Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

History of Tennis: Why Is scoring in the game so weirdly?

January 12, 2018

Interesting piece by Merrill Fabry:

All sports have their own vocabularies, the shorthand lingo to communicate intricacies of rules and how play proceeds. But usually the scoring can at least be counted on to be fairly straightforward. Not so much for tennis.

For the unfamiliar, tennis starts with both players at zero, called love: “Love-all.” One person scores: 15 to love. The server’s score is said first, the receiver’s second. The other now scores, and they’re tied at “15-all.” The next point is 30, then 40, and the following point wins that game. If they tie at 40 it’s called a deuce. From that tie the next person to get a point has the advantage, but generally has to win by two points — that is, to score twice in a row — to win the game. And it doesn’t stop there. Six of these games make a set, and the set must be won by two games or it goes to a tiebreaker. After the set is over, it repeats. To win the whole match requires either winning best of five sets or best of three sets, depending on the competition.

With the Australian Open set to begin on Monday, observers may once again ponder an inevitable question: Why count this way?

In short, we still do not know clearly why the scoring came to be this weird..


Is Nadal just a clay court specialist?

June 16, 2017

Interesting analysis in Economist:


According to Elo ratings—an algorithm that evaluates players based on their performances and the quality of their opponents, and can be limited to matches played on a single surface—the gap between Mr Nadal’s clay-court and hard-court performances is about twice as large as Mr Federer’s.

In 2009, just before that year’s French Open, Mr Nadal recorded the highest-ever clay-court Elo score, at 2,543. That exceeded his hard-court Elo mark at the time by 273 points—a differential as big as the chasm between the current world number one by Elo, Novak Djokovic, and Alexander Zverev, ranked tenth. It suggests that the clay-court version of Mr Nadal at his best would beat the hard-court form of the same player 83% of the time.

 Mr Nadal’s penchant for clay has remained nearly as strong for most of his career: the gap between his clay- and hard-court Elo scores briefly dipped below 200 points in 2014, but has rebounded to 267 points today. His career-average surface preference is more extreme than that of any other player currently ranked in the top 50. Where you place Mr Nadal in the overall pantheon of tennis greats depends largely on whether you think he should be rewarded or penalised for deriving such a disproportionate share of his value from just one of the sport’s three environments.

By contrast, surfaces have had a much smaller impact on Mr Federer’s game. His Elo scores on hard courts have usually been less than 150 points higher than his marks on clay. And after he won the 2009 French Open—one of only three times since 2005 that the trophy did not go to Mr Nadal— Mr Federer’s clay rating actually surpassed his hard-court number. Of course, that did not make him a better clay-court player than Mr Nadal: the Spaniard’s clay-court Elo mark was still over 200 points higher than Mr Federer’s, implying that Mr Nadal would have a 77% chance of winning a match between them on clay at that point. But it does show that Mr Federer was a more well-rounded player.

It would be unfair to dismiss Mr Nadal as a one-trick clay pony. In the past, single-surface specialists went to great lengths to maximise the share of their matches played on their preferred court type. Guillermo Vilas, the previous record-holder for most titles on clay, played a whopping 60% of his career on that surface. Today, however, scheduling is more rigid: three of the four grand-slam tournaments are played on hard or grass courts, as are six of the nine events in the second tier of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour, the Masters 1000 series. And Mr Nadal cannot be accused of selectively skipping events to pad his win rate. Clay-court events represent just a third of his total.

Given the strong comeback, the Spaniard could prove all wrong in few years..

Now that Mr Nadal is over 30, it is tempting to assume that his days of contending for titles in non-clay events are over. However, his hard-court Elo score still ranks fourth in the world, behind Mr Djokovic, Mr Federer and Andy Murray, the defending Wimbledon champion. And although grass-specific ratings are less reliable, because relatively few events are played on turf, Mr Nadal did go on to win Wimbledon in each of the past two years that he claimed victory at Roland Garros without dropping a set. The clay-court master may not have to wait until next spring to improve his case to be considered the greatest of all time—on any surface.

There was this recent piece on oligarchy in Men’s tennis. With Federer and Nadal both winning this year’s first two Grand Slams, the case for oligarchy has only strengthened.

