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2016 Australian Open – Day 14 Recap
Men’s Singles Final

Novak Djokovic defended his Australian Open title for his 11th career Grand Slam victory. AO_29_DjokovicWins_v1
Top seed Novak Djokovic defeated 2nd seed Andy Murray 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 in 2 hours 53 minutes.

Set 1 – Djokovic 6-1 in 30 minutes.
The first game of the match set the tone for what was to come. Murray had a break point to grab an early lead but Djokovic answered with a punishing baseline game and eventually held serve. He then took advantage of some sloppy play from Murray and broke twice in a row to jump to a 5-0 lead. Murray finally held serve and Djokovic served out the set 6-1. Djokovic played solid tennis (10 winners, 9 unforced errors), while Murray struggled to find a way to hit through Djokovic’s defense. Murray had 5 winners and 11 unforced errors.

Set 2 – Djokovic 7-5 in 80 minutes.
Djokovic kept the pressure on Murray’s serve throughout the 2nd set. Murray saved 4 break points in the third game but feel to Djokovic’s relentless pressure in the 7th game to trail 4-3. Credit to Murray as he broke back to even the set at 4-4. Murray had to saved 2 more break points to hold for 5-4. Djokovic held for 5-5 and in the next game Murray jumped out to a 40-0 lead. Two quick points for Djokovic made it 40-30 and then they played the longest point of the match. 36 shots traded by the two before Murray missed shot 37 on his backhand. That made it deuce and two points later, Djokovic had a winning 6-5 lead.

This set wasn’t pretty, it was gritty. Lots of long rallies that usually ended in Djokovic’s favor. Djokovic hit 8 total winners in the set and made 19 unforced errors. Murray became the aggressor, going for more with mixed results – 21 total winners in the set and 34 unforced errors. They played 30 points that lasted 9 or more shots and Djokovic won 19.

Set 3 – Djokovic 7-6 in 63 minutes.
Murray fell behind immediately at the start of the 3rd set with 3 unforced errors in the opening game to give Djokovic the break. Murray broke Djokovic’s serve for just the second time in the match to even the set at 3-3. There were no more break points in the set as they each held to the tiebreak. Murray opened the tiebreak with his 4th double fault of the match and Djokovic followed with his 6th ace of the match for a 2-0 lead that he never relinquished. Murray added in another double fault to give Djokovic a 4-1 lead and Djokovic ended the match with his 7th ace. Like the 2nd set, Murray made too many unforced errors as he tried to go for a bit more than he could control (14 winners, 20 unforced errors). Djokovic just played solid – 13 winners and 13 unforced errors.


Summary
These head to head matches between Djokovic and Murray are almost always decided by who wins the battle of 2nd serves. The challenge for Murray is that Djokovic was the best in the world last year in winning 2nd serve points – when he was serving and when he was returning. This match continued that streak. Djokovic won 53% of his 2nd serve points and 65% when Murray had to hit a 2nd serve.

Add to that Djokovic’s impenetrable defensive game, and that creates huge problems for Murray. Djokovic finished 149 points in the backcourt and won 83 (56%) – Murray finished 129 points at the baseline and won just 47 (36%). Murray did go for bigger shots to try to break through Djokovic’s game but the results were predictable – 40 total winners for Murray but 65 total unforced errors. Djokovic finished the match with 31 total winners and 41 unforced errors.

The challenge for all the top players when facing Djokovic is to break down his defense. You have to go big, sometimes bigger than you’re capable of in order to put pressure on him. The only man to do that in the last year at a major was Stan Wawrinka who played the match of his life in the finals at Roland Garros. Murray doesn’t have that type of firepower so he’s reduced to trying to outlast Djokovic – and that’s almost impossible.

