Kenin vs. Muguruza AO Final 2020
It’s always interesting to go to the stat sheet and see what it tells us about today’s AO Women’s Singles final. Sophia Kenin defeated Gabriella Muguruza by 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Although I can personally do without the racquet throwing and the slam dunking of the ball after a service hold, Kenin definitely demonstrated a high level of tennis in notching her 1st Grand Slam title. How did she do it? There are two ways that the data can answer this question. The first is stroke efficiency and the second is rally length. The answer will be explained below.
First: stroke efficiency. Infosys has greatly improved the match statistics that are provided to fans in order to raise their enjoyment of the matches. With a bit of sleuthing, I was able to put together the following story of the match from the Infosys Stats* portion of the website. This section does a Rally analysis where it ranks the point-ending capabilities (winners + forced errors – unforced errors) across 15 different dimensions. Kenin’s backhand groundstroke was her dominant shot on the court (13 + 5 – 9 = +9), while Muguruza’s backhand was her biggest weakness (3 + 8 – 17 = -6). This match was primarily a battle of dueling backhands which Kenin turned into a substantial advantage.
The most obvious tactic to counter an opponent’s backhand to backhand dominance is simply to play on the other diagonal, i.e. structure the points forehand to forehand instead. Here is one of the better-kept secrets of the match: Kenin’s forehand battled on even terms with Muguruza’s forehand! Kenin’s forehand groundstroke number was +1 (9 + 5 – 13), while Muguruza’s was -1 (11 + 6 -18). This was especially impressive because Kenin began the match missing forehands but demonstrated outstanding resolve to keep hitting the shot. She did not respond to her forehand unforced errors by slowing down her shots!
Secondly: Rally length. Rally length also provides an interesting frame through which to view a match. The following Table provides a summary of points won for the standard rally lengths: 0-4, 5-8, and 9+.
5- thru 8
5- thru 8
Kenin won by 92-77 in total points played or about 54.5%. In the 0-4 and 5-8 categories the players were nearly equal. However, in the 9+ category, Kenin won over 68% of the points with a 24-11 margin. Her margin was greatest in the first set where she won 11 out of 14 long points played. Muguruza, who won more of the 0-4 and 5-8 points in the first set, failed to win in any point length category in both the second and third sets. A simple explanation is that Kenin took her legs away in the first set and Muguruza did not have the endurance to maintain her level of play.
Tennis, as we all know, is about more than strokes. A player must be well-positioned in order to execute. Kenin’s victory can only be the result of a hard and disciplined off-court regimen. Congratulations again to Sophia Kenin!