La Decimas: Vamos Rafa..

June 12, 2017

What a comeback from Rafa and gives me goose pimples as I blog about this. What a player. No words are enough. How he has survived all odds to emerge as a top player is just one story.

Here is a tribute from the top players and this one from Jim Courier sums it up:

“One of Nadal’s strengths is that he’s so humble, that he’s surprised at what he has achieved, and that he has never bought into his own greatness. He’s always felt as though he has to earn everything, on a match-to-match, and point-to-point, basis. That’s one of the marks of his genius, that he’s convinced himself that he can’t rest on his laurels. He’s only ever lost one best-of-five-set match on red clay. And that’s because he makes things so physical. It’s already a big enough challenge to beat Nadal over three sets on clay, but trying to do it over five sets is the biggest challenge in the history of men’s tennis.”
– JIM COURIER, winner of four Grand Slams including Roland-Garros 1991 and 1992
 The respect he has for his opposition and always underplaying himself makes him look so human and real..

Thinking about Ministry of Finance/Treasury

June 18, 2009

We have plenty of literature on central banks, their set-up, their institutional structure etc etc ( see this, this , this, this, this etc for some literature).

However, I was earlier thinking – what about similar literature on Ministries of Finance/Treasury (MOF/T)? Central Banks get much of the focus wrt economic institutions but I have always believed MoF/T is as important (perhaps more). This crisis has thrown them in limelight for all the wrong reasons but a sound MoF/T is as important to an economy as a central banker.

How are MoF/T organised? What are the differences in different MoF/T across countries ? What are the similarities? The differences between developed and developing? Are they converging towards some standard? How do MoF/T and Central Banks coordinate policies in their economies ( we focus too much attention on central banks)? What also interests me tremendously is what made MoF/T give up much of their power to central banks as stature of mentary policy grew? What were the causes? What were the processes? How do they keep a check on central banks?

 We usually get literature on MoF/T as an autobiography of some insider (Swagel points to some ideas) but not much like the research we get on central banks.

Actually what promoted me to write this post is this superb post from Tej Prakash of IMF.  he does provide some insights to above questions like:

While there is no standard model for the organizational structure of a MOF, it is generally agreed that there is a set of core tasks that any MOF should fulfill. This includes (1) budget formulation and implementation, (2) collection, custody, management, accounting, control and disbursement of public monies, (3) management of public assets and liabilities, (4) revenue and expenditure policy and management, and (5) design and implementation of macroeconomic and fiscal policies of  government. MOFs have also added many other tasks such as donor coordination, oversight of domestic financial markets (often by establishing regulatory bodies) [2], managing fiscal risks arising from various sources, financial oversight of public enterprises, and relations with international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF.

The organizational structure of MOFs is also linked to the political-economy and to the governance structure of the country. Countries with presidential or parliamentary systems will likely have different organizational roles and structures of the MOF

The MOF as an institution also reflects the historical legacy of countries. Many formerly colonized countries inherited the institutional systems of their former rulers.

In many small, developing countries MOFs have been struggling with the increased requirements of their core role as well as of more complex processes and other innovations. MOFs in such economies also lack professional staff in many skill areas, such as treasury management and accounting.

It then looks at some suggestions for small developing economies. Excellent stuff. I need to do some literature survey on this. Anybody knows of such research do let me know.

Innovations in Tennis

December 13, 2007

It is common to find research on various industrial and service sectors. However, it is rare to find reports on how sports industry has evolved and fared overtime.

I came across this note from Wharton which explains how innovations in Tennis have helped the sport grow. It is a fantastic note which analyses the developments in a pure economic framework. Highly recommended reading.

Great expectations and greater determination

July 3, 2007

In the last 4 days, I saw some super sporting stuff. It was a mix of both great expectations and greater determination. Let me begin with tennis first.

Y’day in Wimbledon,  Serena Williams played a super 4th round match against Daniela Hantuchova. Serena was down 5-2 in 2nd set and then made it 5-5 only to get massive cramps on her left leg. She could barely stand and for a person as fit as her to start crying must be a lot of pain.

