Beyond The Numbers

Tsitsipas' forehand punch: How early offense fuels the Greek's attack

Analysing the standout statistics from Tsitsipas' clay swing
May 28, 2024
Stefanos Tsitsipas has leaned on his forehand throughout the clay swing.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has leaned on his forehand throughout the clay swing. By Craig O'Shannessy

Talk to the forehand.

The conversation surrounding Roland Garros glory for Stefanos Tsitsipas begins and ends with his potent forehand. It thrives on the terre battue and was a key component of his 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-1 first-round victory over Marton Fucsovics in Paris on Monday.

Tsitsipas hit 189 forehands to only 153 for Fucsovics and clubbed 13 winners to eight. The Greek hit more forehand winners and also committed fewer forehand errors (25-26) for the match. An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of Tsitspas’ groundstroke performance in his 11 lead-in matches (9-2) at clay-court ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte-Carlo (champion), Madrid (l. in R2), and Rome (l. in QFs) identifies just how heavily he leans on his forehand to secure victory.

Winners: Tsitsipas vs. Opponents (Monte-Carlo, Madrid & Rome)

Winners Tsitsipas Opponents +/-
Forehand 133 93 40
Backhand 31 46 -15
Volley 50 37 13
Aces 42 46 -4
Returns 4 11 -7
TOTAL 260 233 27 

Tsitsipas’ main point of separation from his opponents was from the forehand wing. He struck 133 forehand groundstroke winners to only 93 combined for his 11 opponents. That 40-point differential was the largest of any shot on the court. Tsitsipas is always looking for a run-around forehand standing in the ad-court to blast inside-out for a winner or play back behind his opponent down the line.

What’s interesting is that Tsitsipas’ opponents average hitting the ball slightly harder than the Greek (79 mph to 77 mph), but Tsitsipas generated more spin off both his forehand and backhand wings.

Average Speed & Spin

Average Speed/Spin Tsitsipas Opponents +/-
Forehand 77 mph 79 mph -2 mph
Backhand 68 mph 72 mph -4 mph
Forehand Topspin 3099 rpm 2853 rpm 246 rpm
Backhand Topspin 2817 rpm 1755 rpm 1061 rpm

That extra spin is used to get the ball up higher out of the strike zone of his opponents' groundstrokes and also to create more angles in the court to open holes to attack later in the point. Surprisingly, Tsitsipas’ court position was almost identical to his opponents'.

Court Position Relative To The Baseline

Court Position Tsitsipas Opponents +/-
Inside Baseline  24% 23% 1%
2 Metres Behind 44% 45% -1%
Past 2 Metres  32% 32% 0%

Tsitsipas stood slightly more inside the baseline (24% to 23%) and stood the same deep in the court (32%), more than two metres behind the baseline.

So, if Tsitsipas is not gaining his forehand advantage from hitting the ball harder or has significantly better court position relative to the baseline, how does he go about creating his forehand advantage? By attacking with his forehand as quickly as possible in the point. Tsitsipas was far more dominant in “first-strike” points than everything that followed.

Rally Length: Points Won/Lost

Rally Length Tsitsipas Opponents +/-
0-4 Shots (63%) 505 442 63
5-8 Shots (25%) 197 178 19
9+ Shots (12%) 104 84 20
TOTAL 806 704 102

Tsitsipas punches you first with his forehand. His 63-point advantage in the 0-4 shot rally length is full of solid forehands early in the rally that either deliver an immediate knockout blow or provide a commanding advantage to finish soon after.

Tsitsipas next plays German Daniel Altmaier in round two at Roland Garros. Altmaier came through a five-set epic in his opening round, winning 7-5, 6-4, 6-7(6), 5-7, 7-6(10-6) against Laslo Djere. It’s interesting to note that both Tsitsipas and Altmaier have a one-handed backhand from the baseline. Whomever can best match up their forehand to the opponent’s backhand will likely advance to the third round.

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