Righties and Lefties in the Deuce and Ad Courts

Taking the next step beyond yesterday’s post about servers’ success rates in the deuce and ad courts, along with each in-game score, let’s look at the tendencies of righties and lefties.

As I speculated yesterday, righties are more successful in the deuce court (64.0% to 62.3% of points won), while lefties are better serving to the ad court (63.0% to 62.3%).  The difference for lefties is a little more dramatic (62.8% to 61.8%) if we remove Rafael Nadal from the sample.

(In all of the numbers today, I’ll present lefties in two forms: with Nadal, and without Nadal.  While Rafa is just one player, he makes up nearly one-third of the service points played by lefties in the dataset we’re working with of 2011 grand slam men’s singles matches tracked by Pointstream.  As we’ll see, Nadal appears to have some tendencies that separate him from the lefty pack.)

This would seem to give lefties a bit of a strategic edge; more than three-quarters of break points are played in the ad court, including all of the break points (30-40, 40-AD) that bring the server back to even.  If lefties are more likely to win those points, they would seem to be more likely to fend off such threats.  Of course, it might cut both ways: A weakness in the deuce court may lead to more break points needing to be fended off.

Oddly enough, lefties do not seem to employ their advantage at the most common break point score, 30-40.  Both righties and lefties win 30-40 points at about 6% less frequently than they win points in general.  The most marked difference is at 40-AD, where righties win 10% fewer points than average, but lefties win only 3% fewer points than average.  Rafa accounts for a big part of that difference, probably attesting to his mental strength.  Without Rafa, lefties win 6% fewer points than average at 40-AD; still quite a bit better than righties.

(Remember, there’s a bias inherent in this approach.  If a server reaches 40-AD, the score itself reflects a disadvantage.  Federer and Isner don’t serve many 40-AD points, precisely because their serves are so dominant.  Verdasco, Fognini, and whoever is playingDjokovic serve more 30-40 and 40-AD points, meaning that the sample of 40-AD is disproportionately full of men serving against the odds.)

There’s much more to do here, but in the meantime, these broad differences between righties and lefties give us plenty to think about.

The table below shows all the numbers described above.  The columns with numbers between 0.85 and 1.1 indicates, for each type of server (righty, lefty, etc.), how their performance at a specific point compares to their overall rate.  That allows us to better compare righties (winners of 63.1% of service points) with lefties-minus-Nadal (winners of 62.3%).

SCORE    WIN%       RH               LH            LH-xRN          
ALL     62.9%    63.1%            62.7%             62.3%          
DC CT   63.5%    64.0%   1.01     62.3%   0.99      61.8%   0.99   
AD CT   62.3%    62.3%   0.99     63.0%   1.00      62.8%   1.01   

SCORE    WIN%       RH               LH            LH-xRN          
g0-0    63.4%    63.5%   1.01     63.5%   1.01      63.1%   1.01   
g0-15   60.6%    60.8%   0.96     59.5%   0.95      59.5%   0.96   
g0-30   62.0%    62.6%   0.99     59.4%   0.95      60.6%   0.97   
g0-40   54.8%    54.1%   0.86     56.3%   0.90      54.6%   0.88   

g15-0   63.8%    63.7%   1.01     65.3%   1.04      64.8%   1.04   
g15-15  63.4%    63.8%   1.01     59.5%   0.95      59.6%   0.96   
g15-30  60.1%    60.2%   0.95     60.6%   0.97      61.4%   0.99   
g15-40  61.2%    61.5%   0.98     58.2%   0.93      58.3%   0.94   

SCORE    WIN%       RH               LH            LH-xRN          
g30-0   64.9%    65.0%   1.03     64.1%   1.02      63.0%   1.01   
g30-15  62.7%    62.5%   0.99     65.7%   1.05      65.7%   1.05   
g30-30  64.0%    64.3%   1.02     62.5%   1.00      60.9%   0.98   
g30-40  59.3%    59.2%   0.94     58.6%   0.94      59.3%   0.95   

g40-0   67.1%    66.8%   1.06     67.0%   1.07      65.1%   1.05   
g40-15  65.6%    66.0%   1.05     62.5%   1.00      61.6%   0.99   
g40-30  63.7%    63.6%   1.01     67.0%   1.07      65.6%   1.05   
g40-40  61.6%    61.9%   0.98     61.4%   0.98      62.2%   1.00   
g40-AD  57.8%    57.0%   0.90     60.5%   0.97      58.7%   0.94   
gAD-40  62.3%    62.4%   0.99     59.7%   0.95      61.4%   0.99
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1 Comment

Filed under Research

One response to “Righties and Lefties in the Deuce and Ad Courts

  1. Jovan

    Very interesting, as always! Thank you for doing this work.

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