Category Archives: Mardy Fish

Daniel Brands and Ace Records in Context

In the Vienna round of 16 last week, Juan Martin Del Potro beat Daniel Brands in a three-set, three-tiebreak match.  The courts are fast, Delpo serves big, and apparently Brands has quite the weapon of his own, as both players hit at least 30 aces.  Brands hit 32.

We can’t help but be impressed at the sheer numbers.  As it turns out, it’s an ATP first, at least since 1991, when the ATP started keeping such stats.  Never before had both players hit at least 30 aces in a three-set match.

Here are the top nine matches in the ATP record books, in which both servers reached a certain ace milestone:

minAces  Winner                 Loser              Year  Event               Surface  Score                 wAces  lAces  
30       Juan Martin Del Potro  Daniel Brands      2012  Vienna              Hard     6-7(5) 7-6(4) 7-6(6)     30     32  
29       John Isner             Gilles Muller      2010  Atlanta             Hard     4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(7)        33     29  
28       Andrei Pavel           Gregory Carraz     2005  Milan               Carpet   7-6(0) 6-7(5) 7-6(3)     28     33  
25       Greg Rusedski          Joachim Johansson  2004  Moscow              Carpet   7-6(5) 6-7(1) 7-6(7)     25     26  
25       Arnaud Clement         Thomas Johansson   2008  Cincinnati Masters  Hard     7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-3        25     28  
24       Mark Philippoussis     Greg Rusedski      2002  Queen's Club        Grass    6-7(1) 7-6(3) 7-6(5)     25     24  
24       Joachim Johansson      Kristof Vliegen    2006  Stockholm           Hard     6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-6(7)     24     24  
24       Andy Roddick           Ivo Karlovic       2009  Queen's Club        Grass    7-6(4) 7-6(5)            24     26  
24       Richard Gasquet        Joachim Johansson  2009  Kuala Lumpur        Hard     4-6 7-6(1) 6-2           26     24

(There are several matches in which both players hit 23, including two on clay, both from 2011: Isner/Karlovic in Houston, and Federer/Feliciano Lopez in Madrid.  Both went to three tiebreaks.)

Aces in a losing effort

Even independent of Del Potro's 30 aces, it stands out that Brands racked up 32 aces in a best-of-three losing effort.  But that's not a record--it ties him for 16th of all time with several others, including Sam Querrey, Milos Raonic, Ivo Karlovic, and Goran Ivanisevic, who did it twice.

Mardy Fish may not be proud of this record, but he simply blows away the rest of the field, having served past the eminently ace-able Olivier Rochus 43 times despite losing to the Belgian.  Though Karlovic may not sit atop the list, he makes up for it by dominating the middle.

lAces  Winner              Loser             Year  Event             Surface  Score                  wAces  
43     Olivier Rochus      Mardy Fish        2007  Lyon              Carpet   6-7(5) 7-6(6) 7-6(15)      2  
37     Yevgeny Kafelnikov  Alexander Waske   2002  Tashkent          Hard     6-7(6) 7-6(5) 7-6(6)      10  
35     Pete Sampras        Goran Ivanisevic  1996  Tour Finals       Carpet   6-7(6) 7-6(4) 7-5         17  
35     Andy Roddick        Feliciano Lopez   2011  Queen's Club      Grass    7-6(2) 6-7(5) 6-4         15  
35     Feliciano Lopez     Ivo Karlovic      2004  Madrid Masters    Hard     6-4 6-7(10) 7-6(5)         8  
35     Yen Hsun Lu         Ivo Karlovic      2012  Queen's Club      Grass    6-7(3) 7-6(6) 7-6(7)       6  
35     Rafael Nadal        Ivo Karlovic      2008  Queen's Club      Grass    6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-6(4)       6  
35     Arnaud Clement      Ivo Karlovic      2004  's-Hertogenbosch  Grass    7-6(8) 6-7(5) 6-3          2  
34     Thomas Johansson    Ivan Ljubicic     2002  Canada Masters    Hard     4-6 6-4 7-6(6)            17  
34     Lars Burgsmuller    Wayne Arthurs     2006  Tokyo             Hard     6-7(5) 7-6(7) 7-6(3)      10  
34     Richey Reneberg     Richard Krajicek  1997  Halle             Grass    4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(6)          6

Total aces in a single match

If there has never been a match in which both players hit 30 aces, a match total of 62 aces must be pretty impressive, right?

