Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rally Lengths, 2012 Roland Garros Round One

I often chart matches. Among the things I chart are rally length. I've never seen that stat among the ATP or WTA tour stats. Until today. The French Open site has rally length leaders (they don't seem to be aggregating unforced errors any more--boo!).

Here are the longest rallies through the first round for the men:

Here are the longest women's rallies from the first round:
The men's rallies were longer than the women's. That surprised me, but perhaps it shouldn't have. People have been telling me for years now that the women hit the ball lower and flatter than the men. Those shot characteristics should lead to shorter rallies. So perhaps those people are right.

In my charting I almost never see rallies of thirty shots. Twenty shot rallies are even pretty rare. I'm charting hard court matches while the above stats are from clay, but these are in the ballpark of what I see.

So, does it make sense to practice hitting fifty balls in a row, or a thousand? I think not. It makes sense to over train a bit, it's unlikely that any player will have to hit more than fifteen shots in a tennis point. Training beyond this is a waste of time, in my opinion.

Better to train players to see openings or to create them with their shots. Better to train players to be patient, but to recognize balls that they can hurt their opponents with.

Warming up with extended rally drills probably makes sense. But after the warm up, get after training players to play points.

P.S. If you don't want to play long points, you'd better hope you don't draw Lleyton Hewitt or Gilles Simon.

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