The WTA does not make it easy for you to find stats about women’s tennis. Which is obviously problematic.
On their site, their top menu proudly lists “Scores and Stats” as an option, but you’ll only find match results there. Thankfully, Adrin kindly forwarded me an interesting PDF that the WTA does have available on their site, titled “2013 Matchfacts.” Where does this mysterious PDF live? In the Press Center! Where is that? Well, you won’t find it in the top menu. In fact, you’ll have to scroll to the bottom of the WTA site to find the link:
Anyway, there are other interesting things in that Press Center, so I encourage you to check it out. But back to the “2013 Matchfacts” PDF. In it, you will find ten statistical categories (it includes numbers up to Tokyo, I think), which can be divided into two groups: Serve Stats and Return Stats.
Serve Stats include:
- First Serve Percentage
- Percentage of First Serve Points Won
- Percentage of Second Serve Points Won
- Percentage of Service Games Won
- Percentage of Break Points Saved
Return Stats include:
- Percentage of Points Won Returning First Serves
- Percentage of Points Won Returning Second Serves
- Percentage of Break Points Converted
- Percentage of Return Games Won
Now, onto the point of the post, which will become evident if you already checked out the PDF: Serena Williams is amazing. Why? Well, the 17-time Major champion leads the WTA in five of those ten statistical categories.
Think about that for a moment.
You’ll notice that the five categories Serena leads the WTA in are Serve categories. No surprise there: it’s widely accepted that Serena owns the greatest serve in women’s tennis history. But what makes Serena even more amazing is that she shows up in the Top-4 of all Return categories: she’s second in Percentage of Points won on opponent’s First Serve and Percentage of Return Games won. Serena is third in Percentage of Points won on opponent’s Second Serve, and fourth in Percentage of Break Points converted (in this last category she trails Mirjana Lucic-Baroni for the third spot. Lucic-Baroni has played 50 fewer matches than Serena).
Isn’t that astonishing? The only statistical category where Serena doesn’t show up in the top 10 is Percentage of First Serves, which would be somewhat problematic if her actual number (62%) weren’t incredibly good anyway. Plus, if your First Serve percentage is too high, it simply means you’re not going for big first serves (notice who leads that particular category. In fact, look at the entire top ten in 1st serve percentage – nobody in it has a particularly great serve).
As a comparison, Serena’s World Number 1 ATP counterpart, Novak Djokovic, appears in the top 10 of only five of those same statistical categories, and leads the ATP in only one of them (somewhat surprisingly, it’s in Percentage of Second Serve Points Won). Impending World Number 1 Rafael Nadal does better: the Spaniard shows up in the top ten of 8 categories (no worse than No. 5 in any of them), and leads the tour in two (Percentage of Points Won Returning First Serves and Return Games Won).
Yet all of that pales in comparison to Serena’s feat of leading the entire WTA in half of the “official” statistical categories, and doing no worse than No. 4 in four of the other five.
That’s simply staggering.
Now, for a fun exercise: I gave whoever leads one of the ten categories listed in the PDF 10 points. 9 go to No. 2, and so on and so forth. I added up the points for the women in the Top-10 rankings as of this week, and included the number of categories that added points for them:
1. Serena Williams: 83 points from 9 categories.
2. Victoria Azarenka: 27 points from 4 categories.
3. Maria Sharapova: 31 points from 6 categories.
4. Agnieszka Radwanska: 13 points from 3 categories.
5. Li Na: 20 points from 5 categories.
6. Sara Errani: 27 points from 4 categories.
7. Petra Kvitova: 16 points from 2 categories.
8. Caroline Wozniacki: 9 points from 2 categories.
9. Angelique Kerber: 1 point from 1 category.
10. Marion Bartoli: 0 points.
Hilariously, 30 year-old World Number 51 Yvonne Meusburger tallies 28 points from 5 categories, which is more than everyone except Serena and Sharapova. Naturally, while Yvonne has had a pretty great year, she’s only played 24 matches (and most of them in very small events). Still, that is one fewer match than the Highlander of tennis, Kimiko Date-Krumm. The ageless wonder does show up in two categories, and totals 10 points.
Which is more than 30% of the WTA Top-10.
Still, look at the difference between Serena and everyone else. It’s quite a gulf, no?