Murray Explains How ATP Cup Strategy Rooms Can Make A Difference
It’s never easy to know what an opponent will do on the tennis court. But at the ATP Cup, the Strategy Room helps point players in the right direction.
Former doubles World No. 1 and 23-time tour-level doubles titlist Jamie Murray took ATPTour.com inside Sydney’s Strategy Room to explain how various statistics and insights into matches could make the difference in critical moments at this inaugural 24-team competition.
“I really like this stuff. Sometimes you can get too bogged down in it and then forget actually you need to go out and play and you’re worrying too much about what the other guys might do,” Murray said. "You’ve still got to focus on what you can do and what you can control, because at the end of the day you might think that the guy’s going to serve there, but he’s got free choice to do what he wants to do. [But] you can definitely use it to your advantage, 100 per cent.”
Murray noted that there are some things he may look at to check progress on a part of his game that he is working on. And while it is important to look at standard stats such as first-serve percentage or first-serve points won, that’s not necessarily the most valuable aspect of the Strategy Room, or scouting in general.
“If I’m looking at the opponents that I’m going to play next, it’s more trying to find out almost like what they don’t do,” Murray said. “So if they play regular formation and they never cross, then I’ll know that I can keep returning crosscourt. Or one player, if he never serves wide on the deuce court, then I know I only have to protect the T serve and the body. So it’s things like that that kind of give you an edge.
“Maybe I’d filter second serves, where these guys are serving second serves. If they’re only serving in the body for example, then I know I don’t have to cover a wide serve, so I can cheat my position a bit. Or when they’re doing I-formation, is there a way that they always cover the cross-court return, or are they always covering down the line? Are there certain patterns that they like to play?”
The Strategy Room could also work in reverse to help players make sure they’re not getting too predictable. For example, if someone visited and saw that another player poaches crosscourt returns 85 per cent of the time in the ad court, that could play into their strategy.
“A big part of what we’re taught in Britain and our philosophy is to be unpredictable and not to be doing the same things over and over again,” Murray said. “When you’re out there, if it’s 4-4 deuce and you know that the guy never serves wide to you so you’ve only got to cover two serves instead of three, that’s a huge advantage and you can anticipate it a bit.”
In general, Murray’s coach does a lot of the scouting for matches to come. But if he’s set to face opponents he never has before, he’ll try to watch them on YouTube or television to learn their tendencies. Having advanced analytics like those being provided in the Strategy Room makes preparation even easier.
“For a doubles team, if you had access to that [information from the Strategy Room] the whole year, you can definitely use it to your advantage. It’s still obviously about getting out there and executing what you’re trying to do,” Murray said. “But it definitely helps if you know for sure certain plays that teams do or that they don’t do. That definitely gives you an edge when you’re going into matches.
“In doubles, the margins are so small and matches are deciding all the time by two or three points. So if you have that little extra edge, it can really help.”