This week we dip our collective toe into a debate in the tennis coaching world. With rallies short and aggressive, should players be using practice time differently? What types of skills can still be improved, once a player has reached the top? What tactics can a coach teach their charges, and which ones are too deeply ingrained in the physical nature of hitting the shots? The line between technique and tactics may not be a clear-cut as we think.

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This week we dip our collective toe into a debate in the tennis coaching world. With rallies short and aggressive, should players be using practice time differently? What types of skills can still be improved, once a player has reached the top? What tactics can a coach teach their charges, and which ones are too deeply ingrained in the physical nature of hitting the shots? The line between technique and tactics may not be a clear-cut as we think.

Is a 3- or 4-shot rally qualitatively different from a 5- or more-shot rally? How would you teach Madison Keys to retain the positives of her aggressive style while dialing back the aggression a bit? We offer more questions than answers, which seems appropriate for a topic that is far from settled, and is likely to remain controversial for years to come. Sorry about that! Click to listen , subscribe on iTunes , or use our feed to get updates on your favorite podcast software.

I posed the same question on Twitter, and the hive mind cautiously placed her outside the top For more than a decade, Wozniacki has been a consistent threat near the top of the game, while other players who won more slams did so in a much shorter burst of elite-level play. If we take a look at the current Elo ratings , a very convenient round number presents itself. Aryna Sabalenka just misses.

Another 25 active players have reached an Elo rating of at least at their peak, from all-time greats such as Serena Williams and Venus Williams down to others who had brief, great-ish spells, such as Alize Cornet and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Since , 88 women finished at least one season with an Elo rating of or higher, and 60 of them did so at least twice. The resulting list of 60 includes anyone you might consider an elite player from the last 45 years, along with the usual dose of surprises.

Remember Irina Spirlea? A year-end Elo rating of is an impressive achievement. But among greats, that number is a mere qualifying standard. Serena has had years above , and Steffi Graf once cleared the mark. Barty finished her season with a rating of , so her greatness quotient GQ is For Serena, that means a whopping 20 single-season quotients. Wozniacki had nine such seasons, and so far, Barty has two.

In general, the players with long peaks are near the top—but only because they were so good for much of that time. From the opposite perspective, this method gives plenty of respect to women who were extremely good for shorter periods of time. Both Amelie Mauresmo and Tracy Austin crack the top 20 with six or fewer qualifying seasons, while others with as many years with an Elo of or higher, such as Manuela Maleeva Fragniere , find themselves much lower on the list.

Sorry, Aryna, your time will come! The lower the threshold, the more value we give to longevity and the less value we give to truly outstanding seasons. If we lower the threshold to , Steffi and Serena swap places at the top of the list. I began this post with a question about Caroline Wozniacki. If we had better data for the first decade of the Open era, Wozniacki and many others would see their rankings fall by at least a few spots.

King, Court, and Evonne Goolagong Cawley would knock her into the 20s. Virginia Wade might claim a slot in the top 20 as well. On the other hand, they offer an enormous benefit, allowing us to get around the unresolvable minor debates about the level of competition when she reached number one, the luck of the draw at grand slams she won and lost, the impact of her scheduling on ranking, and so on.

By building a rating based on every opponent and match result, Elo incorporates all this data. When ranking all-time greats, many fans already rely too much on one single number: the career slam count. Greatness quotient is a whole lot better than that. Long after retiring from tennis, Marat Safin remains quotable. Or screwed-ness, for that matter. Many fans would agree with the general claim that American men tend to have big serves, aggressive game styles, and not a whole lot of subtlety.

Using data from the Match Charting Project , I calculated some rally-length stats for the 70 men with at least 20 charted matches in the last decade. Longer rallies are, supposedly, the points where the Americans lose the edge. That is certainly the case for Isner.

Fritz, at Here are 20 of the 70 players, including some from the top and bottom of the list, along with all the Americans and some other characters of interest. They are ranked by the 5- or more-shot column:. Fritz is one of the few players who win more than half of the shortest rallies and more than half of the longest ones. The first category can be the result of a strong serve, as is probably the case with Fritz, and is definitely the case with Isner. Shifting focus from the Americans for a moment, you might be surprised by the players with positive winning percentages in all three categories.