Indeed it is.  Del Potro and Brands are now tied for the record, initially set by John Isner and Gilles Muller two years ago in Atlanta.  It's only the fourth time that two players have combined for 60 or more aces in a best-of-three contest.

totAces  Winner                 Loser             Year  Event               Surface  Score                 wAces  lAces  
62       Juan Martin Del Potro  Daniel Brands     2012  Vienna              Hard     6-7(5) 7-6(4) 7-6(6)     30     32  
62       John Isner             Gilles Muller     2010  Atlanta             Hard     4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(7)        33     29  
61       Andrei Pavel           Gregory Carraz    2005  Milan               Carpet   7-6(0) 6-7(5) 7-6(3)     28     33  
60       Goran Ivanisevic       Magnus Norman     1997  Zagreb              Carpet   7-6(5) 6-7(4) 7-5        40     20  
58       Frank Dancevic         Peter Wessels     2007  Stockholm           Hard     6-1 6-7(7) 7-6(6)        35     23  
55       Jan Michael Gambill    Wayne Arthurs     2002  San Jose            Hard     7-5 6-7(5) 7-6(4)        22     33  
55       Bohdan Ulihrach        Goran Ivanisevic  1999  Rotterdam           Carpet   6-7(6) 7-6(3) 7-5        23     32  
53       Andy Roddick           Wayne Arthurs     2006  Memphis             Hard     6-7(4) 7-6(9) 7-6(2)     20     33  
53       Andy Roddick           Sam Querrey       2010  San Jose            Hard     2-6 7-6(5) 7-6(4)        21     32  
53       Arnaud Clement         Thomas Johansson  2008  Cincinnati Masters  Hard     7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-3        25     28  
53       Joachim Johansson      Gregory Carraz    2004  Canada Masters      Hard     7-6(4) 6-7(3) 7-6(4)     30     23

The higher bar of ace rate

If you want to set a record in a best-of-three-sets match, getting to those three tiebreaks is a good idea.  The more points you play, the more likely you'll hit more aces, as evidenced by Fish's losing performance, where he not only reached three tiebreaks, but played at least twelve points in each one!

For greater context, we should open up the field to all matches regardless of length, and compare them by ace rate.

Del Potro's 30 aces came in 125 service points, for an ace rate of 24%.  Brands hit 32 in 131, for an ace ate of 24.4%.  It's not often that one player (not named Isner, anyway) hits nearly one-quarter of his serves for aces, so it is particularly unusual for both players to do so.

In all tour-level matches (including grand slams) since 1991, a minimum ace rate of 24.0% is only good for 17th.  Andy Roddick was particularly adept at bringing about these kinds of matches, appearing in 6 of the top 11 on this list:

minA%  Winner            Loser              Year  Event            Surface  Score                wA%    lA%  
33.3%  Andy Roddick      Ivo Karlovic       2009  Queen's Club     Grass    7-6(4) 7-6(5)      33.3%  35.1%  
29.8%  Mikhail Youzhny   Ivan Ljubicic      2007  Rotterdam        Hard     6-2 6-4            29.8%  29.8%  
29.2%  Gregory Carraz    Martin Verkerk     2004  Milan            Carpet   6-3 7-6(3)         30.4%  29.2%  
27.3%  Goran Ivanisevic  Boris Becker       1996  Antwerp          Carpet   6-4 7-6(5)         30.8%  27.3%  
27.1%  John Isner        Gilles Muller      2010  Atlanta          Hard     4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(7)  27.5%  27.1%  
27.0%  Robin Soderling   Andy Roddick       2008  Lyon             Carpet   7-6(5) 7-6(5)      27.0%  27.2%  
26.7%  Janko Tipsarevic  Peter Luczak       2010  s-Hertogenbosch  Grass    6-3 6-3            26.7%  27.1%  
26.1%  Andy Roddick      Gilles Muller      2008  Memphis          Hard     6-4 7-6(4)         27.4%  26.1%  
25.4%  Andy Roddick      Joachim Johansson  2004  San Jose         Hard     6-3 7-6(7)         36.5%  25.4%  
25.4%  Andy Roddick      Nicolas Mahut      2008  Lyon             Carpet   7-6(5) 6-4         29.0%  25.4%  
25.3%  Andy Roddick      Feliciano Lopez    2008  Dubai            Hard     6-7(8) 6-4 6-2     26.2%  25.3%

Ace rate in a losing effort

While losers rarely hit as many aces as Brands did last week, losers often hit aces at a much higher rate.  Brands doesn't register anywhere near the top of this all-time list.

Think of it this way: The shorter the match, the more likely a player will do something off-the-charts, rate-wise.  Karlovic tops this list, with 28 aces in his 70 service points.  Brands didn't maintain anywhere near the same rate that Ivo did, but Brands did have to hit nearly twice as many serves!  Had Karlovic continued for 61 more serves, he probably would've done better than 24.4%, but it is very unlikely he would have continued at a 4-in-10 pace.

