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Novak Djokovic won 112 more points than his opponents in rallies of four shots or less at the Australian Open.

Novak's Secret Sauce: Keep It Short & Sweet

Infosys ATP Insights shows how tennis data has evolved in recent years

Data destroys myths.

Before 1991, statistics were not kept in tennis so players, coaches and fans had no other choice but to fill the gap with opinion and guess work. From 1991 to 2002, the statistics were simple, but in the last handful of years the data has become a lot richer in content.

Tennis statistics have matured past simply counting something because it can be counted. The focus has turned to better understanding how our sport is organised, and what matters most to winning tennis matches.

Know what happens. Know why you won.

An Infosys ATP deep dive into the past five Australian Opens shows that the organisation of our sport is drifting towards shorter points because that is naturally where the main difference between winning and losing lives.

Rally Length: Australian Open 2015-2019

Rally Length

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

0-4 Shots

70.4%

69.2%

67.9%

69.1%

69.6%

5-8 Shots

19.6%

20.3%

21.4%

20.1%

20.1%

9+ Shots

10.0%

10.5%

10.7%

10.7%

10.2%

The table above identifies just how our sport is organised. Longer rallies are becoming slightly less prevalent. It’s a wake-up call for practice courts all over the world, where consistency and shot tolerance of forehands and backhands are revered much more than the specific work of serves and returns.

It makes no sense to practise something 90 per cent of the time (extended rallies) when it only appears 10 per cent of the time (9+ shot rallies) in a match. It’s jaw dropping to know that seven points out of 10 in our sport require a player to touch the ball a maximum of just two times. With one of these two shots guaranteed to be a serve or return, shouldn’t they receive maximum attention on the practice court?

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Where You Win
Every match begins as a 50-50 battle, but when you analyse where the match winners outperformed the match losers, it’s clear to see where they found their separation — significantly more in shorter rallies than long ones.

Match Winner Won More Points Than Match Loser In Specific Rally Length

Rally Length

Match Winner Also Won More Points Than Match Loser In Specific Rally Length

0-4 Shots

85%

5-8 Shots

70%

9+ Shots

62%

Players who won their matches correspondingly won more points than the match losers 85 per cent of the time in the 0-4 shot rally length, which was significantly more than in either of the other two rally lengths. Only 33 per cent of the time did the match winner win more points than the match loser in all three rally lengths.

True to the data, Novak Djokovic crafted his advantage much more in the shorter rallies than the longer ones to win the 2019 Australian Open title. Djokovic won 112 more points than he lost in the 0-4 rally length, which was more of an advantage than the other two rally lengths combined (+90).

Djokovic won 202 more points than he lost (687 to 484), with 55 per cent of the 202 point advantage (112) crafted in the 0-4 shot rally length. It’s easy to remember Djokovic’s more spectacular longer rallies from the tournament, but he gained maximum separation from his opponents when he touched the ball just a maximum of two times.

Novak Djokovic's Seven Matches: Rally Length Points Won & Lost

Rally Length

Points Won

Points Lost

Advantage

% Of Advantage

0-4 Shots

422

310

+112

55%

5-8 Shots

152

108

+44

22%

9+ Shots

113

67

+46

23%

TOTAL

687

485

202

100%

It’s clear to see that match data will create a paradigm shift with how we evaluate what actually happens in a match. This new learning will heavily influence the practice court where more focus will be given to the serve, return, serve +1 and return +1 shots rather than simply hitting forehands and backhands cross court ad infinitum.

Editor's Note: Craig O'Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic's coaching team.