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  • The Magic Number One

    Let's discuss Craig O'Shannessy's article, "The Magic Number One"

  • #2
    Now we are getting into the meat of it. Good stuff from Craig. These numbers and analysis are great. But the million dollar question is...What does it all mean? and the billion dollar question...What can we do about it?

    "Where do you want to spend your time? On the type of points that comprise one percent of match play, or on the type of points that comprise the majority?

    The implication of the evidence is shocking. The evidence clearly shows that our time on the practice court is misguide and not nearly as effective as it needs to be. The problem is we have no balance. We grind and slap groundstrokes around for hours, get exhausted and congratulate ourselves on how hard we are working.

    Meanwhile we don't spend anywhere near enough time on the serve and return, the two shots that determine the biggest percentage of points. The shared delusion is that groundstroke rallies are what matter the most. They don't."


    I've often wondered, thought and shared this view with fellow coaches, only to be laughed at and ridiculed because that thinking was not 'normal' and would not do any good in this 'modern' game of long rallies. Glad I'm not crazy, at least not on this subject.

    Practice does not make perfect. Perfect purposeful practice makes perfect.

    Must be required reading for coaches and players alike.

    Kyle LaCroix USPTA
    Boca Raton

    Comment


    • #3
      I like this analysis!

      Two more things really jump out from the data tables, though:

      1) In the mens' data, look at the big bump in 3 and 5 shot points versus 2, 4, and 6 shot points: this likely indicates that not only is the serve important for single-shot points (aces and serve winners), but a great serve sets up weak returns for 3-shot points and sets up a play pattern that has the ball coming back to the server (5-shot points: with the returner either turning the advantage or the server still maintaining the advantage). So the serve really is the most important stroke in the game, for aces & serve winners, but also for setting up play patterns. Hit those targets! (And also study patterns and your opponents' strengths and weaknesses...!)

      2) In the womens' data, we don't see much of any bump in the 3 and 5 shot points: the histogram is monotonically decreasing. (We can see a tiny bump in 3-shot rallies, as the count is very close to the 2-shot count, and 4-shot falls off proportionally more.) So it would seem that there is a significantly different dynamic in serving and returning at the men's Round of 16 level and above versus at the women's Round of 16 level. It would be an open question as to what underlies this and which is more applicable to the broader tennis population....

      BTW, my favorite way to practice serving is a "first three shots" drill: serve, return, and server hit; alternate serving after 4 or 8 'points'. This lets two players practice serving and returning.

      Thanks for an intriguing data set and analysis!
      -frank
      Last edited by faultsnaces; 07-06-2016, 05:55 AM.

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      • #4
        Agreed with the posts above and Craig's conclusions. The serve's importance and holding serve are probably already obvious to anyone who plays tennis, but the return surely must be one of the more underappreciated and underpracticed elements.

        On first reading of the article I was in disagreement with Craig until I realized he considers an ace "zero" hits, and a serve and return, whether the return is in or out, "one" hit. I'd probably add +1 to each of the data elements to recognize that the serve is a hit, especially since the data is being used to promote the importance of the serve.

        So, I'd contend that "Two" is the prime number.

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        • #5
          One imagines players have to do a given amount of monotone practice to improve the soundness of their game. There is practicing strokes via consistency and then there is playing points. When you watch the players practice on the practice courts at Wimbledon you witness both. First rallying and drilling followed up by playing points or set pieces. I have seen this first hand many times over with many of the world's best.

          I remember similar stats were taken many years ago and they were around the 3 or 4 hit mark. So the stats aren't knew in that sense.

          I have erred towards teaching my better juniors to return deep down the middle. The percentages of returns go up this way and it leaves them in good stead to start the rally. I believe Djokovic often returns as many as 68% of his returns down the middle third of the court. I found that an interesting stat.
          Stotty

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          • #6
            Another very interesting article, and another firm reminder of the importance of spending more time on serving and returning in practice. It would be great to have the same stats from juniors, say the U12's, to see how much difference there would be in rally length when the serve is not yet a big weapon. Maybe some surprises in those stats if we had them?

