he had to come from 2 sets down. That was their first meeting and their only one on clay of these 5.

Going inside the head to head numbers here’s what I uncovered:
*In the one match he won, Giraldo gathered 73% success in 2nd service points won, with 30-61% in all losses
*Also in the win: 60% break points converted, 0-30% in losses
*40% return points won in the win, 21-38% in losses.

For Nishikori:
*72-78% 1st service points won in match wins, 66% in the loss
*aces/double fault margin from 0 to +6 in wins, -1 in loss
*break points converted: 19-50% in wins, 0% in loss.
*return points won: 36-50% in wins, 29% in loss.

Now that you know what it takes for each player to win, you’ll understand that all eyes will be on Giraldo on serve, going against one of the best on tour in return games.
On to the cycles, Nishikori first.

These cycles don’t get any better. Triple high for the world #17, which actually peaked 2 days prior.

He peaked as well about days ago, and the dropoff is much more steep in his case. Sure, he’ll make the right shots, but there’s a definite lack of power in them. He seems down on himself and inwardly might cringe at the heavy feel of his racket. If he’s going to win, as mentioned, his serve (especially 2nd) vs. Nishikori’s return game is key, and he must figure how to break back consistently.
It’s a tale of two players, and the trophy should easily go to Nishikori, straight sets.


2014 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters final analysis

Shortly in the Principality of Monaco is the final of the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters on the ATP Tour between Swiss countrymen Roger Feder and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Federer owns this matchup, with a record of 15-1 in matches, and dropping only 8 of 38 sets between them. Federer owns the clay matchup 5 sets to one. The one blemish happened on this very court in 2009. You can watch highlights of Wawrinka’s win right here: and here
Stan has a 72% win record on clay, ahead of his 68% win record on hardcourt, and is 4-0 on this year’s tour on clay. The tourney was his first clay one since the Gstaad in October of 2013, where, in the quarters, he retired in the middle of the deciding 3rd set. It’s also his first final on clay since losing to Rafael Nadal in Madrid in September. His last final overall was also against Rafa, when he won the Australian Open. He has 9 clay titles out of 12 total in singles format, pairing up with Fed himself for his 1st of two doubles titles.

How does Stan manage to win today? Here’s what I see: He led in one category and had his own best performance in the 16 match head to head history: return points won, at 41%.
1st service points: 61-69% when better than Federer in this category in a match, 44-62% when trailing
Aces/double faults ratio: +3 to +9 when ahead, -1 to+4 if behind.
1st service points won: 79% if winning this category, 48-78% if losing.
2nd service points won: 53-57% ahead in this category, 35-59% if losing.
Break point conversion: 43-100% if ahead, 0-50% if losing.
Return points won: 41% in the lone win, 21-40% when losing in this category
He’s also trailed in winners/unforced errors and net approaches in all matches with such recorded stats.
So we can spot the benchmarks pretty fairly despite being outpointed in nearly all matches.

Not the best day for Stan today, as he is under a physical critical day, suggesting he’ll experience more pain today while giving his best possible effort and showing heart. He’ll also make more than his share of unforced errors and faults. Overall athletic ability is low.
Federer is 76% victor on clay lifetime, 4-0 himself in 2014. Today’s his first final since Indian Wells. His previous clay tournament was also at Gstaad in 2013. He’s won 10 titles on clay, the last being at Madrid in 2012.

We are sure to see Roger at his physical peak today, tho he’ll also put up his share of mental errors and he’ll likely be out of touch with his emotions. The passion is strong today regardless of this.
Can’t see this one other than a straight set victory for Roger Federer.

2014 Australian Open women’s singles final analysis

It would seem that the predominant stat between the two finalists in the 2014 Australian Open women’s singles is:. #4 seed Li Na of China has won her last 11 competitive matches, and all 4 vs her opponent, Dominika Cibulkova.

What I want to find are the holes in Na’s game to see if Cibulkova can harp on that weakness if one does exist. I also will attempt to find any trends that suggest a certain threshold to win based on their head-to-head matchups.

Here are the thresholds each player needs for a win taking into account the best scores by Cibulkova and the worst of Na’s:

Li Na:
1st serve: 64%
Aces/double faults: Keep the ratio at 1:1 or better
1st serve points won: 60%
2nd serve points: 40%
Break points: 38%
Return points converted: 46%

1st serve: 76%
Aces/double faults: Keep these at least even, or as little as -2 in favor of double faults.
1st serve points won: 60%
2nd serve points: 52%
Break points: 61%
Retun points converted: 45%
Unsurprisingly the bar is raised fairly high for Cibulkova to outplay her opponent.

I looked at a different set of stats from another source and made further comparisons and benchmarks based on what is available:

Li Na edge in all categories except in these, in 2 of their head to head matchups:
2nd service points won
Break points saved
2nd return points won
Break points won.
So Cibulkova is pretty tough in those situations. Interestingly the 2 matches I saw this edge came when they played on clay court. When they had their one hardcourt battle, in Toronto last year, Li Na swept the categories.

Li Na:

Remember when she fell in last year’s final?

Here were her cycles that fateful day:

In very good form, but that physical cycle was pushing, straining, gaining strength, a rather uphill battle. Very likely it was the onset of the critical point in the cycle where she would not be able to properly gauge her strength. Still she survived three sets then as her tennis smarts were very strong that day.

As for Saturday:

Her mental and emotional cycles are similar to last year’s finals but she’s coming in weak here, or at least the potential reflects that. There may be a surge of energy, but as before, the weight of the pain will be felt fully. She’ll have a brave face about it as usual and figure out Cibulkova’s game quite well but it comes down to the execution.

Let’s see Cibulkova’s cycles:

Tough cycles for Cibu (we can call her Cibu right? The TV displays go up to 4 characters, which is practically heathen. Anyways.) Emotional critical day coming up…just the time to toss the racket, mouth off at the umpire, etc. Other cycles are also plummeting. Very challenging day to succeed.
I’m predicing a 3-set win for Li Na, risking injury but will chalk it up to experience surviving in all areas of the game, even if she does get relatively battered and bruised.


2013 US Open tennis men’s final analysis in cycles and stats

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic lock horns once again, in their 37th meeting, and 14th on hardcourt, plus their third US Open final, later this afternoon.

In evaluating nearly all matches, there is a fair amount of overlap in each variable so I’m giving a series of % benchmarks for both players to at least be competitive in the match, for avoiding losing, and for winning outright. All stats are based on their specific head to head matchups only Stat source:
1st serve in: Rafa average 66% in wins, 60% in losses, with an overall average of 61. Benchmark to compete: 53%.
Djokovic’s average is 62% in wins and 64% in losses, with a low of 51%.Never has been below 51% in any match. Let’s use 62% as the figure for Djokovic to win.

Aces/double faults: Rafa is averaging +2 in this ratio in wins, +2.5 in losses. Needs to avoid 4 double faults in this match to avoid losing.   Djokovic averages +3.5 in wins, +1 in losses. For Djokovic, 5 aces, and/or a result of 3 double faults or less would be ideal.

1st service points won: Nadal is 71% in wins, 62% in losses. Needs at least 57% to be competitive, and 74% to win.
Djokovic is 73% in wins, 60% in losses. Needs 63% to be competitive.

2nd service points won: Nadal is 56% in wins, 41% in losses. Needs 42% to stay competitive, and 59% to win.
Djokovic is 60% in wins, and 40% in losses. Must get 44% to have any chance, and at least 60% to win.

Fastest serve: Rafa averages 205 for fastest speed in their matches in wins, 202 in losses.
Djokovic’s best speed in matches is 207 in wins, 205 in losses.
This stat is a wash.

1st serve speed: Rafa averages 176 Kph in wins, 180 in losses. Needs to be at 172 for an average to be competitive, and preferably above 180 to win.
Djokovic’s 1st serve speed is 184 in wins, 186 in losses. Must keep his serve in the 180s.

2nd serve speed:
Rafa’s average speed here is 152 in wins, 136 in losses. Line of demarcation is very clear; he must average 144 Kph in this area.
Djokovic’s 2nd serve averages 139 in wins, 151 in losses. Also needs 144 Kph.

Break points converted:
Nadal’s record is 49% in wins, 33% in losses. To have any chance, he should at least have 25%, and absolutely above 67% to win.
Djokovic’s record is 61% in wins, 50% in losses. 22% is is low threshold here. Let’s say 61% is the requirement

Return points won:
Nadal is 41% in wins, 34% in losses. Needs 29% to stay competitive, and 43% to win.
Djokovic is 44% in wins and 35% in losses. Needs 38% to be competitive, and 45% + to win.

Winners/unforced errors: Nadal is averaging +5 in their matchups when winning, -8 in losses. Djokovic is +2 in wins, -5.8 in losses.

Net approaches: Nadal is 67% in wins, 75% in losses. Needs to be at 68% to have any chance.
Djokovic is 73% in wins, 63% in losses. Needs 66% to be competitive, and above 77% to win.
Seems that in all categories, Nadal has lower requirements to meet, and that may give him a good advantage. Already he leads the head to head series 21-15, and 7-3 in Grand Slams.
Looking further, let’s see how many of these benchmarks each player made thus far in the 2013 US Open:
vs Gasquet: 5
vs Robredo: 5
vs Kohlschreiber: 6
vs Dodiq: 6
vs Da Silva: 7
vs Harrison: 6

vs Wawrinka: 4
vs Youzhny: 6
vs Granollers: 7
vs Sousa: 6
vs Becker: 7
vs. Berankis: 6
On these stats alone, I’m giving Nadal a tough 4-set victory. But let’s look at the biorhythms to measure the potential:

Nadal (6/3/86):

Nadal’s been competing in a tough triple-low period but is already emerging from this, and the power surge is the first sign. He will be hitting shots that seem effortless, really coming into stride…even if he does make a lot of unforced errors and tosses his racket once or twice. He can’t get too down on himself, really. But he must lock into his power game here.

Djokovic (5/22/87):

Novak had a run of critical days, never fun to experience during a tennis tournament and he certainly looked rather mortal in the semis vs Wawrinska. If anything, his brainpower is at peak. You’ll see him make very few mistakes. The only issue is the power…it won’t be there, or very little to speak of anyway. He has to be more about finesse here to succeed.
Both competitors seem to have average cycles in terms of their stamina and pure athletics. Yet Djokovic appears to be making better decisions overall.
The stats say Nadal in 4 but the cycles suggest Djokovic in 5.