How did Roger Federer improve in 2009?

By Online Editorial

Roger Federer

The numbers help to show strengths and weaknesses of various players, so who needs to do what to advance next year?

The saying goes “there are lies, damn lies and statistics”, yet for tennis fans, the saying is false.

Pouring over the various stats and facts that play such a big part in match broadcasts nowadays reveal plenty about why certain players are going through a purple patch, or indeed a lull in form, particularly when looked at in comparison to previous periods in their careers.

This year, the standout player has clearly been Roger Federer with his record breaking Grand Slam achievements, and when various aspects of his game are examined it’s clear that he’s producing the class of shot needed to steer him to those crucial victories that abandoned him last year when he relinquished his number one ranking.

Admittedly Rafael Nadal’s injury played a massive part in helping him regain top spot, but the Spaniard’s absence has coincided with a period when Federer’s key statistics have been of the utmost quality.

Most impressive has been the strength of his second serve, the Swiss winning the highest percentage of second service points on tour; as well as his ability to produce the goods on the crutch points when serving. He’s saved 69% of breakpoints faced, behind only the giant Ivo Karlovic in the rankings.

Whilst Federer is only ranked 23rd on tour when it comes to first service percentage – still an impressive 62% – it’s the strength of his second delivery that’s his bigger asset. If you look at those periods when Federer has looked like a declining force, it’s his second serve speed that drops, along with the number of breakpoints saved, which hints at a lack of core confidence. When he’s confident, as he has been since the French Open, his statistics paint a rosier picture.

Andy Murray’s problem is less confidence-related and more technical and tactical. The current world number three is hitting the spot with his first serve less than 60% of the time, which leaves him outside of the current top 40. And that is an issue.

While he lies sixth on the percentage of second service points won list, relying on solid baseline play spliced with touches of silky touch and injections of pace to keep him there, it’s well known that his average service speed is vulnerable, particularly if he’s up against a big hitter who happens to be seeing the ball like a football, as was the case against Maran Cilic at the US Open.

US champ Juan Martin Del Potro’s vitals show distinct room for improvement, a worry for his main rivals who are looking to put the breaks on the Argentine’s seemingly inevitable rise to the top of the game. The 6’5” 20-year-old isn’t even in the top-20 when it comes to the all important first service percentage, and is only 16th on second service points.

Bearing in mind he’s not overly dissimilar in size to Karlovic (albeit some inches shorter) along with the improvements he’s already made on serve in the last 12 months, his percentages are only going to get better.

If Murray is going to keep pace with the Argentine, the Scot needs to get his average first service percentage up above 60%, as well as increasing his average second service speed from around the 90 mph mark up to over 100 mph.

Pouring over the various stats about the various players on tour can be a worthwhile exercise when deciding where to have a flutter. Referring back to the case of Del Potro, you can see the power he has at his disposal on serve, yet his statistics seem to point to a room for improvement.

With that in mind, and a break at the end of the year to work on various aspects of his game including the serve, you should expect his serving statistics to improve, making him an even better proposition for the big titles. The same applies across the board: studying a players’ statistics as well as their technique when watching them play can really help make better informed betting choices.

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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