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11-08-2012 01:01 PM
duong
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
I don't think there is any structural advantage. This means, the tie-break is in no way designed such that it benefits big servers. As I said, on a case by case basis, it may be that playing more tie-breaks, which big servers tend to do, can give one more practice in that situation and a greater % of tie-breaks won than tie breaks 'expected'. I am interested Sophocles, in what intuition it is that causes you to think TB's could favour big servers. As in regular sets, the tie-break is a 50-50 combination of serving and returning. I don't even understand what the intuition is that makes some people think there is a structural advantage to the server. Sure, it's nice to have a big serve in a tie-break, but to no greater extent than it's nice to have a big serve when one is playing a tennis match.
I think the intuition Sophocles was referring to (and I as well) is about the idea that it's a good style of play to have on pressure points, as you say elsewhere in the post. But it's not the only game style which is good for that as we also agree on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
As for trying to find a more representative statistic, I have an idea, I'm not sure whether or not Jeff (who writes the HeavyTopspin blog) has measured it. In order to check reliability of serve in TB's vs. in non TB sets, what about measuring first serve % on its own?
it's a good idea although one of the interesting questions imo (and once again, not only about tiebreaks, many of my wonders are more generally about "pressure points") is : do servers tend too much to look for aces or serve winners on big points ? that is an interesting question imo : quite often they succeed on doing that, but maybe it also has a bad consequence on their first serve % ?

One could try to find other solutions but I think in the end all stats will have limits imo unfortunately

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
IMO, the best way to try and test (although this could easily be inconclusive), would be to gather large data in which players were sorted into categories of playing styles (obviously subjective but could probably be done to a reasonably effective degree). Then, using Jeff's stat 'TBOR', see if there are any generalisations to be made. TBOR = Tie Break Out-Performance Rate, which is, for any player, 'tie-breaks over expectation' divided by 'total tie-breaks played' ('tie-breaks over expectation' is derived from % of serve and return points won in the match in question). My hunch is that, should this task be completed, there would be no meaningful patterns at all. Yes, some styles are easier to play under pressure, but by such small amounts that individual differences far overshadow the influence it has. Although the sample is too small to be conclusive, this is the top 20, in order, in TBOR this season up to Shanghai, to me, this as about as random a list (in terms of game style) as can be:

Steve Darcis Jurgen Melzer Andy Murray John Isner Tommy Haas Kevin Anderson Janko Tipsarevic David Ferrer Pablo Andujar Julien Benneteau Radek Stepanek Sam Querrey Andy Roddick Jarkko Nieminen Paul Henri Mathieu Andreas Seppi Jeremy Chardy Philipp Kohlschreiber Denis Istomin
yes, one very hard factor to counter is to take into account the basic ability of a player. The fact that Fed wins more because he's just a great player or the question of "how many tie-breaks should Isner win comparing to Karlkovic just because he's a better player ?" using the % of points they generally win on serve and return is at least a good way to compare players with each other.
11-08-2012 11:47 AM
stebs
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

I don't think there is any structural advantage. This means, the tie-break is in no way designed such that it benefits big servers. As I said, on a case by case basis, it may be that playing more tie-breaks, which big servers tend to do, can give one more practice in that situation and a greater % of tie-breaks won than tie breaks 'expected'. I am interested Sophocles, in what intuition it is that causes you to think TB's could favour big servers. As in regular sets, the tie-break is a 50-50 combination of serving and returning. I don't even understand what the intuition is that makes some people think there is a structural advantage to the server. Sure, it's nice to have a big serve in a tie-break, but to no greater extent than it's nice to have a big serve when one is playing a tennis match.

Duong, we both know how often observation and intuition can lead to faulty beliefs. As for trying to find a more representative statistic, I have an idea, I'm not sure whether or not Jeff (who writes the HeavyTopspin blog) has measured it. In order to check reliability of serve in TB's vs. in non TB sets, what about measuring first serve % on its own? In this case, the disinterest of the returner on some points doesn't factor into it at all. I take it there aren't really any circumstances in which a server purposely misses first serves in a set. This could at least give an accurate test as to whether serving is + or - effected by the tie-break. The problem is, there isn't a way to test the reliability of other shots and make a comparison.

