— George Collins (@JiGagathe4th) January 18, 2014
The Australian Open doesn’t provide very detailed match stats, but thanks to the Match Charting Project, I was able to chart point-by-point data for Maria Sharapova’s win over Alize Cornet at the Australian Open to get in-depth insight into the match. The full results are here, if you’d like to see the raw data.
Here are some takeaways from their match:
In contrast to the last match I looked at between Serena Williams and Daniela Hantuchova, neither woman was getting a huge boost from free points on serve in this match.
Sharapova hit no aces, and just three unreturnable serves. Looking at our “free points” (aces + unreturnables + return forced errors) stat, she won 17% of her service points in that manner. Cornet hit no aces, two unreturnable serves, and won 15% of her service points as “free points.”
These numbers were a reflection of a combination of less-than-stellar serving and good returning from both women.
It’s on the return that Sharapova often puts her stamp on a match. Against Cornet, she put 95% of returnable serves in play. Cornet was no slouch in this department, either, putting 94% of returnable serves in play.
Both women did a good job on return depth; Sharapova hit 77% deep (past the service box) returns and 23% shallow returns, and Cornet hit 74% deep returns and 26% shallow.
When we break down deep returns into two categories of “deep” (just past the service box) and “very deep” (closer to the baseline than the service box), we discover why Sharapova is considered such a great returner. The World No. 3 set herself apart by hitting 51% of all returns “very deep,” while Cornet only hit 23% “very deep” returns.
This all translated into Sharapova winning an impressive 55% of return points, and Cornet winning 41%.
In this match, Sharapova hit 117 forehands and 142 backhands. But on points she won, that balance was drastically different. In points won, she hit 82 forehands and 68 backhands, while on points lost, she hit just 35 forehands and 74 backhands.
There could be a couple explanations for this. Perhaps Cornet was hammering Sharapova on the backhand side, and whenever she was able to force Sharapova to defend on that side, it resulted in success. Or perhaps Sharapova was using her forehand to dictate on her best points. Either way, it’s an interesting piece of data.
Coming back from her shoulder injury, most of Sharapova’s game appears to be intact enough to deal with an opponent like Cornet. However, her serving performance over the last few matches should raise concerns. Even at her worst, she usually could fire off some aces and get free points on serve, so it’s troubling to realize that her serve doesn’t have the same pop as it did, with the rest of her game working fine and her apparently healthy. Maybe it’ll just take more time.
You can chart matches yourself and get the same detailed stats you see here. Visit Heavy Topspin to get started.