            That also brings about the implications of how you should be coaching younger junior players compared to older juniors. As Stotty rightly points out, even the top players are doing some monotonous hitting in their practice sessions, no doubt oiling key skills like split step timing, tracking the ball, hitting early ect.

            So there must be a ratio between more conventional drilling, and specific first 2-4 shots training. I'd imagine the ratio should be going up on the side of first 2-4 shots, as the players physically develop through the juniors. But perhaps even the top players aren't spending enough time on this?

            Comment


            • #7
              What would the averages look like on the clay courts of Roland Garros?

              Comment


              • #8
                Great question! I will see if I can get Craig to answer/

                Comment


                • #9
                  In answer to this comparison red clay and hard, here is some amazing data from Craig:

                  2016: Roland Garros vs US Open. The following data is for the entire tournament for MEN

                  0-4 Shots
                  • Roland Garros = 67%
                  • US Open = 68%

                  5-8 Shots
                  • Roland Garros = 21%
                  • US Open = 21%

                  9+ Shots
                  • Roland Garros = 12%
                  • US Open = 11%
                  As you can see, there is almost no difference in the metrics. Roland Garros and the US Open are actually very similar in so many ways with rally length.
                  2016: Roland Garros vs US Open. The following data is for the entire tournament for MEN

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                  • #10
                    hehe, bumping an old article... cuz i'm late to the game :P
                    but the data has transformed the way i practice... i used to hunt down anyone/everyone to grind out 1-2hr rally from the baseline type practice...
                    nowadays i'd say i spend 60-70% of my practice time practicing serving, serving+1; 10% on returns
                    good news: much easier to "schedule" practice... since it's solo
                    bad news: it's boring as hell! but i've definitely made huge gains, and have recently beaten some 5.0's on the strength of holding serve alone (i'm a 4.5) - both sets, took them to a tiebreak (despite being a little guy 5'4", i felt like isner/ivo :P)... it's amazing how much pressure it puts on folks when you're able to hold easily. basically gives me the confidence to play aggressively on returns, take chances guessing on returns, etc... only takes a couple good guesses sometimes, even against a good server

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Sorry for the longish post but this has been on my mind for a few weeks and I am so GLAD that this suddenly popped up.

                      I have been in a bit of a dilemma with my daughter. In Texas, we have three levels of junior tennis, challengers, champs and super champs. She recently made it to the champ level but just wasn't gaining much traction. In fact, she seemed to do worse and worse in tournaments.

                      At the behest of my wife, I decided to "not throw my daughter to the wolves without proper preparation." So I went back to O'Shaughnessy's old 25 rules of singles and a more recent junior development piece. In the end, it became clear to me that my daughter was losing because better players serve better and return better. Since we were working so much on her strokes, we stopped working on the basics of serving and returning.

                      So practice now is a bit of warmup with maybe working shortly on a specific stroke that might need tweaking. Then it is serve and return practice. I run all drills with either a serve or a return. If she is going to work on approaching the net then we start with a serve or a return. So basically do the same drills but always start with a serve or return for her. It's a big leap and I am nervous but preliminary data suggests that it has changed her game.

                      Yesterday, she beat a girl on her team in the finals of the junior high district tournament. This same girl had beaten her twice last year, . It was a nail biter (as it always is for parents). But the points were all really short. I want to say maybe two points over 5 shots. Most were 0-4 shots.

                      My jaw dropped because last year my daughter would have been much safer and played long rallies at which point she was not sure what to do but just get balls in. Yesterday, the points were much shorter but she won. It almost seems like cheating and from my point of view less of a struggle and more like surgery.

                      Just play the percentages of putting pressure with a serve or a return and then wash and repeat.

                      I can also see the value of the defensive serve +1 in the women's game. If a girl can neutralize the big return, then her chances of winning the point go way up. A couple of times my daughter did this and it got her the point.

