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July 12 • 09:35
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Your Only as Good as Your Second Serve?

October 07, 2011
Milos Raonic won only 1 of Rafa's thirteen 2nd serve points. He won 10 points when Rafa's 1st serve was good (23%).

Rafa won 50% of Raonic's twenty-two 2nd serve points, but only 4 of 28 points on Milos' 1st serve (1/3 of Milos' tallies on 1st serves were his 8 aces).

Murray lost 1 point to Bogomolov when he got his 1st serve in (hitting 11 aces), but gave up 7 of 13 points on his 2nd serve.

Bogie served at 70% but didn't win even half of his 1st serve points.

With or without these stats, it's not hard to imagine that the favorites easily won these contests today. It's also fairly evident that Rafa and Murray both dominated on their service games, but for different reasons:

Do Rafa's stats reinforce the often cites maxim that 'you're only as good as your 2nd serve?'

- Of course not. Rafa may have worked hard not to lose points on his 2nd serve because he wasn't wining free points with his 1st serve. There's no way Rafa's 2nd serve was as good as his opponent's, at least on paper, and Rafa probably also had to focus on winning the 2nd serve points because he had so little chance to score against the Raonic 1st serve. Rafa won because he is the better player, not the better server. He never faced a break point, and neither did Murray.

But was Murray's dominance on service games due to the strength of his 2nd serve?

Certainly not. Andy needed more 2nd serves than Rafa did, yet he was so dominant with his 1st serve that he held easily (he won 95% of his 1st serve points, helped of course by 11 aces).

Why bring any of this up in the first place?

If you are Andy or Rafa, there is a reason: when they play more equal competition than they did today, the stats indicate that Rafa needs to work on his 1st serve and Andy on his 2nd.

What's too often done with a stat is to attribute too much importance on one in any given match, as spectators, commentators and players themselves are drawn to do. Blaming one's 2nd serve is any easy out, a way to excuse the rest of what may be contributing to losing serve. The outcome of a tennis match is the result of many factors. To say otherwise is to reduce the game to something less than it is.

Speaking of the outcomes today:

- Murray defeated Bogomolov 6-1, 6-2.

- Rafa beat Raonic 7-5, 6-3.

Tomorrow in the quarters of The Japan Open:

- Rafa will play Giraldo

- Fish will play Tomic

- Ferrer will play Stepanek

- Murray will play Nalbandian

In the China Open: MEN

- Tsonga will play Ferrero

- Berdych will play Verdasco

- Ljubicic will play Youzhny

- Cilic will play Anderson

WOMEN in The China Open:

- Wozniacki will play Pennetta

- Ivanovic will play Radwanska

Ivanovic did indeed beat #3 seed Zvonareva, 6-2, 6-1 in the quarters after taking out Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3.

Could Ana be ready to take her place in the winner's circle?

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