Djokovic held 14 of his 16 service games saving 4 of the 6 break points he faced. He won 74% of his 1st serve points and 53% of his 2nd serve points. Murray held 10 of his 15 service games, facing 12 break points and getting broken 5 times. He won 66% of his 1st serve points and just 35% when he had to hit a 2nd serve. Murray had averaged winning 57% of his 2nd serve points coming into the final, but Djokovic’s return game pressured him throughout the match. Murray’s got a very strong return game as well, but Djokovic’s 2nd serve held up much better facing that pressure. Coming into the final Djokovic also averaged winning 57% of his 2nd serve points and he won 53% against Murray’s strong returns.

It just tougher against Djokovic. Here’s a look at Murray’s performance coming into the final and how he did against Djokovic:

It’s Just Tougher Against Djokovic

Andy Murray 2016 Australian Open Into the Final Final Match
2nd Serve Points Won 57% 35%
Baseline Points Won 52% 36%
Unforced Errors per Match 30 65

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2016 Australian Open – Day 13 Recap
Women’s Singles Final
AO_28_KerberStuns_v1

7th seed Angelique Kerber played an almost flawless match to defeat world number 1 Serena Williams 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in 2 hours 8 minutes.

Set 1 – Kerber 6-4 in 39 minutes.
The first game of the match made it look like Serena would cruise to her 22nd Grand Slam singles title. Four first serves in – four quick points, 1 – 0 for Serena. Kerber held for 1 – 1 and then broke Serena courtesy of 3 unforced errors and just 2 first serves in from Williams. Serena broke to even the set at 3 – 3 and again it looked like she would take control. Another awful service game (2 first serves in play out of 6 points and 3 unforced errors) gave the break right back to Kerber and she served out the set dropping just 1 point in her next 2 service games. Key numbers from the 1st set: 23 to 3 – unforced errors by Williams and Kerber, 2 for 2 – break point conversions by Kerber.

Set 2 – Williams 6-3 in 33 minutes.
After dropping serve twice in the opening set, Williams did not face a break point in the 2nd set. She improved her 1st serve percentage from 55% to 64% and dropped her unforced errors from 23 down to just 5. Kerber did not lose this set (7 unforced errors), Williams won it (16 winners), but this wasn’t the Serena Williams we were used to seeing. She did not dominate the points from the first strike, actually Kerber won more of the short points (22 to 17) and Williams showed her patience by winning every point that lasted 5 shots or more (13 to 0).

Set 3 – Kerber 6-4 in 56 minutes.
This is where Kerber raised her game. Realizing that Williams had decided to pull back from her aggressive first strike strategy, Kerber became more aggressive and came out swinging. 5 winners in the first 9 points and Kerber had a 2 – 0 lead. Williams picked up the pace and evened the set at 2 – 2. But as Williams took more risks she made more errors. Kerber held for 3 – 2 and then in the 16 point 6th game of the set, Kerber broke to take a 4 – 2 lead. That game featured Williams missing 10 of her 16 first serves and making 5 unforced errors including 2 double faults. Williams had 2 game points and Kerber broke on her 5th break point of the game.

Kerber served for the match at 5-3 but was denied by Williams who played a very solid game to break and get back on serve. The final game of the match was a microcosm of Williams’ play throughout. She missed 6 of her 8 first serves and made 3 unforced errors including an easy volley mistake on match point. Williams had 18 unforced errors in the set to just 3 from Kerber.


Summary
To beat Serena Williams, she has to have an off serving day and you have to make her work for her points. For the match Williams hit just 53% of her first serves in play (under 49% in the 2 sets she lost), and won just 42% of her 2nd serve points. She had averaged 40% unreturned serves coming into this match and against Kerber only 19% of her serves were not put back in play. As Serena struggled to find a rhythm on her serve she compensated by slowing it down. That worked for a set until Kerber realized she could step in and be more aggressive. Williams was broken 5 times by Kerber – she had lost serve 4 times in her previous 6 matches.

Kerber played a very smart match, minimizing risk and maintaining consistency while taking advantage of her opportunities. Kerber hit 25 total winners and made just 13 unforced errors. She converted 5 of her 9 break points and broke Serena’s serve in every game where she had a break chance. Williams hit 47 total winners and made 46 unforced errors.

