10 Jan 2014

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The whole crew plus Jeff Sackmann (@tennisabstract) do a quarter by quarter break down of the men’s side of the Australian Open, picking out potential good matches, who we think will deep, and who we think will ultimately win the whole thing. Delicious!
Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

10 Jan 2014

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The whole crew plus Jeff Sackmann (@tennisabstract) do a quarter by quarter break down of the women’s side of the Australian Open, picking out potential good matches, who we think will deep, and who we think will ultimately win the whole thing. Do it up!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

8 Jan 2014

The Championships - Wimbledon 2008 Day One

In team sports, the ultimate goal is to win games. We know this to be true. At the end of the season, your ranking in the standings or table is based solely on your number of wins or total points. In sports like basketball or baseball, there are no ties, and it is a simple win-loss record.

However, we know that the total number of wins or points a team accumulates over a period of time or entire season does not tell the tale of the whole season. Along with the rise of advanced player statistics, we have also seen a rise in advanced team statistics. Things such as corsi in hockey, total shots ratio in soccer, or advanced offensive and defensive statistics in basketball give us a better idea of what a team is good or bad at. There are even more basic measures such as goal differential or total runs scored and given up, and so on.

Ultimately, these statistics give us a better idea of how “good” or “bad” a team was over the course of an entire season. Let’s use basketball as an example. Obviously a team finishing the season with a +200 points total is likely to have many more wins than a team finishing the season with a -200 points total. However predictive or interesting these statistics might be, winning games remains the only thing that matters.

It does not matter if the Bulls beat the Lakers 2 by 90-89 or by 90-50, they still only receive a single win for the performance. We can use these advanced statistics to see if a team was largely unlucky or unlucky in accordance to their predictive statistics. (An excellent modern example would be the 2012 Baltimore Orioles who, despite not having the greatest overall numbers as a team, won an incredible amount of 1 run baseball games to essentially “cheat” the system and make the playoffs.)

Now, let’s talk tennis.

A similar bias exists in a single set of tennis. In our basketball example, the amount of points you score in a season does not matter – what matters is the amount of games you won, which are essentially subdivided events. A set of tennis works in the same way. It does not matter how many points you win in a set, but only that you win more games than your opponent. (It makes sense that they’re called games, no?)

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7 Jan 2014

Mattek-Sands Tweener Sydney

It was the type of interview that would cause most tennis fans to cringe, hit the mute button, change the channel, or throw the remote through the television. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her husband Justin Sands sat across from John Inverdale of the UK’s ITV network at Roland Garros. Fresh off her massive upset of Li Na and with a day off, Mattek-Sands was as relaxed and jovial as possible. The win and eventual fourth round finish at Roland Garros was one of the best upsets and weeks of Bethanie’s tennis career.

John Inverdale’s tennis knowledge is not exactly comprehensive, to put it mildly. It was likely that he knew little to nothing of Mattek-Sands before getting the chance to talk to her husband in Paris. What followed was a suited British man genuinely intrigued by an energetic American couple – one, a tennis player with wacky hair, another a burly American farm boy with a bright shirt and the phrase “@BMATTEK” written on it (Mattek-Sands’ Twitter handle).

Bethanie got a chance to share her story of realizing she was allergic to not just one, but up to 20 different types of foods, and how a changed diet had kept away sickness and kept her energy high. Her love of crazy hair and clothes came through in her overall positive outlook and interest in keeping things fresh while on tour. Her husband spoke honestly about his support and love for his wife, and the commitment he had made to not just her, but her tennis career.

To some, it might have been over the top. To me, it was quite endearing an honest. The American became a player I promised myself to keep an eye on.

An improved diet is an easy narrative to follow, particularly one involving the realization of food allergies. One would not only expect it to help professional athletes, but just about anyone. Djokovic switching to a gluten-free diet helped spark countless narratives, as did Mardy Fish’s past weight loss.

But what does this diet change mean for Mattek-Sands in particular, and how does it manifest itself in her on-court play?

The best players in the world inspire all sorts incredible hyperbole – often with good reason. Rafael Nadal has a myriad of nicknames and catch phrases associated with him. “The King of Clay”, his mental toughness, his ability to fight, “plays every point like it’s his last”.

