Idealistic Stats podcast, 6/4/15

Idealistic Stats is an extension of my sports/stats/analysis blog at
On this podcast, usually delivered early Thursday mornings, I focus on major sports events for the week, and air some appropriate music from top indie and emerging recording artists.

To hear this podcast, go to one of these websites:
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show link:

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Topics on this program covered:
PGA’s US Open at Chambers Bay
Boxing: Miguel Cotto vs Daniel Geale
Belmont Park major stakes races for Saturday

Music heard on this edition:
Opening: Annie Wenz “Play Ball” – Ride The Sky CD
David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket “Change Reaction” – Essential Songs Of Philadelphia: Sessions CD
Revel 9 “San Jose” – The Razorblade Diaries EP

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Thanks for listening!

Dan Herman

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.

US Open Women’s tennis final; analysis

Serena and Vika, once again, in a Grand Slam matchup. This time around, Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka lock rackets in the US Open final later today in Forest Hills, NY.

In 15 contests, Serena has the strong upper hand, winning 12 times, including both times in prior US Open duels. This is a repeat of last year’s final, which Serena won in 3 sets, 28 games. Their longest duel was 31 games in the 2010 Australia Open quarters. Further, Serena has a 6-3 edge in outdoor hard court wins.

Taking a sampling of stats from their last 14 matchups, here are the trends that are notable:

Vika has consistently double faulted more than score aces. In fact 2 of the 3 times she had 3 aces, she won.
Her 1st service % is pretty consistent, 69% in her wins against Serena, 67% in losses. 1st service points won: 67% in wins, 60% in losses.
Fastest speed of serve has averaged at 173 KPH, with average 1st service of 155, 138 in 2nd service.
Break points converted in wins: 37%. Losses: 25%.
Return points won: 49%. Losses: 27%.
Vika has averaged a ratio of 5 more errors to winners in their matchups.
Net opportunities have averaged 65%.

Keys to win:

Must get 3 aces.
71% success rate in getting the first serve in.
46% in return points won

Looking at her tournament so far, has she met these benchmarks against her opponents? In 6 matches, she hit 1 benchmark vs Flavia Pennetta, 1 vs Daniela Hantuchova, 3 for 3 vs Ana Ivanovic, 0 vs Alize Cornet, (winning in 3 sets plus tiebreak, 30 games), 2 vs Alexsandra Wozniak, and 1 vs Dinah Pfizenmaier.

Serena is averaging 62% for 1st service %, 55% in losses to Vika.
Serena is always scoring a bunch of aces, and very few double faults. In her 3 losses to Vika, she had at least 5 double faults.
1st service points won: 78% in wins, 65% in losses.
2nd service points won: 67% in wins, 37% in losses.
Fastest speed has averaged at 190 in their matchups.
Her average 1st service speed is 173 Kph, exactly the average fastest speed by Vika. Clearly Serena is an another level here!
2nd service speed is usually 138.
Break points conversion %: 53% in wins, 35% in losses to Vika.
Return points won: 46% in wins, 41% in losses.
Consistenly scoring 10 more winners than unforced errors in their match, a swing of 15 points in their 15 matches.
Net opportunities: averaging 66% in their matches.

Keys for Serena to win:
Less than 5 double-faults.
1st serve % higher than 62%
1st service points won at least 70%
2nd service points won at least 47%
Break points conversion at least 46%
Return points win % at least 45%.

Comparing her US Open tournament trail, she hit 4 of those benchmarks vs Na Li, 5 vs Carla Suarez-Navarro, 4 vs. Sloane Stephens, 5 vs Yaroslava Shvedova, 5 vs Galina Voskoboeva, and 5 vs Francesca Schiavone, all in straight sets.

To sum up, whichever opponent has the better % in 1st service, (70%+) and/or return points won (ideally 45%+) will be your champion.



Here are Vika’s cycles first:

Unlikely to do much today. Physically she’s been a low and making more of her share of unforced errors for certain, and she is currently lacking a sense of connection to the fans and her overall self-worth. Athletic ability is approaching a nadir.


She’s had to channel all her strength into her power game, not so much finesse, to succeed today. She’s gotten down on herself lately, and she’s also made her share of errors. Also not connecting with the energy of the NYC crowd as much. If anything, her sheer physicality is still strong, and it will be enough to see her through.

Serena in straight sets, tho I’m guessing it will be of the 6-4, 6-2 variety.

US Open 2012 in biorhythms

Andy Murray (5/15/87) vs Tomas Berdych (9/17/1985)  in the men’s semifinals!

Here’s Andy’s chart first:

Cycles are nearly as high as they can be. 

Now for Berdych 

Not so robust for Tomas, who will make more unforced errors. His athletic ability is on a sharp downturn and will be lacking focus. Decision making at a nadir.
Murray in straight sets.