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Title Winners in Asia: Murray, Tipsarevic

Do the stats tell the story?

October 02, 2011 | 10:17 PM

Winning 72% of all points against Donald Young today in a 6-2, 6-0 win in the Thailand final, Murray had plenty of reason to be happy today: he'll need the points if he's to reach his goal in '11:

"It's a very good start. Roger [Federer] always plays very well on the European indoor courts, so I'm sure I'm going to have to win a lot more matches if I want to finish No. 3. That's the goal and I'll keep working hard to give myself a shot at doing that."

Tipsarevic (#13) won his first title in the Malaysian Open today over Baghdatis, 6-4, 7-5, ending his curse as the only top 20 player not to have won a title (he'd been in 4 finals previously since '09 and lost them all). Perhaps Davis Cup success has built his confidence as it helped to do for Joker. Commenting on the match, Justin Gimelstob remarked that "the most important stat in pro tennis is the percentage of points won on your second serve." The Serb won 54% of his 2nd serve points compared to only 32% for Bagman.

In my post yesterday, we saw the relationship between return stats and the top 5, the inverse of what Justin was talking about. Is one stat more important than the other?

Perhaps not: one doesn't win serve games without being more effective than your opponent on 2nd serve points as well as 1st serve points. Nor does one normally break serve without being more effective than the server on 2nd serve points. To win matches, you often have to do both better than your opponent to win. Turns out Tipsarevic was just as superior to Bagman on the return stats, winning 62% of Bagman's 2nd serve points and only losing 46% of his own.

And Murray today - would these stats give any key to why he dominated? Since he got 76% of his 1st serves in, never faced a break point and only hit 9 2nd serves, his 2nd serve winning percentage of 67% may have been a minor factor in his holding serve relative to his 1st serve (his 1st serve percentage today stands out against his average this year of only 59%). That said, it might have taken only one poor 2nd serve point at 30-30 for him to have faced a break point, and one more poor 2nd serve on a break point could have cost Andy what might have been an important break in momentum.

On return games, Murray was just as dominate, winning 68% of Young's 1st serve points (Young served at 74%), and 5 of 9 of Donald's 2nd serve points.

Wise to remember in tennis that even an ace is only an ace because the returner failed to anticipate it well enough to get a racquet on it. When a player is superior at winning his own 2nd serve points and inferior at winning opponents', it is a sign that we need to look for the reasons, as we did yesterday to explain the gap between Federer's success on his 2nd serve points and his relative inferiority on his opponents' 2nd serve points.

And when a returner as good as Murray serves as consistently as he did today, we could have the feeling he is improving in the right area. We'll see this week in Tokyo, and ATP 500 event with 3 other top 10 players.

Roger and Joker won't be in Tokyo, but Nadal (who won last year) and Ferrer will be along with Fish and a host of top 20, top 50 players, all tuning up for the Shanghai 1000 next week.

Tokyo main draw:

1 Nadal, Rafael ESP 2

2 Murray, Andy GBR 4

3 Ferrer, David ESP 5

4 Fish, Mardy USA 8

5 Troicki, Viktor SRB 15

6 Tipsarevic, Janko SRB 20

7 Stepanek, Radek CZE 23

8 Raonic, Milos CAN 29

9 Dodig, Ivan CRO 33

10 Monaco, Juan ARG 36

11 Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo ESP 37

12 Haase, Robin NED 42

13 Tursunov, Dmitry RUS 44

14 Bogomolov Jr., Alex USA 45

15 Andujar, Pablo ESP 46

16 Nishikori, Kei JPN 48

17 Cuevas, Pablo URU 49

18 Nieminen, Jarkko FIN 50

19 Gulbis, Ernests LAT 55

20 Giraldo, Santiago COL 56

21 Kubot, Lukasz POL 57

22 Baghdatis, Marcos CYP 60

23 Tomic, Bernard AUS 62

24 Devvarman, Somdev IND 64

25 Nalbandian, David ARG 77

26 (WC)Sugita, Yuichi


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