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The Dominance of Carlos Alcaraz

The Dominance of Carlos Alcaraz image

A Close Look at Carlos Alcaraz

The rising star of Carlos Alcaraz makes it interesting to look behind the numbers of his recent successes. The Novak Djokovic match in Madrid is a great place to start because of its 3:50 duration and the large number of points played for a 2/3 match. In addition, it’s against the number #1 player in the world: if there is a weakness, it will, in all likelihood, be exposed.

The use of statistics to understand results in professional tennis is in its infancy. A positive development, led by the pioneering work of Craig O’Shannessy, investigates rally length and its influence on outcomes. Craig’s finding that the top players are more successful in the 0-4 shot rallies (when compared with 5-8 and 9+ shot rallies) has, no doubt, changed the way that top players practice and strategize. To find out more about Carlos Alcaraz, we analyzed in detail, his 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 win over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the 2022 MutuaMadrid Open. Let’s examine point length first:

Total:

    

Alcaraz

0-4

5t8

9+

 
 

92

28

15

135

 

93

25

13

131

     
     

Djokovic

0-4

5t8

9+

 
 

93

25.00

13

131

 

92

28

15

135

     

Total:

0-4

5t8

9+

 

Alcaraz

34.59%

10.53%

5.64%

50.75%

Djokovic

34.96%

9.40%

4.89%

49.25%

     

Within:

    

Alcaraz

49.73%

52.83%

53.57%

 

Djokovic

50.27%

47.17%

46.43%

 

 

Rather astoundingly, the players are virtually identical in each rally length category. The match point totals were 135-131 in favor of Alcaraz. This slim difference is NOT explained by rally length.

Another way of finding out more about what really happened in a match is to look at point-ending strokes. When doing so, it’s important to remember that point-ending strokes include not only winners/forced errors, but they also include unforced errors. The difference between winners/forced errors and unforced errors is called the STROKE DIFFERENCE. A positive DIFFERENCE would mean a particularly effective stroke, while a substantial negative DIFFERENCE would mean that a stroke has been broken down.

A particular stroke’s DIFFERENTIAL is the difference of the DIFFERENCES of the two players for a particular stroke. This allows us to see the relative strengths of the strokes being compared. The DIFFERENTIAL is a simple metric which asks the following question: if we compare the effectiveness of any particular stroke, which player comes out ahead?

               Here are the statistics for both players from their Madrid semifinal:

 

W

UNF

 

DOMINANCE

 

DIFFERENCE

Alcaraz FH

36

45

81

34.32%

 

-9

 

0-4

5- thru 8

9+

   

W

21

10

5

36

  

UNF

35

8

2

45

  
       
       

Djokovic FH

14

21

35

14.83%

 

7

 

0-4

5- thru 8

9+

   

W

7

4

3

14

  

UNF

14

5

2

21

  
       
       

Alcaraz BH

17

19

36

15.25%

 

-2

 

0-4

5- thru 8

9+

   

W

8

6

3

17

  

UNF

13

4

2

19

  
       
       

Djokovic BH

12

21

33

13.98%

 

9

 

0-4

5- thru 8

9+

   

W

6

3

3

12

  

UNF

16

3

2

21

  
       
       

Alcaraz S

24

4

28

11.86%

 

20

       
       

Djokovic S

27

2

29

12.29%

 

-25

       
       

Alcaraz OHV

10

2

12

5.08%

 

8

       
       

Djokovic OHV

7

3

10

4.24%

 

-4

       
       

Total difference

     

4

 

Any positive number in the difference column is a plus for Alcaraz, while any negative number is a negative indicator. Interestingly, Alcaraz’ FH had a negative difference, but as it happened, so did Djokovic’s. The DIFFERENTIALS on each of the stokes are extremely informative. They are the differences between differences for each stoke as defined above and they are as follows:

FH        Djokovic          +2

BH       Alcaraz            +7

S          Djokovic          +5

OHV     Alcaraz            +4

Alcaraz was able to overcome Djokovic’s advantage in serving and forehands with his convincing backhand performance.

Using information from point-ending strokes also suggests looking at another statistic: STROKE DOMINANCE. DOMINANCE is simply the percentage of point-ending shots attributable to the basic strokes in tennis: forehands, backhands, serves, and volleys & overheads. For example, Roger Federer’s FH DOMINANCE number is typically between 22 and 25%. This means that very close to a quarter of all points played in a match end with Fed hitting a FH.

In this case, Alcaraz FH DOMINANCE statistic is astronomical: 34.3% of points played were ended on Alcaraz’ terms! Although his DIFFERENCE was -9, this extreme DOMINANCE had the effect of taking the racquet out of Djokovic’s hand.

Adjustments for a possible French Open meeting?

  1. Djokovic must be more aggressive with his forehand. His DOMINANCE percentage of 14.8% is way too low for a title seeker.
  2. Alcaraz must continue to use his backhand to better effectiveness than Djokovic’s.

Can’t wait for the tournament!

              

 

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