It wasn’t just the poor serving and unforced errors that hurt Williams in this match, it was the timing. In the 5 games where Serena lost her serve, she hit just 14 of 39 first serves in play (36%), and that contributed to her making 15 unforced errors in those 5 games.

Let’s compare the statistics from the sets Serena lost to the set she won in the final:

Set Won Sets Lost
1st Serves in Play 64% 49%
1st Serve Points Won 78% 64%
2nd Serve Points Won 60% 37%

Total Winners 16 31
Total Unforced Errors 5 41

Kerber took great advantage of Serena’s serving woes – playing her best set when she needed it most. 12 winners and only 3 unforced errors in the final set – and amazingly not missing a single return of serve in the final set. That level of consistency eventually caused the defending champion to crack and gave Angelique Kerber the Australian Open title.

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January, 28th 2016
12:48
 

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Men’s Singles

Top seed Novak Djokovic outclassed 3rd seed Roger Federer 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in 2 hours 19 minutes. 

Novak Djokovic put on a clinic in his win over Roger Federer.  Djokovic did not face a break point against his serve until the 6th game of the 3rd set.  By that time, he had built a 2 set lead and had taken control of the match.  Federer was able to convert his 4th break point in that game and then serve out the 3rd set which created a bit of excitement.  That lasted until Djokovic broke to take a 5-3 lead in the 4th set.

The key to their previous 44 matches was Federer’s serve versus Djokovic’s return.  This was no different.  Djokovic broke Federer in his opening service game of the match and the tone was set.  Djokovic broke Federer’s serve 5 times on 9 break points and effectively negated Federer’s biggest strength.  Federer won just 61% of his 1st serve points (he’d averaged 84% coming into this match) and 49% when he had to hit a 2nd serve.  Djokovic out aced Federer 10 – 5, won 77% of his 1st serve points, 66% of his 2nd serve points and held 16 of his 17 service games.

Total winners were almost even – 33 for Djokovic – 34 for Federer, but Federer could not match Djokovic’s consistency as he had more than twice as many unforced errors as the defending champion (51 unforced from Federer – 20 from Djokovic).  Federer’s errors weren’t the result of sloppy play, more the result of trying to raise his level of play.  When good isn’t good enough, you have to try for great and when you go for great your margin is so small that errors usually occur.  Federer’s 51 unforced errors are really a tribute to just how impenetrable Djokovic was.

Women’s Singles

Into the Finals – Top seed Serena Williams cruised into the final with a 6-0, 6-4 demolition of 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in 1 hour 4 minutes.

Serena Williams epitomizes “first strike” tennis.  She takes control from the first hit of each point, whether serving or receiving.  Serena overpowered Radwanska from the start with 18 total winners in the opening set to just 1 for Radwanska.  Serena lost 3 points on serve and 4 points on return to take the 1st set in just 20 minutes.  4 of Radwanska’s 7 points in the set came from unforced errors by Williams.

The 2nd set was a bit more of a battle as Radwanska managed to finally hold her own serve and broke Serena once to even the set at 3-3.  Radwanska fought off a break point to take a 4-3 lead before Serena ran off the last 3 games of the match.

The match statistics were eye popping.  Williams 42 total winners, Radwanska 4.  Williams won 23 of her 26 first serve points and fired in 8 aces.  Radwanska was broken 5 times and won only 23 of her 52 service points for the match.  Serena dominated the short points winning 41 of 64 points that lasted 4 shots or fewer. Serena was able to control the rallies and that allowed her to get to net at will.  She won 22 of 25 net approaches.  Her overall winner breakdown is rather impressive:  9 aces and service winners – 12 forehand winners – 7 backhand winners – 14 volley and overhead winners.

7th seed Angelique Kerber defeated unseeded Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-2 in 1 hour 22 minutes to advance to her first career Grand Slam singles final.

Kerber played solid, steady tennis to defeat Konta who was playing in her first Australian Open.  Kerber chose to just keep the ball in play, putting the pressure on her younger, less experienced opponent to come up with the winning shots.  That proved to be a winning strategy as Kerber made just 11 unforced errors to 36 from Konta.  22 of Konta’s 36 unforced errors came from her backhand side – a side that Kerber’s left handed game was able to attack.  Kerber hit 75% of her ad court serves out wide to Konta’s backhand.  Kerber made just 1 unforced error on her backhand in the match.