This is also a reason why we haven't seen many best-of-five matches on the ace-rate leaderboards.  Even if one player is acing like a madman while quickly losing, he still has to keep up the pace for three sets.

lA%    Winner              Loser               Year  Event               Surface  Score                     lAces  
40.0%  Florent Serra       Ivo Karlovic        2009  Basel               Hard     7-6(5) 6-4                   28  
37.5%  Alex Obrien         Mark Philippoussis  1996  Cincinnati Masters  Hard     6-4 6-4                      21  
36.6%  Thomas Johansson    Ivan Ljubicic       2002  Canada Masters      Hard     4-6 6-4 7-6(6)               34  
35.8%  Richey Reneberg     Richard Krajicek    1997  Halle               Grass    4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(6)            34  
35.1%  Andy Roddick        Ivo Karlovic        2009  Queen's Club        Grass    7-6(4) 7-6(5)                26  
34.8%  Paul Henri Mathieu  Ivo Karlovic        2009  Cincinnati Masters  Hard     7-6(9) 6-4                   23  
34.8%  Paul Henri Mathieu  Chris Guccione      2008  Adelaide            Hard     4-6 6-3 6-4                  24  
34.2%  Andre Agassi        Joachim Johansson   2005  Australian Open     Hard     6-7(4) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 6-4     51  
33.8%  Jonas Bjorkman      Mark Philippoussis  2002  Memphis             Hard     7-6(6) 7-6(1)                26  
33.3%  Thomas Johansson    Wayne Arthurs       2001  Nottingham          Grass    7-6(3) 7-6(3)                24  
33.3%  Yevgeny Kafelnikov  Marc Rosset         2002  Marseille           Hard     6-3 7-6(5)                   19  
33.3%  Andre Agassi        Goran Ivanisevic    1994  Vienna              Carpet   6-4 6-4                      19

Combined ace rate

As you might have guessed by now, 24% isn't going to be good enough to crack this final all-time list.  Roddick, Karlovic, and Mark Philippousis simply played too many matches to allow that to happen.

Indeed, the Brands/Del Potro combined rate of 24.2% isn't even close to the top of this list.  To show up here, it's necessary to come within an ace or two of the 30% mark.  With Andy's retirement and Ivo's decline, this leaderboard looks particularly safe at the moment.

totA%  Winner              Loser              Year  Event                 Surface  Score          totAces    wA%    lA%  
34.2%  Andy Roddick        Ivo Karlovic       2009  Queen's Club          Grass    7-6(4) 7-6(5)       50  33.3%  35.1%  
31.6%  Andy Roddick        Thomas Johansson   2004  Bangkok               Hard     6-3 6-4             31  38.2%  23.3%  
31.6%  Andy Roddick        Joachim Johansson  2004  San Jose              Hard     6-3 7-6(7)          42  36.5%  25.4%  
31.6%  Martin Verkerk      Thomas Enqvist     2003  Milan                 Carpet   6-3 6-4             30  46.0%  15.6%  
30.6%  Robin Soderling     Gregory Carraz     2004  Marseille             Hard     6-3 6-4             30  42.6%  19.6%  
30.4%  Jonathan Stark      Goran Ivanisevic   1997  Indian Wells Masters  Hard     7-5 6-3             34  37.7%  23.7%  
29.9%  Mark Philippoussis  Lionel Roux        1996  Paris Masters         Carpet   6-4 6-4             35  49.1%  11.7%  
29.8%  Mikhail Youzhny     Ivan Ljubicic      2007  Rotterdam             Hard     6-2 6-4             28  29.8%  29.8%  
29.8%  Gregory Carraz      Martin Verkerk     2004  Milan                 Carpet   6-3 7-6(3)          36  30.4%  29.2%  
29.0%  Jonathan Stark      Thomas Enqvist     1993  Halle                 Grass    6-4 6-2             27  37.8%  20.8%  
29.0%  Goran Ivanisevic    Boris Becker       1996  Antwerp               Carpet   6-4 7-6(5)          38  30.8%  27.3%

Andy, we're missing you already.

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Filed under Andy Roddick, Ivo Karlovic, John Isner, Mardy Fish, Records, Toy stats

Why More Players Should Have Skipped the Olympics

The Olympics only come every four years, and they have everything: precious metals, prestige, and national pride, along with extremely fit and horny women.

That’s good enough for most top players.  18 of the top 20 men are slated to participate, and nearly every player in the 64-man draw is ranked inside the top 100.  This is a Masters-quality field, if not a touch better.

But aside from status and off-court perks, the competitors will not be rewarded accordingly.  The ATP treats the Olympic singles event as less than a Masters tournament, giving the winner 750 ranking points and the runner-up 450.  As Ben Rothenberg has pointed out, that means the silver medalist–probably one of the top four players in the world–will receive fewer points that week than the winner in Washington.  Only one player in top 20 (Mardy Fish) is scheduled to compete in the US event.

More players should have made the sensible decision, skipping the Olympics in favor of Washington, perhaps adding Los Angeles or Kitzbuhel as well.  Ranking points are as cheap at those events as they are expensive in London.