Most of these fun phrases tend to dance around something Nadal does better than most humans to ever play the sport – move well, and move often. Nadal’s ability to take several small steps to adjust his body and angle allow him to create incredible angles, make fewer errors, hit with great depth, and ultimately make better decisions. His incredible fitness allows him to keep this up well into long matches.

Movement and small adjustments in footwork are important for any tennis player, but can make a world of difference for players at the very top of the game.

So, how has Mattek-Sands’ movement improved, and how has her approach changed?
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6 Jan 2014

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The Changeover Podcast returns for a second full season! Brodie, Juan Jose, Amy and Linz talk the winners (Stan, Lleyton, Venus, BMS’ crazy coach and more) and losers from the first full week of action and tell you who they think will win the tournaments of the week. It’s good to be back!

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

6 Jan 2014

Mail! I’ve always wanted to do a mailbag segment. I have such great conversations with people on Twitter, and sometimes people will even send me excellent questions out of nowhere. I figured this would be a great way to have that discussion, and consider things I hadn’t thought about to hopefully create even more discussion. Thanks to everyone who sent in a question this week. This will become a weekly thing, and if you would like to send in a question, Tweet me or e-mail me at brodie@mindtheracket. Thanks, everyone.

No. Obviously yes, but in all seriousness, Ana Ivanovic had a fantastic week, not just winning her first outdoor title since 2008, but crushing most lesser opponents until a toughn3 set match against Venus. Ana has never been one for straight forward wins, and it is always a positive sign when top players can route weaker opponents in about 70 minutes. That said, Ana should have won that final in two sets. Fair play to Venus who consistently raised her game when her back was up against the wall, but Ivanovic would have done well to close this out in a more simple manner. That was the type of match she has lost in the past. The idea of Ivanovic winning another major seems remote, but her putting together some runs to get back into the top 10 is certainly possible. Good week for her, regardless.

 
Let’s not talk about players already near the top, but players who could have a significant ranking jump.

Madison Keys crushed Simona Halep with a lot of help, but make no doubt – Madison is for real. Just 18, she has never looked more fit, and it feels nearly impossible to not compare her to Davenport. Blistering power can get you pretty far, and it looks like the only way is up.

Canadian bias klaxon! Looking down the rankings, not many players in the top 100 inspire the “breakout season” narrative. I’ve talked before that particularly men are reaching their tennis maturity at a later age, and Pospisil is a perfect example of this. His serve has always been a plus weapon, but the strength and depth on his forehand is considerable, and he loves to finish points at net and does so effectively. Now 30th, Pospisil should break the top 20 and could go even higher this season.

 
Halep’s season is off to a rough start after looking lost versus Keys in Sydney. It was shocking to see a top player have all aspects of her game off for over a set. Romanian birds close to me whispered that she may have done away with her previous coach as he was a local guy, and she might have been hoping to find a bigger name. Still coachless, it’s fair to worry.

That said, Simona will play much better in Melbourne and will get weaker opponents to start due to her ranking. After that, we can really evaluate the coaching situation.

What do you think of the Djokovic/Becker collaboration?
- Amy C.

When Andy Murray hired on Ivan Lendl to be his full time coach, he needed a change. Despite improving at times, he was yet to make his major breakthrough. Mentally, he could be a complete mess. His practice regime likely needed a restart. We all remember how it started. Murray would go bonkers on court, screaming at himself and his box. Simply, a cold faced Lendl stared back at him, offering nothing.

We all know how this ended. Murray not only won that first major title, he won a second at Wimbledon in 2013. What am I getting at? Murray needed a coach who would give him hands on help (Lendl is on the court at all of Murray’s practices and travels nearly everywhere with him) as well as sort his brain out.

Novak Djokovic doesn’t need help. He was shades away from being the best player last year, and has been on a tear for years. We shouldn’t view these situations in any sort of similar way. There’s something to be said for a player simply wanting to enjoy the company and pick the brain of one of their idols. Also, it looks like Novak’s long time coach Marian Vajda will slowly be phased out, and this gives Novak another encouraging voice in his ear. I’ve heard Boris Becker’s commentating, arguably far too much of it while I was living in England. At this point, Novak Djokovic could probably teach Boris more than Boris could teach him (and probably be a better commentator, too). We’ll see how long this lasts – I’d look for Djokovic to find a more serious full time coach once Vajda eventually leaves, if that happens.