For what it's worth, here's my view. I'm pretty confident there is no structural advantage. Rather, any advantage, will be from having a game style conducive to high performance under pressure. So with the big serve, the debate is, is this conducive to high performance under pressure? The answer may even be, a highly qualified, 'yes, sometimes'. However, as you pointed out Duong, you can say for any game style whether or not it is typically easy (relative to the complete set of game styles) to perform under pressure. In this case, the lower risk game styles are usually supposed to be 'easier' (so look at Murray, Nadal, Simon but according to your 'intuition', also big servers?). This doesn't mean we should expect all players of style X to excel in TB's while all players of style Y should fail, only that there is some sense in which it is 'easier' to excel as a player of style X. Whether or not 'big server' is a style that could function as style X in this example is essentially what we have been discussing.

IMO, the best way to try and test (although this could easily be inconclusive), would be to gather large data in which players were sorted into categories of playing styles (obviously subjective but could probably be done to a reasonably effective degree). Then, using Jeff's stat 'TBOR', see if there are any generalisations to be made. TBOR = Tie Break Out-Performance Rate, which is, for any player, 'tie-breaks over expectation' divided by 'total tie-breaks played' ('tie-breaks over expectation' is derived from % of serve and return points won in the match in question). My hunch is that, should this task be completed, there would be no meaningful patterns at all. Yes, some styles are easier to play under pressure, but by such small amounts that individual differences far overshadow the influence it has. Although the sample is too small to be conclusive, this is the top 20, in order, in TBOR this season up to Shanghai, to me, this as about as random a list (in terms of game style) as can be:

Steve Darcis Jurgen Melzer Andy Murray John Isner Tommy Haas Kevin Anderson Janko Tipsarevic David Ferrer Pablo Andujar Julien Benneteau Radek Stepanek Sam Querrey Andy Roddick Jarkko Nieminen Paul Henri Mathieu Andreas Seppi Jeremy Chardy Philipp Kohlschreiber Denis Istomin
11-08-2012 10:37 AM
duong
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophocles View Post
So are we concluding that a good serve is no more of an advantage in a tie-breaker than at any other time? I have to say that still seems counter-intuitive to me.
I think that it's an advantage, but rather by observation of the game and intuition like you (and also because as I explained I think players with a great serve but a poor rest of the game like Karlovic should rather have a statistical disadvantage in tie-breaks ... and still Karlovic is at 50-50 ... but for instance Llodra and Mahut are at less than 50),

but you can't prove it statistically because :

1. it's not that big of an advantage : I think it's the only thing on which we can all agree because it's the only thing which stats really proove imo ;

2. other factors make it impossible to have a proper statistical referrence (that is I don't think the "% of points won on serve outside of tie-breaks" is a proper referrence because often returners let service games go)

I think Stebs would rather think it's not an advantage

I disagree with him because I think he gives too much importance to irrepresentative stats. Hence why I still give a weight to my observation and intuition.
11-08-2012 10:30 AM
Sophocles
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

So are we concluding that a good serve is no more of an advantage in a tie-breaker than at any other time? I have to say that still seems counter-intuitive to me.
11-08-2012 09:57 AM
duong
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophocles View Post
Yeah, maybe you're right. But I'd be interested to see, in matches where the winner has won fewer points, how often he has done so by winning tie-breaks while being generally considered the better server.
I think the main result you will get is that big servers :

1. play more tiebreaks

2. are more implied in matches where the winner wins less points (a better stat than that imo is : winning less % of points on return because your number of points can be inflated by being often pushed to deuce and playing more points on your serve) than the loser, whether they're on the winning or the losing side. Well Isner will more often be the winner, because he's very good at that, but it's not necessarily the case for a Karlovic.
11-07-2012 07:02 PM
Mateya
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Grega Žemlja, the mental giant

I know, he played only 9 tiebreaks, but winning most of them is still great, because he's been very inexperienced at this level.
11-07-2012 06:13 PM
Litotes
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voo de Mar View Post
It's rather pointless working on this stats because ATP delivers it considering players with reasonable amount of tie-breaks

http://www.atpworldtour.com/Reliabil...rent-List.aspx

The stats is totally unreliable taking into account a "career" option but "current" is ok.
"Career" can be trusted for current players, though. But "Career" is ridiculous for former greats from the 70s/80s, and also not reliable for greats from the 90s. So beware those who want to compare (Voo knows this already, just info for those who don't).
11-07-2012 04:04 PM
Voo de Mar
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chip & Charge View Post
As I said in the opening post the spreadsheet I have been working on is up to around 78 at the moment so unfortunately Darcis isn't included in there, been pretty busy lately and haven't expanded it as much as I would have liked - not leaving Darcis out on purpose!
It's rather pointless working on this stats because ATP delivers it considering players with reasonable amount of tie-breaks