Other than unforced errors, the one statistic that stands out from this match is performance on 2nd serves.  Kerber won the battle of 2nd serves decisively.  On her own 2nd serve, Kerber won 19 of 28 points (68%) and won 13 of 21 (62%) when returning Konta’s 2nd serve.  That contributed to Kerber breaking Konta 5 times while Kerber held 8 of her 10 service games.

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January, 27th 2016
15:06
 

 

AO_22_MurrayAdvances_RecapDay10

Men’s Singles

 

2nd seed Andy Murray overpowered 8th seed David Ferrer 6-3, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 in 3 hours 20 minutes.  These two play similar styles preferring to grind it out from the backcourt, but Murray is just a bit bigger and stronger and is able to dictate more points from the first shot.  “First Strike” tennis was evident in this match as Murray controlled the majority of the shorter points.  They played 129 points that were decided in 4 shots or fewer and Murray won 78 to Ferrer’s 51.  In fact, when the rallies lasted longer than 4 shots it was Ferrer who came out on top 65 to 60. 

To drive this point home just look at the break points against Murray’s serve.  Ferrer had 9 chances to break Murray and converted just twice (one was on a Murray double fault).  Of the 7 break points that Murray saved only on lasted more the 3 shots.  On the biggest points Murray was able to take control before Ferrer had a chance to get his teeth into the rally.

For the match, Murray hit 11 aces, won 76% of his 1st serve points and held 18 of his 20 service games.  Ferrer had no aces, won 62% of his 1st serve points and held 12 of his 18 service games.  Murray converted 6 of his 13 break points – Ferrer was just 2 of 9.  Murray had 49 total winners to 23 from Ferrer. 

13th seed Milos Raonic was just too aggressive and too powerful for 23rd seed Gael Monfils as he prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 2 hours 17 minutes.  Raonic’s game starts with his serve.  He had 10 aces, won 84% of his 1st serve points, won 62% of his 2nd serve points, faced just 2 break points and held 18 of his 19 service games.  The next shot to look at for Raonic is his forehand.  He hit 17 forehand winners and made 17 forehand unforced errors – solid stuff.  Next you have to look at his net play.  Raonic approached net 46 times and won 31 of those points (67%).

With his big serves and aggressive returns, you expect Raonic to win a lot of short points (he had an 83 to 76 edge on points lasting 4 shots or fewer), but you expect him to struggle on the longer rallies.  A huge area of improvement in his game is his movement around the court and his consistency.  Against Monfils, Raonic won 28 of 49 points lasting 5 or more shots.  If you can’t pressure his serve and he continues to attack the net and stay even on the longer rallies, Milos Raonic becomes a very difficult man to beat.

 

Women’s Singles

Into the semifinals – 7th seed Angelique Kerber “upset” 14th seed Victoria Azarenka 6-3, 7-5 in 1 hour 45 minutes.

 Big matches require big shots on the biggest moments.  That had not been a problem for Azarenka in Melbourne where she has won two titles and had come into this quarterfinal matchup playing some of her best tennis.  But it proved to be her downfall against Angelique Kerber on Rod Laver Arena.

After digging herself out of a 0 – 4 hole in the first set, Azarenka had 2 break points to even the set at 4 – 4, but it was Kerber who came up with the big shots to hold serve for a 5 – 3 lead.  Azarenka then fought off 3 set points in her next service game only to lose it on the 4th set point by missing an easy backhand to give the set to Kerber 6 – 3.

