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An interesting article today about how the first four shots (a.k.a. First Strike according to the article) is the most dominant length of rallies.

AO Analyst: The first four shots
Long rallies capture our attention but it's short, sharp points that shape a player's fate, Craig O'Shannessy writes
Link: http://www.ausopen.com/en_AU/news/articles/2016-01-15/ao_analyst_the_first_four_shots.html

The first four shots of a rally are both the beginning and the end of a point.

An analysis of the 2015 Australian Open reveals the inner working of how points are really constructed, and the obvious disconnect with how players prioritise what to develop on the practice court.

IBM, the official Grand Slam data provider, cuts rally length up into three sections: 0-4 shots, 4-8 shots, and 9+ shots long.

Which one do you think dominates?

Our eyes are naturally drawn to the drama of longer points. The practice court is all about consistency, repetition, shot tolerance, and making a million balls. But the reality of a match is completely the opposite.

For both men and women, the most dominant rally length last year was short, quick points - the 0-4 shot range. It will be again this year as well.

Here’s the breakdown of how our sport is actually played.

Code:
RALLY LENGTH	NICKNAME	        MEN    WOMEN
0-4 Shots	First Strike	        70%	66%
5-8 Shots	Patterns of Play	20%	23%
9+ Shots	Extended Rallies	10%	11%
As you can clearly see, short points totally dominate our sport.

To be clear, the 0-4 shot range means only two shots for each player. Just when you think the point is getting started, it’s done and dusted.

An analysis of the second week of last year’s tournament – from the round of 16 to the final – highlighted just how short points actually are.

The average rally length for the men was only 4.2 shots. If you thought that the women’s game would surely be longer, you better think again. The average rally length for the ladies in week two was a staggering 3.7 shots – not even two shots for each player.

Basically, two out of every three points required a player to hit a maximum of only two consecutive shots. One out of every five points required a maximum of three consecutive shots, and one out of 10 required four consecutive shots.

On the practice court, we think it’s a great thing to hit seven consecutive shots, but a 14-shot rally happens about once every 100 points.

Last year, Stan Wawrinka had a great run to the semifinals, and our memories of his dominating game are often filled with him poleaxing several big groundstrokes without missing. But the reality for Wawrinka’s game was that 66 per cent of all points he played was First Strike, 25 per cent were Patterns of Play, and only 9 per cent were the Extended Rallies that tend to stick in our mind.

Wawrinka lost to Djokovic in the semis, and the rally length that Djokovic controlled the most was 0-4 shots, where the Serb ended up +13 (dead even in Extended Rallies).

Rafael Nadal had a good run to the quarters, playing 65 per cent of all his points in the 0-4 shot range. When he lost to Tomas Berdych in straight sets, the part of the game that suffered the most was in the 0-4 shot range, were he was -23. He was also dead even in Extended Rallies.

Andy Murray was a massive +145 in the 0-4 Shot range and only +13 in the 9+ shot range leading into the final against Djokovic. Murray’s dominance was in short points, but he employed a ‘long point’ strategy in the final, with 33 9+ shot rallies in the opening set and 31 in the second set. It was exhausting, and ultimately cost Murray any chance of victory.

In the third set, there was only 10 rallies of 9+ shots, and only 4 in the final set, which he lost 6-0. The Scot simply ran out of gas.

Long rallies are massively abundant on the practice court, but extremely rare in matches. Hitting 15 shots in a row is desired in practice, but is so incredibly rare when it matters – in competition.

At the 2014 US Open, there were 29,038 points played in the men’s draw. A 30-shot rally happened nine times, or 0.0003 per cent of the time. In the ladies draw, consisting of 16,862 points, it happened once, or 0.00005 per cent of the time.

Players at all levels of the game would be wise to spend far less time on the practice court hitting endless forehands, mindless backhands, and pointlessly grinding away with no specific purpose.

We need to start practicing exactly what happens in a match. More precision serving, more deep returns, and more patterns of play copied directly from the match court.

The first four shots are both the starting line, and the finish line. Mastering the start of a point matters much more than we ever knew.
What are your thoughts about this -- is First Strike tennis the way to go on the Australian Open or are these stats skewed due to the number of aces/unreturnables they make?
 

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but in practising you practise to find the perfect hit.....so when you play match ,you time the ball right.
Timing beats everything.

but why not play matches at practise which they do
 

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An interesting article today about how the first four shots (a.k.a. First Strike according to the article) is the most dominant length of rallies.



What are your thoughts about this -- is First Strike tennis the way to go on the Australian Open or are these stats skewed due to the number of aces/unreturnables they make?
Absolutely this. But it goes a lot of the way to explain why Djokovic is top of the tree, perhaps: very good, improved precision serve, excellent kick on second serves, and the best deep returns in the game.


Incidentally, I recommend this thread be moved to "advanced discussion". It seems weighty and worthy enough...
 

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Incidentally, I recommend this thread be moved to "advanced discussion". It seems weighty and worthy enough...
It seem they did. :lol:

I do wonder what is the stat without the aces/returnables, in which the player was able to return the ball back as it is a different dynamic.
 

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Surprisingly strange conclusion at the end of the article, especially coming from Mr O'Shannessy, suggesting that players should be practicing exactly what is happening in the match.

Hitting in practice and in the match have two very different objectives. "Repetitio est mater studiorum", repetition is the mother of learning - in practice the objective is to perfect the shots so you don't have to think about the execution, also, practice serves the purpose of gaining the stamina and maintaining it, besides the work in the gym.

In the match though, the objective is to gain advantage over the opponent the sooner you can, using the skills and self-belief that are supposed to be acquired by the practice.
 

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Some very nice points brought up by MTF'ers. I personally would've loved to see this stat:
- broken down by surfaces;
- conditioned on whether the rally was started by a first serve or second serve.

Afterall first 4 shots will always include the most important shot of'em all and if the 1st serve is made chances are - the rally will be short. So the main point I could take away from it - let's just all practice serving now, really. And that's it, nothing else. Just serving. Non-stop. Merciless. Serving.
 

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Some very nice points brought up by MTF'ers. I personally would've loved to see this stat:
- broken down by surfaces;
- conditioned on whether the rally was started by a first serve or second serve.

Afterall first 4 shots will always include the most important shot of'em all and if the 1st serve is made chances are - the rally will be short. So the main point I could take away from it - let's just all practice serving now, really. And that's it, nothing else. Just serving. Non-stop. Merciless. Serving.
Hmm... Serving has reached it's limits a long time ago. Retrieving is a developing skill.
 

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Hmm... Serving has reached it's limits a long time ago. Retrieving is a developing skill.
Ok, should've probably made my sarcasm a little bit more obvious - yes. Precisely. Retrieving is immensely important nowadays. But that's kinda the opposite of what this article is pointing out, focusing on short rallies.
I feel like that percentage of 0-4 shot rallies is at least partly contributed to dominance of non-clay events on the schedule along with 1st serve percentages being over 50-60% for most players in most matches.
So if I were just completely falling for this article, I'd be coming back to the common denominator - serve. It is always present in a rally, it is always among these first 3-4 shots. It is a situation that you always encounter in a match. That's what you should practice. And I have no idea what's his plan for practicing the return game... sneaky attack I guess.
 

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Ok, should've probably made my sarcasm a little bit more obvious - yes. Precisely. Retrieving is immensely important nowadays. But that's kinda the opposite of what this article is pointing out, focusing on short rallies.
I feel like that percentage of 0-4 shot rallies is at least partly contributed to dominance of non-clay events on the schedule along with 1st serve percentages being over 50-60% for most players in most matches.
So if I were just completely falling for this article, I'd be coming back to the common denominator - serve. It is always present in a rally, it is always among these first 3-4 shots. It is a situation that you always encounter in a match. That's what you should practice. And I have no idea what's his plan for practicing the return game... sneaky attack I guess.
Upssss... Sorry mate, a glitch in my sarcasm detector 0:):grin2:
 

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An interesting article today about how the first four shots (a.k.a. First Strike according to the article) is the most dominant length of rallies.



What are your thoughts about this -- is First Strike tennis the way to go on the Australian Open or are these stats skewed due to the number of aces/unreturnables they make?
I'm afraid this is exactly the analytics that made USTA focus on the players in a mold of Isner, Querrey, Sock and such. Didn't work so far.
 

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Agree with the posters.

Statistics are like a bikini; they reveal much but hide the most important parts.

Ace/unreturnables/easy putaways and a lot of UEs make the 0-4 stroke rallies so dominant.

If they were so important we'd see a lot more ballbashers winning Slams and reaching #1. But a ballbasher was never #1 in tennis. The only player that has a lot of success and tries to finish rallies in 2 strokes is Olderer (Federer since 2014). And it's not been working that well for him, considering his achievements. According to most, the best tennis player in history. Hasn't won a Slam since 2012.

I think one thing that Craig O'Shannessy's stats pointed out, is the importance of the serve+ROS. Serve was always considered important, nothing new. If players should practice anything more in their routines, it should probably be the ROS which is the most underestimated weapon. And probably the most boring to improve. Also, it's not something you learn in Junior tennis but later in your career. Nobody comes from the Junior circuit ready to return 200km/h serves on a regular basis or find some consistency in your return when you're facing an opponent that's mixing his serve well. That doesn't happen in the Juniors.
 
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