She nevertheless did and managed to win her service game and the score was 6-6. Actually it was getting cloudy and rains could have come. Any other person would have quit but not Serena who stood and hoped rains to come. The rain gods did smile on her when the score was 4-2 in the tiebreak with Hantuchova leading.

SW came back, lost the 2nd set 7-6 and won the third set 6-2. It was an amazing display of determination amidst huge expectations. 

She said at the end of the match in press conference- I would have died for victory. You showed that SW…keep going.

Now Cricket.

After a long wait I can write on Sachin Tendulkar. I think has gone through a lot and has some determination to show he has some cricket left in him. After his super run in Ireland, he seems to be making a comeback of sorts despite all criticisms. It is too early to say whether he is back to his old-self but I have a different point to make. Apurv has a nice piece on the same.

ST has always carried enormous pressure on him rather too well till recently.  He couldn’t perform as consistently as he used to, which only showed he is human more than anything else. Sachin is always criticised for- not contributing much to India’s wins, way beyond his prime, etc etc.  

I however beg to differ. Statistics isn’t the only way of looking at things. As we learnt earlier, despite conventional thinking, financial globalisation isn’t beneficial when we look at the impact of capital flows on economic development. But as the authors pointed out it is indirect benefits (they call it collateral benefits) of financial globalization which is more beneficial- development of institutions, financial systems, better macro policies etc.  

Similarly, statistically Sachin’s record may not be as good as I would want it to be, but he has had a much well-rounded indirect effect on development and popularity of the game. Since, he started opening in ODIs against NZ on 27 Mar 1994, he has carried the hopes of the entire nation on his shoulders. Not just that, with top Indian cricketers embroiled in match fixing controversies, little support from the other players, he has performed time in time again. And he has been very consistent if you look at his career graph.

What are the indirect benefits? Well, India drives the entire revenues of the cricketing world and a dip in popularity of the game in India leads to huge losses for everybody associated with the game. The recent world cup is the recent and the best example of this.

So, for cricket to develop and continue to be popular, it is important Indian population is hooked to the game. And they would develop interest only if India continues to perform and that is what Sachin promised and delivered. People watched cricket as long as he was batting as there was hope. I am sure he would have many a matches for India if he got consistent support from the rest of the team. If it had not been Sachin, Indian cricket would have been like Indian hockey long time back. With Sachin not able to perform, we can see Indian cricket on the downhill.

It is sad that we don’t give this man the due he deserves. He has done much more for cricket than it shows in statistics. How much he loves the game and how much he wants to perform is shown by the fact that he is still there fighting all odds. I just wish he gets some good scores ahead, wins some matches for India and retires on a high.  He needs all the luck and support for his contribution to cricket. Keep going ST.

State of WI Cricket and innovation at Wimbledon

June 21, 2007

First read this good story on Wimbledon….The Centre Court is being revamped, it would be without its roof this year. They would also be using hawk-eye technology at Wimbledon this year.

Now for some Cricket. Here is another great discussion on what ails WI cricket. Sanjay Manjrekar has done a great job as a moderator. He discusses it with Michael Holding (MH) and David Lloyd (DL).

MH nails the root cause at its head. When asked what the real problem is he says:

You don’t have that as many people playing the game in the Caribbean now, it’s as simple as that. Years ago you had a lot of people playing cricket. Football was also a very popular sport and is still a very popular sport as far as participation is concerned. But the amount of people who would play cricket 30-40 years ago is probably 3-4 times the number who play now.

It is important for the administrators to put in the infrastructure and the facilities so that the people who want to play the game can easily access all the required facilities. There are so many other games that are easily accessible plus we are in the modern age of computers – kids just do what is easiest for them. There are basketball courts with lights all over the Caribbean. So the kids don’t have to worry about playing just during the days – they can come home from school or work and start playing. They don’t have to worry about preparing surfaces, making pitches, wearing special uniforms or buying any expensive equipment – it’s all ready for them. What the cricket administrators need to do is make cricket just as readily available as the other sports and distractions.

He also raises questions about lack of domestic cricket etc but I think most important is the one that people do not play cricket at all.

Then DL says not all is lost and there is a lot of hope:

I think you have to be radical. Infrastructure is always important, you need top administrators, it needs to be an attractive game, it needs to be accessible and yes, you certainly need icons for the youngsters to emulate. I am miles away from what goes on in West Indies cricket but I do know of a man who is passionate about West Indies cricket called Mr. [Allen]Stanford – and he has the money. I think if the administrators and the ex-players could put forward a plan from the West Indies Cricket Board stating where they are looking to be in 5 or 10 years time and present that to Mr. Stanford and say, ‘please, help us out,’ he may just get involved; because from what I can see he is really passionate about West Indies cricket ….

Who is Alen Stanford? He is the chairman of a Financial Services Powerhouse called Stanford Group. He is immensely interested as MH also points out but has been goven a cold shoulder from WI cricket board.

So the basic issue is you need to develop more interest towards cricket amongst local population. Why doesn’t that happen? Two things, one other sports have better facilities and two higher incentives present at other sports.

Now, both are equally important. In India for instance, cricket is hugely popular but because of poor infrastructure that cannot identify right players becomes a problem. How do you reconcile the fact that Chiarman of Selection committee says there is not enough talent and on the other side there are young players who are committing suicides for not getting a chance?

For better facilities you need more finance (Finance is important) and this Mr. Stanford can provide and then the incentives have to be altered so that the public becomes interested and the game becomes popular. And in teh meantime other institutional changes like having a better board, more local cricket etc need to be brought about.

For Mr. Stanford WI cricket is like a distressed asset but has immense potential. So like a private equity player he would go about making changes in the entire structure and clean up the slate and eventually make a gain.

It is akin to a growth and development problem which economists face and have to tackle with most of the time.

A great tennis match & Aussie fielding

June 11, 2007

I witnessed one of the finest tennis matches in a long time. Most would say it was Federer Vs Nadal Final at 2007 French open. Well in that case, they didn’t see the semi-final between Nadal and Djokovic. (Apurv does a nice commentary on the same)

The score-line does not suggest how tough and well-fought the match was but then statistics do lie. The Serbian is perhaps the most improved player in a year and was seeded 6th in the tournament. He simply gave Nadal a run for money and every shot was matched and there were long powerful rallies. I have never seen Nadal under so much pressure and on him winning this match, I knew he is the only winner.

Federer was struggling right through and I would say was lucky to make it to the finals (I know most people would call me insane for saying this) . Federer has set tall standards and he was playing no where near his tall standards and hence

Federer has developed such a reputation that most players loose their natural game when playing against him. Davydenko played so well in quarters to defeat Canas (he has defeated Federer twice this year and people were expecting a clash between Canas and Fed in Semis) and was never himself in semis against Fed. And this is what Nadal does the best against Fed, he plays his natural self.

Here is another interesting piece on Aussies cricket. Mike Young, the Australia fielding consultant has an interesting story in Cricinfo:

When I was appointed fielding consultant in 2000, Australia were the reigning world champions, and everyone was asking me, “How are you going to make these guys better?” I didn’t know much about cricket then, but I’ll tell you what: I was quite shocked at what I saw.

I don’t know about him, but I was definitely shocked as he goes on:

No one had any idea about fielding balance. They were diving around with flawed techniques, and wasting energy that they should have been conserving. There was so much diving and sliding going on, with people saying, “It’s a great fielding side”, and so on, but I’m thinking, “If you have to dive so much, it either means you aren’t quick enough to reach the ball, or you’re standing in the wrong position.”

And then one of his ideas:

Also, I saw fielders in the ring take five to 10 steps towards the batsman, which meant they were not at all balanced when the ball was played. Both feet weren’t together and steady; one foot was always in front of the other. It’s the worst way to be ready for a ball. So we worked on that. Now I see across the world, everybody is into the split step, and they’re more balanced when they face the ball. I’m very proud of that – we started it.

Read about what he suggests to Buchanan. But this omne takes the cake:

Overall, we’ve come a long way from 2000 but there’s still plenty that can be done.

I am not sure what to expect in future?But then this is true of all great sides. People associated with them always believe they still have a long way to go.  

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