http://www.atpworldtour.com/Reliabil...rent-List.aspx

The stats is totally unreliable taking into account a "career" option but "current" is ok.
11-07-2012 04:00 PM
Sophocles
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
If one player can consistently win a greater % of service and return points than another, they should be winning that match-up regardless of whether tie-breaks are required. It is very rare for a player to win a match in which they win less points than their opponent. We must not mix-up 'better servers', with 'better players'. You say it doesn't matter whether one holds to 0 or to 30, that's true. Over time though, it's the percentages that matter. A player who averages 30 in return games is winning 33.33% of return points. A player who averages zero is (obviously) winning 0% of return points. The first player will (usually) break serve at some stage, while the other player never will. I realise this is obvious, but it is necessary to understand this point. When Nadal/Djokovic/Murray plays a big server, the big server DOES NOT consistently hold serve more easily than they do. If they did, then they would hold an advantage over the match-up tout court, not just if it reached a tie-break.

I mean, how on earth do you suggest the top of the game is dominated by great returners if you really believe that the big servers are both 'far more likely to win their service games to 0 or 15' AND hold an advantage in tie-breaks? The only plausible way this could take be consistent is if the good returners were always holding to 30 or to deuce, and then occasionally breaking whilst usually being shut out on return. Not only does this defy common sense, but it also is not borne out by evidence. When two players play, the one who wins the most points overall almost always wins. Winning the most points is a function of both serve and return, the EXACT SAME SKILLS that win points in a tie-break.
Yeah, maybe you're right. But I'd be interested to see, in matches where the winner has won fewer points, how often he has done so by winning tie-breaks while being generally considered the better server.
11-07-2012 01:13 PM
Chip & Charge
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voo de Mar View Post
The opening post is ridiculous because deprived of the best tie-break player this year - Darcis (18-4 record). Players like Zemlja and Sijsling aren't worth mentioning because they didn't play even 10 tie-breaks at the main level in 2012. Djokovic only at Wimbledon 2007 played more tie-breaks than Zemlja or Sijsling in the entire 2012
As I said in the opening post the spreadsheet I have been working on is up to around 78 at the moment so unfortunately Darcis isn't included in there, been pretty busy lately and haven't expanded it as much as I would have liked - not leaving Darcis out on purpose!
11-07-2012 12:59 PM
duong
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
I'm happy to cede that the stats don't prove 'it's harder to serve in TB's'. However, imo, they do constitute enough evidence to deny the contrary (that serving is especially 'easy' under pressure compared to other parts of the game). As for the magnitude, servers win about 1 point less than would be expected (extrapolating from regular set information) of them on average. Not a large amount, but not negligible either.
one point (percent) difference in 388 tiebreaks is not enough evidence to me.

I already didn't consider evidence 2 points difference on breakpoints as enough evidence of "being harder to serve on pressure points" as I got another reason.

I think returners letting service games go potentially can count for many points, that is I think the comparison referrence is not reliable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
Yes, but is there any other fact which correlates with this specific type of confidence? Djokovic seems to have won fewer and fewer TB's the more confident he has got (or at least the more reasons he has to be confident).
I think tiebreaks are a specific topic : Djokovic has just been in a bad streak in tiebreaks and it has affected him in those moments. We've seen so many streaks like that in tiebreaks.

Besides, Djokovic has surprisingly not always looked that confident to me in 2011.

For instance, in 2011, on his serve, he saved 63.2% breakpoints comparing to the 66.5% he won on average on his serve.
In 2010, very bad serving year for him, he had saved 67.4% breakpoints despite winning only 64.4% points on his serve !

His great 2011 year was his first and only (2012 is better) bad year for that "clutch on serve" stat where he's been by quite far better than Nadal, Federer and Murray (in that order) since 2007.

It seems to me that in 2010, he had such a bad serve that he knew he had to be very clutch on it. Also he was so much used to that. I do strongly believe actually that this bad 2010 serving year helped him to get better in 2011, especially to be better on return.

In 2011, he played at such a high level that when he was less good and had to face a breakpoint, he felt fed-up/annoyed about that and sometimes didn't fully play it.