                      The returner just hit a big shot and the ball comes back. Now what?

                      Very counterintuitive indeed!

                      I had two questions:

                      1) Anybody else find this unnerving. I mean, could it really be, that people spend too much time just hitting? I grew up hitting so many balls and it seems like what I most love about tennis. Hearing people hitting balls and rallying.

                      2) What about all those patterns that George Zink has? I have thought about starting every one of those patterns with a serve and return. Would that be more efficient?

                      Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
                      Last edited by arturohernandez; 04-04-2019, 11:17 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by arturohernandez View Post
                        Sorry for the longish post but this has been on my mind for a few weeks and I am so GLAD that this suddenly popped up.

                        I have been in a bit of a dilemma with my daughter. In Texas, we have three levels of junior tennis, challengers, champs and super champs. She recently made it to the champ level but just wasn't gaining much traction. In fact, she seemed to do worse and worse in tournaments.

                        At the behest of my wife, I decided to "not throw my daughter to the wolves without proper preparation." So I went back to O'Shaughnessy's old 25 rules of singles and a more recent junior development piece. In the end, it became clear to me that my daughter was losing because better players serve better and return better. Since we were working so much on her strokes, we stopped working on the basics of serving and returning.

                        So practice now is a bit of warmup with maybe working shortly on a specific stroke that might need tweaking. Then it is serve and return practice. I run all drills with either a serve or a return. If she is going to work on approaching the net then we start with a serve or a return. So basically do the same drills but always start with a serve or return for her. It's a big leap and I am nervous but preliminary data suggests that it has changed her game.

                        Yesterday, she beat a girl on her team that had beater her twice last year, in the finals of the junior high district tournament. It was a nail biter (as it always is for parents). But the points were all really short. I want to say maybe two points over 5 shots. Most were 0-4 shots.

                        My jaw dropped because last year my daughter would have been much safer and played long rallies at which point she was not sure what to do but just get balls in. Yesterday, the points were much shorter but she won. It almost seems like cheating and from my point of view less of a struggle and more like surgery.

                        Just play the percentages of putting pressure with a serve or a return and then wash and repeat.

                        I can also see the value of the defensive serve +1 in the women's game. If a girl can neutralize the big return, then her chances of winning the point go way up. A couple of times my daughter did this and it got her the point.

                        The returner just hit a big shot and the ball comes back. Now what?

                        Very counterintuitive indeed!

                        I had two questions:

                        1) Anybody else find this unnerving. I mean, could it really be, that people spend too much time just hitting? I grew up hitting so many balls and it seems like what I most love about tennis. Hearing people hitting balls and rallying.

                        2) What about all those patterns that George Zink has? I have thought about starting every one of those patterns with a serve and return. Would that be more efficient?

                        Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
                        Her practice should at some point become at least 80% to 90% playing sets. Sure practice the serve...perhaps 30 or 40 serves a day. But playing tournament tennis is quite different that "working on strokes". In order to compete you must practice competing. The best way to do that is to practice playing matches. She will find her strokes in this process much faster than "working on strokes". Things change once you begin to keep score. Mentally.
                        don_budge
                        Performance Analysthttps://www.tennisplayer.net/bulleti...ilies/cool.png

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by arturohernandez View Post
                          Sorry for the longish post but this has been on my mind for a few weeks and I am so GLAD that this suddenly popped up.

                          I have been in a bit of a dilemma with my daughter. In Texas, we have three levels of junior tennis, challengers, champs and super champs. She recently made it to the champ level but just wasn't gaining much traction. In fact, she seemed to do worse and worse in tournaments.

                          At the behest of my wife, I decided to "not throw my daughter to the wolves without proper preparation." So I went back to O'Shaughnessy's old 25 rules of singles and a more recent junior development piece. In the end, it became clear to me that my daughter was losing because better players serve better and return better. Since we were working so much on her strokes, we stopped working on the basics of serving and returning.