27 Dec 2013

Djokovic Davis Cup 1

For the most part, previews of the tennis season suck. Unlike other sports, there were no blockbuster trades in the offseason, no major retirements, no number one draft picks, and no promotions or relegations. From the last ball of this past season to the first of the new season, we learn absolutely nothing.

That being said, there is plenty to be excited about for this upcoming season. Instead of telling you what I think is going to happen, here are 20 things we should be looking forward to, curious or excited about.

1) Does the Domination of the Big 2 Continue?

While Rafael Nadal was clearly the best player of 2013, and a fully deserving year end number 1, Novak Djokovic was a close second. Three slam finals (one won) and a single slam semifinal that he nearly won (against Nadal in Paris). Despite some of the more surprising results across men’s tennis last year, the two best players in the world were miles ahead of the competition by the end of the year.

2) Can Serena Keep Rolling?

For years, Serena’s toughest opponent has often been herself – she’s self destructed on the biggest of stages, or struggled to find motivation to keep her play at the highest of levels for an entire year. Quite clearly, Serena had no such problems last year as she continually rolled over tough competition and finished the year comfortably as number 1. The question might not be “is there a player that can finally topple Serena?” but instead “can Serena keep her motivation and fitness for another 11 month stretch?” If the answer turns out to be “yes”, watch out.

3) How Dramatic Will the Federer Saga Be?

Last year was far and away Roger Federer’s worst season, and age is very quickly catching up with him, as it does with many players. Federer seems to still be enjoying his tennis, but his best days are clearly behind him. Much like Roddick, I don’t see Federer as a player to be grinding out the final days of his career like a Lleyton Hewitt. With a third child on the way, is the end much closer than most fans want to admit? Or will Federer string together a few excellent results to keep him in the top 10, and keep him relevant at the highest parts of the men’s game?

4) A Career Year for Vika?

Victoria Azarenka is an incredible tennis player. Her movement, strength and fantastic attitude on the court have brought her into the highest heights of the game and helped her win multiple Australian Open titles. Last year’s US Open final was one of the greatest WTA matches of all time in terms of overall quality, in my opinion.

We largely forget that Azarenka struggled with injuries for nearly all of the 2013 season. There could have been a case of smart scheduling, AKA playing deep into one week and then withdrawing from the following tournament due to “injury”. Regardless, she certainly was not herself in Asia, and there are large chunks of potential points missing from Vika’s 2013 resume. Furthermore, the gap between Azarenka and Serena is much smaller than most think. Could Azarenka have a career year and win another, or multiple slams? Could she finish the year as the world number 1?

5) Can Delpo Take His Place in the Top 4?

Let’s be honest – Federer is not the player he once was, and for all of his insane consistency, Ferrer is unlikely to beat Nadal, Djokovic or Murray in a best of 5 match at a slam. The world is better off with the previously mentioned 3 players and Juan Martin del Potro as a top 4 heading into a slam. Unfortunately, the big man continues to struggle for any sort of consistency in bigger events. Weirdly, despite having won the US Open, he has still never won a Masters title. That might be somewhere to start. Come on, Delpo. Show us what you’re made of.
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11 Nov 2013

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Brodie, Juan Jose and Lindsay recap the ups and downs of the World Tour Finals including Djokovic’s rock solid run to the title, Del Potro’s unpredictability, Ferrer’s crazy seven straight weeks, Wawrinka’s solid year, Gasquet’s coaching break up and even “doubles specialist” Fernando Verdasco. The 2013 Year End Quiz drops next week! Stay tuned.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

5 Nov 2013

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This week, Brodie and Juan Jose chat about Paris including Djokovic’s impressive post-US Open run and Ferrer’s win over Nadal. They talk the difference between hard courts and debate how much indoor hard courts have slowed and the impact that has had. They finish off with some shout outs to Simona Halep and the Italian Fed Cup team.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

28 Oct 2013

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Brodie, Lindsay and Juan Jose recap the ups and downs of this year’s Year End Championships in Istanbul, discuss the changes to the YEC coming in Singapore in 2014, Vasek Pospisil’s impressive week in Basel, Federer, Del Potro and more in this week’s Changeover podcast.

Remember to subscribe to us on iTunes or use this feed to subscribe to us on an Android device or any other feed aggregator. If you like it, give us a rating and even a review and we will love you forever. Also, check out the always great The Changeover and all of its lovely members: @linzsports, @juanjo_sports and @AmyFetherolf .

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap