10 Thoughts: WTA Championships, Federer vs. Baby Federer, and More

1. Angelique Kerber finally got her first-ever win at the WTA Championships, dismantling Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-2. Here’s how she closed it out:


2. I saw a lot of tennis commentators and journos playing up today’s match between Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova, saying it would surely be a tough battle. There was not all that much in their past history to suggest that the match would be particularly tight, and Kvitova was never really in the match, minus some early opportunities.

Kvitova didn’t play poorly by any means. It’s just a stretch to suggest that Kvitova can play at the same level as Serena. The simple truth is that nobody on the WTA Tour can hang with her when she’s playing like she has been this week.

And that’s the hazard of hyping any Serena Williams match. She’ll usually make you feel pretty silly.

3. This side-by-side comparison of Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov has been circulating around for a while (I believe this is the original source, from what I can find).


I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly what bothers me about this side-by-side set of photos. They do have similar technique, though I would point out the subtle differences in balance illustrated in a few of these photos, since Federer’s effortless footwork is one of his defining qualities. But that’s also just how people hit one-handed backhands and serves and forehands. You could splice together a set of photos like that with Dimitrov and Tommy Robredo and dub him “Baby Robredo” if you were so inclined.

The bigger problem is that beyond the similar ways their arms move while hitting a backhand, there is very little reason to compare the two players. What makes Federer Federer is a lot more than his core technique, and it’s difficult to imagine any of the younger generation of players replicating his success.

Unfortunately for Dimitrov, by obviously modeling his game after Federer, he will be forced to live in that shadow. I think that’s what bothers me about these comparisons. I’d much rather look at Dimitrov and evaluate him for his own game, rather than comparing him to an impossible ideal.

4. Here’s an intriguing new coaching match: Galo Blanco and Filip Peliwo:

5. Tennis is full of bits of conventional wisdom that haven’t been analyzed very closely. One that gets tossed around quite a bit in tennis commentary is the idea that the player who gets to serve first has an advantage in the match.

Jeff Sackmann took a look at the numbers from 2013 and found that there does appear to be a first server’s advantage on both tours, but even more so on the WTA than the ATP.

In ATP main-draw matches this year, the player who served first won 52% of the time.  That edge is confirmed when we adjust for individual players.

39 players tallied at least 10 matches in which they served first and 10 in which they served second.  Of those 39, 21 were more successful when serving first, against 17 who won more often when serving second.  (Marcos Baghdatis didn’t show a preference.)  Weigh their results by their number of matches, and the average tour-level regular was 11% more likely to win when serving first than when serving second.  Converted to the same terms as the general finding, that’s 52.6% of matches in favor of the first server.

6. The ATP announced a set of worthy nominees for 2013 Comeback Player of the Year:

(Year-end 2012 Ranking and 14 October 2013 Ranking):

Somdev Devvarman (656-90)

Rafael Nadal (4-1)

Tommy Robredo (115-19)

Dmitry Tursunov (125-39)

Hard to see Nadal not walking away with that award.

7. This Reuters article with some Rod Laver comments about Bernard Tomic is entertaining for various reasons. I must’ve missed when it became acceptable to quote “one Twitter user” as a source.

However legitimate his reasons for pulling out in Valencia, the news has been greeted with scepticism Down Under, where tennis fans have long hoped for Tomic to take the mantle from ageing two-time grand slam winner Lleyton Hewitt.

“He probably had a hangover,” said one Twitter user.

The Laver comments are interesting, too:

“I know there are some down-times and I think when he looks back at things in five, 10 years from now, he may be disappointed with himself,” Laver told reporters at his book launch at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

“Because if you don’t put your best effort in every time, you won’t know when the best time is to play your best tennis. There is no best time.

“It doesn’t just gel because you think ‘oh, I’m going to play good today.’ It doesn’t come that way. The world of tennis, the competition and the opponents you’ve got, you’ve got to be ready to play your best every time.”

8. I enjoyed this pretty in-depth interview with John McEnroe Sr. in the Irish Voice:

He’s no fan of another rival, Jimmy Connors, whose fiery personality could easily match John’s.  Not only that, McEnroe and Connors were also known to exchange words with each other during the heat of battle, with Connors remarking that “the boxing gloves are going to come out” after one tense confrontation.

“Their matches could be nasty,” said McEnroe. “John lost to him a couple of times, and then he beat him at the Master’s in Madison Square Garden.  Jimmy retired during their match, claiming an injury to his foot and that his doctor said he should stay off it. Then Jimmy was in another tournament the following week and won it. So much for staying off the foot.  Jimmy was a phony of the first order.”

9. I think this is the first time I’ve ever liked a Uniqlo shirt that Novak Djokovic has worn. Too bad it’s just a practice shirt. A+!

10. FYI:

Amy can be spotted on a tennis court in the Philadelphia area, shanking backhand volleys.

4 Responses

  1. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic October 25, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    I’m also annoyed by the Baby Fed thing…and WHY IS THAT JUST A PRACTICE SHIRT NOVAK?!? xD Its by far the best shirt Nole has worn in, literally, years.

  2. RZ
    RZ October 25, 2013 at 11:20 am |

    Rafa is clearly ATP Player of the Year. Also, was there really any doubt that Rafa would come back strong? (Though I will admit to being surprised at how much he accomplished this year). So for those reasons, I’d give the Comeback Player award to Tommy Robredo (spread the wealth!).

  3. Henk
    Henk October 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

    Let’s go Federer!

  4. Rachel
    Rachel October 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm |

    Regarding the conventional wisdom of first servers (your item #5)…another breakdown I’d like to see is what this statistic looks like if the player chooses to receive rather than serve first. Many players do this, if you watch the toss. So, in other words, is the statistic different if the first server is first server by choice (chose to serve because he/she won the toss), or is first server by default, that the winner of the toss chose to receive first. I hear lots of club players saying you should always serve first if you win the toss, but if you watch the pros, many of them choose to receive. This is especially true with women (who tend to be better returners than servers, thus potentially gaining an early upper hand), but the men also do it frequently.

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