The second set looked like it was Azarenka’s from the start.  She jumped out to a 5-2 lead and served for the set.  She went up 40 – 0 on her serve and had 3 set points to even the match and once again it was Kerber who came up with the big shots – 4 straight aggressive points including 3 winners got Kerber to break point and Azarenka broke herself with a double fault to keep Kerber in the set.  Azarenka served for the set a second time at 5 – 4 and had a 40 – 15 lead, two more set points.  An Azarenka error and a Kerber winner got it back to deuce and another Azarenka error followed by a Kerber winner evened the set at 5 – 5.  Kerber broke Azarenka a third straight time to take the set and the match 7 – 5.

For the match, Kerber hit 31 total winners and made just 16 unforced errors – Azarenka hit 28 total winners but made 33 unforced errors.  Kerber held 7 of her 10 service games fighting off 5 of the 8 break points she faced.  Azarenka had lost serve just once in 4 rounds coming into the quarterfinals but her service game fell apart against the relentless pressure of Kerber’s returns.  Azarenka held just 5 of her 11 service games as she faced 13 break points. Her 2nd serve has never been a strength and against Kerber, Azarenka won just 9 of 24 (38%) including 4 double faults.

Kerber deserves a lot of credit for this victory.  She had never beaten Azarenka in 6 previous matches and yet she found the resolve to come up with big shots when she needed them most.  Down break points with Azarenka storming back in the 1st set and coming through.  Down 5-2 and 5-4 in the 2nd set and fighting off a total of 5 set points.  Winning the final 5 games of the match with 3 consecutive breaks of Azarenka’s serve.  And now Angelique Kerber is into her first ever Australian Open semifinals. 

Unseeded Johanna Konta ended the run of qualifier Zhang Shuai 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour 23 minutes.  Konta was the aggressor throughout the match as she used her power advantage to dictate play.  It was most apparent on 1st serve where Konta hit 7 aces and won 79%.  Zhang hit no aces and won just 44% of her 1st serve points.  Konta’s average 1st serve was 103 mph – Zhang’s was just under 91 mph.  The power difference also showed on return of serve where Konta hit 5 return winners to just 1 from Zhang.  First strike tennis put Konta in charge.

They played 74 points that ended in 4 shots or fewer – Konta won 47 of those, Zhang just 27.  In the rallies that lasted 5 shots or more, the points were split evenly 22 each.  For the match, Konta hit 28 total winners and made 22 unforced errors – Zhang had 12 total winners and made 20 unforced errors.

So the Sydney born Brit is into her first ever Grand Slam semifinal in her first ever Australian Open appearance.

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January, 26th 2016
15:35
 

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Women’s Singles

Into the semifinals – 1st seed Serena Williams defeated 5th seed Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 in 1 hour 32 minutes.

 Maybe this time it would be different, maybe Sharapova had the answer to Serena Williams.  After 17 consecutive defeats, this could be the time for Sharapova to finally end that streak.  It looked that way for the first two games as Sharapova broke Serena’s serve in the opening game of the match and then held with an ace to take a 2-0 lead. Williams made 5 unforced errors in those first two games – she made 15 more over the next 15 games.

Sharapova has been serving amazingly well over her first 4 matches, but the pressure of facing the world number 1 slowly eroded her confidence.  2 double faults in her next service game gave the break right back to Williams and evened the set at 2-2.  Sharapova held her next service game and fought off 3 break points from 0-40 down to even the first set at 4-4.  The next two games really decided the match.

Serena saved two break points serving at 4-4, the first with an ace and the second with a big first serve and a winning forehand.  Serena finally held serve with her 3rd ace of the game to take a 5-4 lead.  Sharapova had a game point to even the set at 5-5 but a backhand winner from Serena pushed the score to deuce.  Sharapova fought of 3 set points but on Williams 4th set point Serena finished it off with a volley winner.  First set to Serena 6-4 and she ran away with the 2nd set 6-1.

For the match, Williams hit 13 aces, held 8 of 9 service games, saved 4 of the 5 break points she faced.  She dominated with 31 total winners and just 20 unforced errors – Sharapova managed just 11 total winners and 12 unforced errors. Williams really pressured Sharapova’s serve, breaking her 4 times and winning 62% when Sharapova had to hit a 2nd serve.  Sharapova came into the match with 52 total aces and 17 double faults over 4 matches.  Against Serena she hit only 3 aces and had 7 double faults.