I think the same happened to him sometimes in a lesser extent in 2012.

This doesn't prevent him from being especially good in clutch moments in very big matches against Nadal for instance, as clearly his concentration against Nadal was very specific comparing to other matches.

I think Djokovic is a very emotional player, and his game depends a lot on his motivation/focus.
11-07-2012 12:35 PM
stebs
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by duong View Post
I have another explanation for the interesting observation the blogger has made comparing return points won in tiebreaks and in service games :
when a service game is easy, many returners just let it go, which articially inflates the stats about points won on serve. In a tiebreak, players know that all points are important and returners are much more concentrated.

It's also one of the explanations imo why statistically, returners win more often (around 2 points difference according to my observation)) the breakpoints than the servers comparing to other points (another reason is that usually when a returner has a breakpoint, it also means he has momentum on his side as it's on average relatively rare to have a breakpoint)

Then I would very much like to know the magnitude of his observation (how many percent difference ?) but unless the magnitude is high, I don't think this stat shows that it's hard to serve on a breakpoint or during tiebreaks.
I'm happy to cede that the stats don't prove 'it's harder to serve in TB's'. However, imo, they do constitute enough evidence to deny the contrary (that serving is especially 'easy' under pressure compared to other parts of the game). As for the magnitude, servers win about 1 point less than would be expected (extrapolating from regular set information) of them on average. Not a large amount, but not negligible either.

Quote:
I don't have any statistical evidence for the opposite though, but I just say there may be other explanations for the statistical observations the blogger has made : that's the problem with stats, interpretations can be very diverse and quite often someone thinks or says he has this interpretation then the "statistical observation proves that" whereas the explanation for his stat may be another one (this is one of the explanations why stats are so often unfairly used by politicians or people who want to show something, and why a bloddy politician -Disraeli if I remember- said one day "there are two ways to lie : lying and stats")
"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is the quote. I think it's actually falsely attributed though.

Quote:
the fact that tiebreaks go so much by streaks proves imo that it's a very confidence-oriented moment of the game : often players who are good at that are players who are very self-confident. Fed is one example. And I also think of Istomin : in tiebreaks, he displays to me a face of very positive confidence, and no doubt he has a good tiebreak stat. And of course having good stats in tiebreaks in the past helps to increase that confidence, hence the streaks.
Yes, but is there any other fact which correlates with this specific type of confidence? Djokovic seems to have won fewer and fewer TB's the more confident he has got (or at least the more reasons he has to be confident).
11-07-2012 12:26 PM
duong
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post

I found 388 tiebreaks from the last eight ATP slams. For each one, I compared each player’s winning percentage on serve during the first 12 games of the set to his winning percentage on serve during the tiebreak. If players were robots, there might be a difference between the set and the tiebreak for any given match, but in general, the numbers should be the same.

But players aren’t robots. As it turns out, players win more return points than expected during tiebreaks.


So, to make a broad generalisation, serves are slightly LESS reliable in tie-breaks than usual. Whilst it's true that some players with extraordinary serves can use them well in these situations (Isner, Sampras, Federer), this is not a function of tie-breaks structurally favouring servers. It is a function of those players being far better than average at increasing their level in tie-breaks (and not only on the serve).
I have another explanation for the interesting observation the blogger has made comparing return points won in tiebreaks and in service games :

when a service game is easy, many returners just let it go, which articially inflates the average stats about points won on serve. In a tiebreak, players know that all points are important then returners are much more concentrated.

It's also one of the explanations imo why statistically, returners win more often (around 2 points difference according to my observation) the breakpoints than the servers comparing to other points (another reason is that usually when a returner has a breakpoint, it also means he has momentum on his side as it's on average relatively rare to have a breakpoint).

This stat could also be explained by "being harder to serve well on breakpoints" as you said but I have another explanation as I said.

Then I would very much like to know the magnitude of the blogger's observation (how many percent difference ?) but unless the magnitude is high, I don't think this stat shows that it's hard to serve on a breakpoint or during tiebreaks, as it could be explained by other reasons.

I don't have any statistical evidence for the opposite though, just an impression, the same kind of impression which makes you and me think that it's harder to build points under pressure as it needs more "brain action".