Nadal, Djokovic, and Roger Federer all make the cut, each with plenty of room to spare. The remaining two are the unexpected ones. Philipp Kohlschreiber is just barely better than neutral in both classes of short points, and a bit better than that And Alexander Zverev qualifies by the skin of his teeth, winning very slightly more than half of his long rallies. Yes, that Back to Fritz, Isner, and company.

Safin may be right that the Americans want to scare you with a couple of big shots. Isner has certainly intimidated his share of opponents with the serve alone. Yet Fritz, the player who prompted the comment, is more well-rounded than the Russian captain gave him credit for. Khachanov won the match on Sunday, and at least at this stage in their careers, the Russian is the better player. But not on longer rallies.

The three of us dig into the new ATP Cup, considering whether the format is appealing to players and fans, how we should feel about odd matchups between players hundreds of ranking places apart, and—most importantly—what captains should be doing with the stats available to them. We also look at the top of the WTA ranking table, considering whether Ashleigh Barty will continue her reign for another twelve months, or if Bianca Andreescu—or Karolina Pliskova—will topple her.

We also debate where Caroline Wozniacki stands among Open-era greats, as one of the few women to hang on to the number one ranking for more than a full year. About one-quarter of those results have come in Davis Cup, the most likely venue for such an uneven matchup. The match lasted 72 minutes, longer than any of the 59 ATP double bagels for which I have match stats. It was only the fourth result to reach the one-hour mark. The previous longest double bagel was a minute contest at the Rome Masters in which Guillermo Canas battered Juan Monaco.

Match times can be affected by player tics and crowd conditions, but the number of points played cannot. By that measure as well, Metreveli was better than his scoreline. He kept the Spaniard on court for 97 points, longer than all but three of the previous ATP double bagels.

Over tour-level matches last year required 97 or fewer points, including several finals and a couple of contests that included a set. Another way to look at the closeness of the match is to consider break points saved.

Only four of the 59 previous double-bagel losers withstood so many break attempts. If those rates continued without any unusual streaks of points won or lost, that would translate to a To win all twelve games, RBA needed to hold six times and break six times.

Based on these hold rates, his chances of doing so were Put another way, if these two players kept playing at the same levels for a large number of matches sorry, Aleksandre! Only five of the previous 59 drubbings had such a low probability of turning out Measured by double-bagel probability, eight matches from the season were more lopsided than this one, and only one of them ended in twelve straight games. Three of the losers managed to avoid any bagels at all:.

The Basilashvili-Nadal rematch on Saturday was a bit closer , though. However, double bagels are so rare that they tend to grab the headlines, pushing the details to the side. Given how the Georgian played in his ATP Cup debut, he deserved a more pedestrian loss with at least a game or two in the win column. Earlier this week I presented a lot of data about what happens when men face a makeable ball hit to their backhand corner.

That post was itself a follow-up on a previous look at what happened when players of both genders attempted down-the-line backhands. Decision-making in the backhand corner is one of the biggest differences between pro men and women. Let me illustrate in the nerdiest way possible, with bug reports from the code I wrote to assemble these numbers. My first stab at the code to aggregate player-by-player numbers for men failed because some men never hit a topspin backhand from the backhand corner.

At least, not in any match recorded by the Match Charting Project. The offending player who generated those divide-by-zero errors was Sam Groth. In his handful of charted matches, he relied entirely on the slice, at least in those rare cases where rallies extended beyond the return of serve. Compare with the bug that slowed me down in preparing this post.

The problematic player this time was Evgeniya Rodina. In nine charted matches, she has yet to hit a forehand from the backhand corner.

If your backhand is the better shot, why would you run around it? Of the nearly players with five charted matches from the s, Rodina is the only one with zero forehands. Faced with a makeable ball in the backhand corner, men and women both hit a non-slice groundstroke about four-fifths of the time. Yet most of the women with powerful forehands, like Serena Williams , have equal or better backhands, making it counter-productive to run around the shot.


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Until , he worked for one of the large test-prep companies, teaching classroom courses, running workshops, and tutoring. In addition to teaching, he has written curriculum including thousands of practice questions , trained teachers, and starred in instructional videos. Despite Jeff's experience with a broad range of standardized tests and other topics , he has spent most of his time since on the GMAT, an exam he has taken several times, scoring in the 99th percentile on each administration. In his books, Jeff focuses two things: building solid content knowledge and providing extremely realistic practice material.


Sold by: Amazon. Skip to main content Jeff Sackmann. Something went wrong. Please try your request again later. He has been helping students prepare for the GMAT and apply to business school since



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