Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Shot Charts

I'm curious about what sorts of shots players hit, the ball speeds and spins, the heights over the net, the depth, where they contact the ball, is the ball rising or falling into their strike zones, are they hitting near the lines, aiming for backhands, and on and on.

My friend Brian Gordon is interested in how players hit the ball, their mechanics.

Mine is a distal focus. His is a proximal focus. I've written about the distinction (see here and here). Shot charts are part of the distal picture. I just came across some more shot charts today watching Nadal vs Kukushkin from Monte Carlo. The Tennis Channel was kind enough to put up a couple. I paused my DVR and took some pictures.

Here is Rafa's first set shot chart:

And here is the same thing for Kukushkin:

It's a bit hard to see, but the little dots are colored red, yellow, and green. The red dot means the ball had 3,000 rpm or more. The yellow dot means the ball had from 1,500 to 3,000 rpm. The green dot means the ball had less than 1,500 rpm.

I see only a couple of red dots for Kukushkin and a couple of green dots for Nadal. Rafa's diagram is red and yellow. Kukushkin's is yellow and green. Not surprisingly Nadal won the set 6-1. Spin to win. They said that Rafa's average spin rate was 3,200 rpm. Kukushkin's was probably half that.

For comparison I'll repost a shot location chart I made from a point Borg and Vilas played in the 1970s at the French Open.

As an old-timer who was told to keep the ball deep, I'm fascinated by how many balls all four players hit that landed in the vicinity of the service line and how few balls landed near the baseline.

Safety appears to be a higher priority than depth.

Also of note is that maybe with the exception of Vilas's shots (the top of the chart above), the balls rarely landed in a semi-circle behind the T. That's referred to as the semi-circle of death. If you're playing a good player on clay it looks like a good idea to avoid that area.

However, I know some pretty good players who wear that area out and dare people to beat them. Those players don't play on tour, to be sure, but they play at a pretty high level. I used to think hitting the ball near the T was tennis suicide. I'm no longer of that opinion. Depending upon how well you run and defend, you may be able to survive against a lot of players hitting the ball into the safe middle of the court.

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