At a gut level, it’s unthinkable to skip the Olympics.  All those intangibles count for a lot.  If you’re a top-ten player, a few hundred extra ranking points wouldn’t make much of a difference, and an extra $50,000 in prize money barely registers.  For mid-packers, though, “intangibles” sounds like a cynical euphemism for no money and a mediocre ranking boost.

Consider the case of Mardy Fish, the highest ranked player to opt for Washington over London.  Based on a simulation of possible Olympic draws (see below for details), Fish could expect to net about 80 ranking points at the Olympics.  The odds would favor him to win an opener, give him a decent shot at reaching the round of 16, and then turn against him.  Two or three matches, no prize money, not much national pride.

In Washington, the story is much different.  There, Fish is the runaway favorite.  If he’s healthy (a big if), he has at least a 1 in 5 chance of winning the tournament.  By my simulation, he can expect to gain 176 ranking points (with, of course, a decent chance of as many as 500), along with a cool $72,000.

An even more instructive example is that of Donald Young.  Young is in the midst of a horrible losing streak, and he’ll head to London with a roughly 2 in 3 chance of heading home without a single victory.  Expected ranking points: 24.

For Young, more is at stake than a few thousand dollars in prize money.  He reached the semis in Washington last year, so he is defending 180 points this week.  Losing all of those points will probably knock him out of the top 80.  There’s a big difference between a ranking in the 50s and one in the 80s: The first gets you direct entry into almost every tournament; the second leaves you in qualifying (unseeded, sometimes!) for most Masters.  Had Young elected to play Washington, he could have expected to defend at least half of his points.  That wouldn’t just earn him about $30,000 for his week’s work, it would give him a ranking that would make it enormously easier for him to earn points and prize money for the next several months.

The American’s situation is unique in that he may be at a crossroads in his career.  But the same reasoning applies to every player who doesn’t feel like he has a legitimate shot at a medal.  The odds are against Radek Stepanek reaching the second round in London–he’ll lose almost all of the 500 points he’s defending from last year’s Washington title.  Or Carlos Berlocq: It’d be hard to back the dirtballing counterpuncher at a grass-court challenger.  He could’ve spent next week as a top-four seed on clay, at Kitzbuhel.

Maybe for Stepanek, Berlocq, or even Young, the experience will be worth it.  But every scheduling decision made by a player–especially a veteran–has an impact on his prospects for months to come.  Is the experience worth dropping down to qualifying at the next several Masters-level events?  Would missing the experience be acceptable in exchange for getting a cheap ranking boost and earning a seed at the U.S. Open?

As much as it goes against our nationalist, media-driven instincts, Mardy Fish, Alexander Dolgopolov, and a very small number of other non-Olympians made the smart choice.  As the first-round losers start to pile up next weekend in London, Washington will look like an excellent place to be.

After the jump, find a quick explanation of my tournament simulations, along with expected ranking points and prize money for top players in Washington and London.

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The Winter of Mardy Fish

Yesterday at Indian Wells, Mardy Fish lost to Matthew Ebden, an Australian counterpuncher barely ranked inside the top 100.  Ebden has played well since last fall, when he reached the quarters in Shanghai by beating Ryan Harrison and Gilles Simon, but that isn’t going to make Fish feel any better.  It’s been a disastrous few months for the American.

How disastrous?  Mardy’s loss yesterday was his 10th in his last 14 matches.  In that time, he’s beaten Andreas Seppi (by retirement), Andreas Beck, Gilles Muller, and Florian Mayer.  He’s lost to Ebden, Albano Olivetti, Alejandro Falla, and James Blake.  Not exactly top ten results.

Looking back through his last 15 months of results, though, it’s questionable whether he ever had what we think of as “top ten” results.  When the big four is winning everything, that leaves only crumbs for the rest, so men like Fish, Janko Tipsarevic, and Nicolas Almagro find themselves in the top ten simply by reaching a bunch of quarterfinals and winning a 250 or two.  It was evident at last year’s World Tour Finals: Fish, as the eight-seed, managed to take a set from both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal,  but went home without a single victory.  (In addition to the elite world of the top four, there seems also to be an elite world of five-through-seven.  David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Tomas Berdych seem to be on a different level than everyone else, with the exception of Juan Martin Del Potro.)

Fish’s most impressive results in all of 2011 were a quarterfinal at Wimbledon (he beat Berdych en route) and semis at Cincinnati and Miami.  (He beat Nadal in Cinci and Ferrer in Miami.)  It was easy to root for Mardy the comeback kid, but the number eight ranking seems to be his ceiling.  And with Tipsarevic, Del Potro, and John Isner chasing him down, a poor performance in Miami this year could mean he’ll never reach that peak again.

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