© Peter Staples / ATP World Tour

Dominic Thiem, like some of his Top 10 peers, breaks more frequently from the ad court than the deuce court.

This Top 10 Duo Makes Return Numbers Add Up

Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers reveals which two Top 10 players convert significantly more break points from the Ad court and why returning serve should be an integral part of every practice plan

The growth of match analytics in tennis provides us with new insights into what actually matters to winning. It also helps us better organise the practise court at all levels of the game.

Forehands and backhands typically dominate practice, as shot tolerance and repetition are developed. Serving also gets attention, as does transitioning to the net to finish with volleys and overheads.

What gets left behind? The return of serve.

The return of serve is without doubt the least practised shot in tennis, but it is a trademark of the best players in the game. There is a disconnect between how often this specific shot is practised, and how obviously important it is to winning tennis matches.

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An Infosys ATP Beyond The Numbers analysis of the current Top 10 players identifies the return of serve – particularly in the ad court – as something that should take much more of the spotlight on the practice court.

In the 2017 season leading into Roland Garros, more than three out of four break points were competed in the ad court by the Top 10.

  • Ad Court Break Points = 76%

  • Deuce Court Break Points = 24%

It stands to reason that these metrics should directly be reflected on the practice court. They are clearly not. When returns are being practised, players all over the world naturally gravitate to where games begin – in the deuce court.

Top 10 2017 Season: Break Points Won Receiving in the Deuce Court / Ad Court

#

Player

Deuce Court Won

Deuce Court Total

Deuce Court %

Ad Court Won

Ad Court Total

Ad Court %

1

Andy Murray

22

41

53.7%

65

142

45.8%

2

Novak Djokovic

25

49

51.0%

57

126

45.2%

3

Stan Wawrinka

17

50

34.0%

59

161

36.6%

4

Rafael Nadal

28

77

36.4%

114

270

42.2%

5

Roger Federer

19

40

47.5%

52

124

41.9%

6

Milos Raonic

15

32

46.9%

40

104

38.5%

7

Dominic Thiem

24

68

35.3%

105

231

45.5%

8

Marin Cilic

12

45

26.7%

54

162

33.3%

9

Kei Nishikori

22

59

37.3%

81

176

46.0%

10

Alexander Zverev

18

51

35.3%

80

163

49.1%

 

TOTAL

202

512

39.5%

707

1659

42.6%

Six out of the Top 10 have a superior win percentage returning in the ad court compared to the deuce court. Kei Nishikori's break point conversion is 8.7 points better on the ad court (46%) than the deuce court (37.3). But two players do more than 10 percentage points better in the ad court.

Dominic Thiem, who has earned more break point chances this year than any other player except Rafael Nadal, converts a satisfactory 35.3 per cent of break chances in the deuce court, but that increases to an impressive 45.5 per cent in the ad court.

#NextGenATP star Alexander Zverev leads the way in 2017, converting 49.1 per cent of his break points in the ad court – a 13.8 percentage point increase over his deuce court average.

Zverev won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Rome last month, playing 83 per cent (35/42) of his break points when returning in the ad court. He converted 46 per cent (16/35) in the ad court, and 43 per cent (3/7) in the deuce court.

World No. 1 Andy Murray leads the Top 10 in break points won from the deuce court in 2017, winning 53.7 per cent (22/41), with Rafael Nadal seeing the most (77), and winning 36.4 per cent (28/77) of them.

Infosys Nia Data identified that the Top 10 on average perform better on break points when returning from the Ad court.

  • Ad Court: Break Points Converted = 42.6%

  • Deuce Court: Break Points Converted = 39.5%

These numbers are significant for players at all levels of the game. We would be wise to substitute endless grinding with more return work, particularly in the ad court.

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