But I just say there may be other explanations for the statistical observations the blogger has made : that's the problem with stats, interpretations can be very diverse and quite often someone thinks or says he has this interpretation and then he says "the statistical observation proves that" whereas the explanation for his stat may be another one and actually he proved nothing (this is one of the explanations why stats are so often unfairly used by politicians or people who want to show something, and why a bloody politician -Disraeli if I remember- said one day "there are two ways to lie : lying and stats" - what an irony that many people say that statisticians are lyers and manipulators because of a politician's word )


Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
Thanks for the info. It shows how strange tie-breaks are. Without the information, just knowing a players circumstances, form, confidence etc... I think it would be pretty much impossible to successfully predict which players would have a good tie-break record and which ones would not.
the fact that tiebreaks go so much by streaks proves imo that it's a very confidence-oriented moment of the game : often players who are good at that are players who are very self-confident. Fed is one example. And I also think of Istomin : in tiebreaks, he displays to me a face of very positive confidence, and no doubt he has a good tiebreak stat. And of course having good stats in tiebreaks in the past helps to increase that confidence, hence the streaks.

To say another general thing I think about tiebreaks :

what I like about them is that usually in tennis, it's the better player who wins the tiebreaks, that is the player who won more % points on return than his opponent during the set, or sometimes, that's another scheme, who became superior and got the momentum in the end of the set.

It's the opposite from penalty-sessions in football (soccer) which, according to my observation, rather lead to the opposite result : teams which have dominated the match more often lose the penalty-session than the opposite, I think because for mental reasons teams which had been dominated are "happier" to be there and also their goalkeeper may have been more trained during the match. Which is something I really dislike about those sessions in football. Fortunately in tennis, it's rather the opposite
11-07-2012 12:10 PM
stebs
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by duong View Post
well, I will look at your link, and you know I like to fight myths as well

but I will say the state of my mind on that at the moment :

1. I think in reality having a good serve is a mental advantage in tiebreaks, as it is easier performing a serve under pressure
I agree with the rest of your post, relationship between game styles and performing under pressure, it makes sense for constructive game styles to suffer more under pressure. However, the serve being easier to perform under pressure? An appealing hypothesis, but I don't think it's true (from that blog):

Quote:
I found 388 tiebreaks from the last eight ATP slams. For each one, I compared each player’s winning percentage on serve during the first 12 games of the set to his winning percentage on serve during the tiebreak. If players were robots, there might be a difference between the set and the tiebreak for any given match, but in general, the numbers should be the same.

But players aren’t robots. As it turns out, players win more return points than expected during tiebreaks.
So, to make a broad generalisation, serves are slightly LESS reliable in tie-breaks than usual. Whilst it's true that some players with extraordinary serves can use them well in these situations (Isner, Sampras, Federer), this is not a function of tie-breaks structurally favouring servers. It is a function of those players being far better than average at increasing their level in tie-breaks (and not only on the serve).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Litotes View Post
I remember Djokovic as being 58-20 after 2007, that is 74%, but he was even more astonishing at 80% after 2006 (28-7). He won 38 of his first 50. That's quite a contrast from Federer, who was 25-28 after 2000. However, their fortunes diverged after the early years.

Djokovic is quite unique in lowering his career % of tiebreaks won in both his years as #1 (with reservations for him winning the rest of his WTF matches 7-6, 7-6) and as the only YE #1 ever to win less than 50% as he did last year (9-10).
Thanks for the info. It shows how strange tie-breaks are. Without the information, just knowing a players circumstances, form, confidence etc... I think it would be pretty much impossible to successfully predict which players would have a good tie-break record and which ones would not.
11-07-2012 10:52 AM
Litotes
Re: 2012 Tie-break Kings

Quote:
Originally Posted by stebs View Post
Incredible stats. I remember that Djokovic was extraordinary in his early career. Perhaps at the same # of TB's played, he had an even more impressive % (this is just from memory). Helped by that year at Wimbledon (2007?) where he beat Baghdatis and Hewitt with only tie-breaks.
I remember Djokovic as being 58-20 after 2007, that is 74%, but he was even more astonishing at 80% after 2006 (28-7). He won 38 of his first 50. That's quite a contrast from Federer, who was 25-28 after 2000. However, their fortunes diverged after the early years.

Djokovic is quite unique in lowering his career % of tiebreaks won in both his years as #1 (with reservations for him winning the rest of his WTF matches 7-6, 7-6) and as the only YE #1 ever to win less than 50% as he did last year (9-10).
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