Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tennis and the Big Four – Clay Results

Okay so this the second part to my post “Tennis and the Big Four” regarding the consistency of the Big Four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray).

For those of you just reading I didn't want to take their entire career because some of them spent a longer time than others on the tour before they had their big breakthrough and I wanted to compare them once they became a top-class player. For Federer I chose starting from 2003, for Nadal 2005, Djokovic 2007, and Murray 2008.

Also, the statistics only include tournaments that the player attended. If the player did not go to a tournament it was left out of the statistics. These stats include tournaments up to and including the recent 2014 Rome Masters.

The statistics are cumulative, so when I do the percentages for a player getting to at least the quarter-finals that means if the player reached the quarters, semis, finals, or won the tournament then it counts. The percentage is basically the odds of the player reaching that stage of the tournament.

I’ve now split the stats by “clay” and “non-clay”, the results may not be what you expected:

First, the Grand Slams:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray
GS – Win (clay) 9.1% 88.9% 0% 0%
GS – Win (non-clay) 47.1% 20.8% 27.3% 10.5%
GS – at least finals (clay) 45.5% 88.9% 14.3% 0%
GS – at least finals (non-clay) 55.9% 45.8% 50.0% 36.8%
GS – at least semis (clay) 63.6% 88.9% 71.4% 20.0%
GS – at least semis (non-clay) 79.4% 58.3% 72.7% 63.2%
GS – at least quarters (clay) 81.8% 88.9% 85.7% 60.0%
GS – at least quarters (non-clay) 88.2% 75.0% 90.9% 78.9%

In terms of wins there's no surprises, Nadal has won the last 8 out of 9 French Opens and Federer won the other one. Federer has a very strong showing to reach the finals and then is otherwise comparable to Djokovic. Nadal has only lost once, in the 4th round so his percentages are the same. Murray is a weaker clay-court player so his statistics are far worse than the other three.

For non-clay Grand Slams I couldn’t believe Federer has won almost half of the ones he has entered. Djokovic’s stats, except for the wins, are comparable to Federer’s, while Murray and Nadal are similar. I don't think anyone would expect that Murray is more likely to reach the quarters or semis of a non-clay GS than Nadal.

But what about the nine Masters 1000 tournaments, where 3 out of 9 are on clay:

Federer Nadal Djokovic Murray
1000 – Win (clay) 17.9% 70.4% 23.8% 0%
1000 – Win (non-clay) 27.8% 17.4% 33.3% 26.5%
1000 – at least finals (clay) 50.0% 88.9% 42.9% 0%
1000 – at least finals (non-clay) 37.0% 34.8% 47.6% 35.3%
1000 – at least semis (clay) 60.7% 88.9% 66.7% 15.8%
1000 – at least semis (non-clay) 57.4% 65.2% 61.9% 41.2%
1000 – at least quarters (clay) 71.4% 92.6% 90.5% 42.1%
1000 – at least quarters (non-clay) 72.2% 82.6% 76.2% 61.8%

Aside from winning, where he was likely stopped mostly by Nadal, Federer’s clay percentages are generally better than his non-clay results. A bit surprising given that the media tend to play up that clay is Federer’s least-preferred surface (something he denies).

I had expected Nadal’s non-clay stats to drop as he dominates clay but I didn't expect that his win/final results would be the worst of the Big Four. It appears that Nadal falters at the semis more than the other three.

Murray is least likely of the Four to reach the quarters of non-clay Masters but if he does his percentages get closer and closer to the other three, his win/final percentages are similar to Federer and Djokovic. As expected his clay results pale compared to the others.

As for Djokovic, overall his percentages are second on clay and first on non-clay! While better known for his hardcourt results his clay results are actually a bit stronger than his non-clay results. It’s only when he reaches semis and finals does it falter a bit - likely due to Nadal.

I’d say Djokovic is probably the most consistent player when you look at his clay and non-clay results.

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