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Stan Wawrinka’s double faults only account for 11.5 per cent (85/740) of his second-serve points lost in 2019.

Wawrinka Wards Off Double Fault Pain In Rankings Resurgence

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers explains one key stat behind the former World No. 3's push

One way to evaluate second-serve performance is to examine how many points you win. The more the merrier. Another way is to look at how many points you don’t lose through the self-inflicted wound of a double fault. Less is always best.

An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of double faults as a percentage of second serve points lost from the current Top 20 in 2019 identifies a hidden weapon that Stan Wawrinka has used to surge back to the elite level of our sport.

Wawrinka entered the 2018 US Open with an ATP Ranking of No. 101. He left the 2019 US Open back inside the Top 20, with second-serve performance a big key to his comeback.

In the past 52 weeks, Wawrinka is ranked seventh on the ATP Tour in second-serve points won, at 55.4 per cent. But if you dig a little deeper, you find a hidden metric where he is head and shoulders above any other player in the Top 20.

The first part of the analysis is to only examine the second-serve points Wawrinka has lost in 2019 before uncovering how many of them were double faults. It is by far the fewest of the current Top 20. Wawrinka’s double faults only account for 11.5 per cent (85/740) of his second-serve points lost, which is well below the Top 20 average of 22.3 per cent, or about one out of every five second serve points. In this analysis, the lower the percentage the better.

The leading five players of the current Top 20 that hit the least amount of double faults per points lost on second serve are below.

1. Stan Wawrinka = 11.5% (85 double faults/740 second-serve points lost)
2. Roberto Bautista Agut = 14.6% (91/625)
3. Roger Federer = 15.2% (89/586)
4. Matteo Berrettini = 16.3% (121/743)
5. Stefanos Tsitsipas = 16.5% (137/832)

Essentially, these five players “score own goals” the least with double faults when losing a second-serve point. On the other end of the spectrum, there were three Top 20 players that crossed the 25 per cent barrier, meaning that at least one out of every four second serve points they have lost so far in 2019 was a double fault. Those players are:

Alexander Zverev = 40.9% (342/837)
Nikoloz Basilashvili = 30.9% (261/844)
Gael Monfils = 27.7% (172/622)

Double faults will always be a necessary evil in our sport, with some players employing a more aggressive strategy of going for more on second serves and absorbing some double faults in the process of finding their highest win percentage.

Wawrinka’s unique serve motion, with two arms high in the air early in the serve motion, may arguably not be the simplest technique to teach young players. But the impressive end result of only losing about one out of approximately 10 second-serve points with a double fault is a goal players at all levels of our game should be trying to emulate.

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