Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers: Aussies Look For Home Success
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers looks at areas where four leading Australian players competing during the Australian swing are aiming to improve
The time has come for a changing of the guard in Australian tennis. Lleyton Hewitt, 34, will begin his last professional tournament next week at the 2016 Australian Open, signifying the end of an illustrious career that started way back in 1998, and saw the Adelaide native rise to World No. 1.
The next generation of Australian stars will be eager to immediately fill the void left by the Aussie legend, with most in action in Sydney this week.
An Infosys ATP Beyond the Numbers analysis of four local hopefuls* in action this Australian summer - Bernard Tomic, Nick Kyrgios, Sam Groth and James Duckworth - shows exactly where they shine, and also what they need to improve in 2016 to step up to the next level.
Tomic is the top seed at the Apia International Sydney this week, which has proven to be a favourite stop on the tour for the Aussie No. 1. Tomic won the event in 2013, reached the final in 2014, and lost to Gilles Muller in the quarter finals 7-6(3), 7-6(13) last year.
The second serve battleground will be key for Tomic in Sydney this week. He won 65 per cent of second serve points in three matches last year, which was well above his 2015 average of 51 per cent. The problem was returning second serves, where he only won 44 per cent in 2015 - well below his average of 49 per cent the last 12 months.
Holding serve is definitely a strength of Tomic’s game. He was not broken in three matches in Sydney in 2015, saving all five break points he faced with five first serves, including two aces.
Breaking serve is where Tomic will be chasing improvement this season. He broke serve once from 12 opportunities in Sydney last year, with nine of the 12 break points coming in the Ad Court, including the lone break point he did convert. His backhand return is short and efficient, and targeting deep down the middle is the perfect way to neutralise the strength of the opponent’s serve.
Kyrgios currently sits at No. 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after reaching a career-high of No. 25 last June. What’s so interesting about our sport are the thin margins and small percentages that dominate careers.
Kyrgios, 20, has had a meteoric rise up the rankings with some big wins along the way, but has still only won 51 per cent of all points he has played on tour. He has won 68 per cent of his total serve points and 34 per cent of return points.
Like Tomic, the returning side of the game requires the most focus. In the 2015 season, Tomic broke 23 per cent of the time after being broken, while Kyrgios was only 14 per cent.
When the all-important break points arrived when returning, Kyrgios performed significantly better breaking in the Ad court than the Deuce court. Kyrgios converted break points 31 per cent (65/213) of the time in the Ad, but only 11 per cent (8/77) in the Deuce court.
Groth lost on Tuesday in Sydney to Federico Delbonis 7-6(4), 7-6(5), and is now 0/3 lifetime at the event.
Groth is arguably the biggest server in today’s game, but as Tuesday's score indicates, breaking serve proves difficult for the Albury native.
Making the most of his chances is a real focus for Groth this season. A comparison with Novak Djokovic, arguably the world's best returner, shows the work that needs to be done on the returning side of the game.
In 2015, Groth only broke seven per cent of the time when receiving with new balls (Djokovic 45 per cent), broke in 56 per cent of games where he held one break point (Djokovic 86 per cent), and 57 per cent when seeing two break points in the same service game (Djokovic 81 per cent).
When Djokovic lost serve, he immediately broke back 38 per cent of the time. Groth was only at six per cent.
Groth has never been inside the Top 50, with a career-best of No. 53 in August last year. If he can master the return side of life, then the Top 20 beckons.
Duckworth is 23, with a career-high of No. 82 in April 2015. He won his opening round match in Sydney 6-3, 6-2 against Inigo Cervantes this week, saving all six break points he faced.
Returning is definitely where this Sydney native can improve in 2016. Last year, his hard work returning saw him produce 36 break point opportunities at 15/40 - the only scoreline where break points occur in the Deuce court. He only managed to convert one of them.
Djokovic, by comparison, converted 56 of his 250 opportunities in the Deuce court. Duckworth performed better breaking in the Ad Court, converting 23 per cent (23/118) of the time.
Tomic, Kyrgios, Groth and Duckworth all possess obvious strengths and unique game styles that have elevated them to the upper echelons of the game.
With Hewitt moving on, there are some very big shoes to fill in Australian sport.
Making the strengths stronger, improving the weaknesses, and copying the patterns of the game's elite will provide the day-to-day goals of the next generation of Australian tennis stars.
* Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis, currently No. 86 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is not in action during the Australian summer swing.
Read more insights at Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers