Letting The Scoreboard Dictate Strategy
Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers investigates how the world's best use the scoreboard to guide their strategies
The scoreboard dictates strategy a lot more than you think.
Players need just four points to win a game, but there are actually 18 different point scoreboard combinations that represent being ahead, behind or equal with the opponent. Each point won or lost alters the percentages of closing out the game, directly affecting the strategy players employ based on the pressure and risk the scoreboard delivers.
An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the current Top 10 players in the world, and their performance at each individual point score for the past 18 months, highlights two critical percentages that have a snowball effect on their overall strategies. The current Top 10 players included in the analysis are Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Dominic Thiem, Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet.
The first obvious percentage to consider is the current score. The second more important percentage that is often overlooked is the “gap” number, which is all about what happens next. If players win or lose the point, what is the “percentage point gap” between those two future, possible scores. That’s where the secret sauce exists.
The gap number is all about risk assessment. The higher the number, the more risk there is, and the more players should gravitate to higher-percentage primary patterns of play. The lower the number, the less inherent risk is involved, which enables players to dip into their secondary bag of tricks, surprising the opponent with a change-up play.
Five Crucial Scores When Serving*
|Score||Win Point, Likelihood To Win Game||Lose Point, Likelihood To Win Game||Percentage Point Gap|
|30/40||Deuce, 79%||Game, 0%||79|
|15/30||30/30, 80%||15/40, 35%||45|
|0/30||15/30, 65%||0/40, 21%||44|
|15/15||30/15, 93%||15/30, 65%||28|
|0/0||15/0, 93%||0/15, 73%||20|
*Stats based on current Top 10 players from January 2015 to present.
The following assessment provides a strategic roadmap for players at all levels of the game to find the right strategy based on the future “percentage gap” number at each score.
HIGH RISK (gap above 50 percentage points)
30/40, Ad Out, 15/40
Interesting to note that two of these three points are played in the Ad court. Making a first serve here is critical. Typically it will be directed at the less potent backhand return, and the server will look for a “Serve +1” forehand to attack right back through the Ad court behind a right-handed opponent. The ideal outcome will be a forced error, much preferred over hitting a winner or trying to outlast an opponent by waiting for an unforced error.
MEDIUM RISK (gap 25 - 50 percentage points)
30/30, 0/30, Deuce, 0/15, 15/15, 15/30
Players will still be gravitating to higher percentage patterns here, beginning with a first serve in play. It’s then all about targeting the opponent’s weaker side and still looking to force errors. On tour, the average baseline win percentage is typically around 46 per cent, while the net offers a much higher return at 66 per cent. Looking for a short ball and approaching with a big forehand to the backhand is a really good fit here. Keeping great court position around the baseline and removing time in the opponent’s preparation are also key factors.
LOWER RISK (gap 2 - 25 percentage points)
40/30, Ad In, 0/0, 30/15, 15/0, 40/15, 30/0, 40/0, 0/40
Being ahead in the score delivers lower overall risk and enables players to play bigger and bolder than normal. Aces and rally winners will live more here, as well as clever secondary patterns to the opponent's strengths.