Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Every Game Went to Deuce

"I lost 6-0, 6-1, but every game went to deuce."

You got crushed.

Just because every game went to deuce doesn't mean the match was close. It's conceivable it was close, but very, very unlikely. Let's have a look.

If literally every game went to deuce, the minimum number of points per game would be eight, five for the winner and three for the loser. The winner won twelve games (sixty points) and lost one (three points) for a total of sixty-three points. The loser lost twelve games (thirty-six points) and won one (five points) for a total of forty-one points.

So the match consisted of a minimum of sixty-three plus forty-one points. One hundred four points total. The difference between the two players was twenty-two points (sixty-three minus forty-one). Is a twenty-two point margin over one hundred four points significant? You bet it is.

Ask Enrico Fermi, Nobel Prize winning physicist and tennis player. Fermi would not accept that he was the lesser player unless the difference between his games won and his opponent's games won was greater than the square root of the total games played. So a 6-3 set loss was not conclusive evidence that he was the lesser player since the square root of nine is exactly three.

In the above scenario, the Fermi criterion is amply satisfied. The two players played thirteen games. The square root of thirteen is about 3.6. The difference in games was eleven. A crushing. The winner is the better player according to Fermi.

Using points rather than games the result is the same. Total points played was one hundred four. The square root of one hundred four is just over ten. The twenty-two point margin more than doubles the square root of the total games played.

A beating.

My guess is when you hear someone say "every game went to deuce" it's more likely that not every game went to deuce than that any single game lasted more than ten or twelve points.

If every game went to twelve points (three deuces), the total margin of victory remains twenty-two points, but the total points climbs to one hundred fifty-six. The square root of one hundred fifty-six is only about 12.5. The twenty-two point margin still far, far exceeds the square root of the total.

Now if every game consisted of forty-four points or more, the 6-0, 6-1 match could have actually been competitive by the Fermi standard. Have you every played a forty-four point game? I haven't. And I'm fifty years old.

So if you get beat 6-0, 6-1 and every game went to deuce you got crushed. Enrico Fermi and everyone else says so.

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