                          So practice now is a bit of warmup with maybe working shortly on a specific stroke that might need tweaking. Then it is serve and return practice. I run all drills with either a serve or a return. If she is going to work on approaching the net then we start with a serve or a return. So basically do the same drills but always start with a serve or return for her. It's a big leap and I am nervous but preliminary data suggests that it has changed her game.

                          Yesterday, she beat a girl on her team that had beater her twice last year, in the finals of the junior high district tournament. It was a nail biter (as it always is for parents). But the points were all really short. I want to say maybe two points over 5 shots. Most were 0-4 shots.

                          My jaw dropped because last year my daughter would have been much safer and played long rallies at which point she was not sure what to do but just get balls in. Yesterday, the points were much shorter but she won. It almost seems like cheating and from my point of view less of a struggle and more like surgery.

                          Just play the percentages of putting pressure with a serve or a return and then wash and repeat.

                          I can also see the value of the defensive serve +1 in the women's game. If a girl can neutralize the big return, then her chances of winning the point go way up. A couple of times my daughter did this and it got her the point.

                          The returner just hit a big shot and the ball comes back. Now what?

                          Very counterintuitive indeed!

                          I had two questions:

                          1) Anybody else find this unnerving. I mean, could it really be, that people spend too much time just hitting? I grew up hitting so many balls and it seems like what I most love about tennis. Hearing people hitting balls and rallying.

                          2) What about all those patterns that George Zink has? I have thought about starting every one of those patterns with a serve and return. Would that be more efficient?

                          Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
                          that's been 100% my experience...
                          i used to drill mindlessly from the baseline (fh/fh, bh/bh)... and the goal in sets, was to neutralize and "just kick it to the bh", so i can get into the longer bh/bh or fh/bh rallies, and wait for an error.
                          but what i eventually noticed is that i'd make errs on the "awkward" balls, ie. chip/shank returns... anything i had to move up to (even "sitters"), or had to move slightly back for., or if i was in NML after the serve, etc...
                          but now i'm spending more time on serve, returns, and serve+1, and found myself making less errors, and dictating the first 1-4 shots from the start (allowing me to come in, and finish at the net). nowadays i eschew the long rallies, and spend way more time taking care of the first 4 shots.

                          i still do spend time building up my shot tolerance (eg. cc fh/fh, fh/bh, bh/bh.. coop neutral ball rallies to 100, etc... but i do less of it... because those rallies tend to give me a "normal" ball (ie. a ball i like to hit) more often than not, but i really need to practice the "awkward balls" - eg. balls hit short, or shanked high and deep, etc...

                          i like the zink patterns... used to practice them before coming on here and seeing them as "zink patterns"... helps practice/anticipate the likely/natural shot patterns... which force them to change patterns, hopefully causing more errors (eg. riskier shots), etc.. in general i want to be really good at beating the plain vanilla patterns before trying to beat the "really good" players that can easily break the pattern(s).

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by don_budge View Post

                            Her practice should at some point become at least 80% to 90% playing sets. Sure practice the serve...perhaps 30 or 40 serves a day. But playing tournament tennis is quite different that "working on strokes". In order to compete you must practice competing. The best way to do that is to practice playing matches. She will find her strokes in this process much faster than "working on strokes". Things change once you begin to keep score. Mentally.
                            hehe, i've been hitting 120ish serves, daily... too much? tweaked my neck the other day with 2x 200 serve sessions... so that's definitely too much... and noticed a decline in rhs/serve speed when i serve too much.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by nytennisaddict View Post

                              hehe, i've been hitting 120ish serves, daily... too much? tweaked my neck the other day with 2x 200 serve sessions... so that's definitely too much... and noticed a decline in rhs/serve speed when i serve too much.
                              But couldn't one also practice slow serving. Not so much for pace but just for rhythm. There is the idea of slow practice or even the idea of visualizing the serve. I know that some people (Ben Hogan, I think) swear by slow rhythmic practice to save the body but allow more reps.

                              Interesting experience with serve and serve +1. I am curious what it will yield over time.

                              Comment

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