This was a battle of “first strike” tennis – 101 of the 122 points played ended in 4 shots or fewer (Williams won 58 of those points).  Only 3 points lasted 9 or more shots with the longest rally of the match lasting just 13 shots.  Williams is the queen of first strike tennis and she proved it once again.

How does that style relate to distance run by these two players?  In her 4 matches to reach the quarterfinals, Sharapova’s opponents had run an average of 8.6 meters per point (just over 28 feet).  Serena averaged just 6.1 meters per point against Sharapova (20 feet).  That’s almost 30% less distance per point than Sharapova’s previous opponents.  Big first strikes – big serves and returns – means less court to cover for Serena.

4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska easily dispatched Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 in 1 hour 22 minutes.  This one was over early.  Radwanska played her solid defensive game, made only 3 unforced errors in the opening set and Suarez Navarro didn’t have the weapons to penetrate Radwanska’s game.  The result was 18 unforced errors in the first set for Suarez Navarro and a 28 minute romp for Radwanska.  Suarez Navarro started to find her range in the 2nd set and really pressured Radwanska’s 2nd serve.  After facing no break points in the fist set, Radwanska had to deal with 8 break points and she managed to fight off 6 of them.  Suarez Navarro got more aggressive in the 2nd set and hit 17 winners but made 27 unforced errors as she had to go outside her comfort zone to try to hit through Radwanska.

For the match Radwanska had 15 total winners and made just 13 unforced errors.  Suarez Navarro hit 22 total winners and had 45 unforced errors.  This match was played at Radwanska’s pace and style.  Unlike the Williams – Sharapova match where only 3 points lasted more than 8 shots, this match featured 36 points of 9 shots or more.  It’s interesting to note that Suarez Navarro actually won the majority of those longer points (20 to 16).  She made the majority of her errors on the first couple of hits as she won just 22 of the 64 points that lasted 4 shots or fewer.  Patience can be a virtue, especially against Radwanska and when you try to go for too much too soon you can pay a big price.

Radwanska’s return game proved to be too good for Suarez Navarro’s serve.  Radwanska broke serve 6 times in 8 games, won 46% returning 1st serves and 72% returning 2nd serves.  Radwanska held 6 of her 8 service games, fighting off 6 of the 8 break points she faced.

 

Men’s Singles

Rebounding from a match where number 1 played like number 2, top seeded Novak Djokovic played like the world number 1 as he defeated Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in 2 hours 7 minutes.  Djokovic made 100 unforced errors against Gilles Simon in the 4th round, against Nishikori he made just 27 unforced errors in 173 points.  Nishikori could not match Djokovic’s steady play and made 54 unforced errors as he tried to hit through Djokovic’s defenses.

Djokovic was dominant on return, winning 41% returning 1st serves, 60% returning 2nd serves and broke Nishikori 6 times on 11 break chances.  Djokovic also showed his strength on his own 2nd serve winning 66% when he had to hit a 2nd serve.  Djokovic finished 2015 as the best on the ATP Tour on 2nd serve – both serving and returning – and his performance against Nishikori drove that point home.

3rd seed Roger Federer showcased his full repertoire of shots and strategy in his 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 defeat of 6th seed Tomas Berdych.  Federer’s two biggest weapons, his 1st serve and his forehand were in full flight and he threw in some serve and volley and timely net approaches to keep Berdych guessing.  He came up big on the big points as well, saving 4 of the 6 break points he faced and converting 5 of his 10 break point chances.

For the match, Federer hit 9 aces, hit 69% of his 1st serves in play, won 80% of his 1st serve points and held 13 of his 15 service games.  Roger hit 48 total winners and made just 26 unforced errors.  Berdych played solid tennis – 27 total winners and 27 unforced errors – but he couldn’t handle Federer’s overall game.  One telling stat is net points won.  Federer has great feel and touch around the net and is very comfortable moving forward.  He won 24 of 29 net approaches.  Berdych won just 9 of his 25 approaches.

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