Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Differences in Performance Indicators of Elite Tennis Players in the Period 1991-2010

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Differences in Performance Indicators of Elite Tennis Players in the Period 1991-2010

Article excerpt

Introduction

Tennis is an open-skill sport in which players constantly make tactical decisions related to specific game situations. Based on the knowledge of their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their opponents, players apply different strategies and tactical concepts to maximise their chances of winning a match (O' Donoghue & Ingram, 2001).

'Performance analysis' is a term used exclusively for the analysis of performance in sports encompassing notational as well as biomechanical analysis (Hughes & Bartlett, 2002). 'Match analysis' is a field of sports science that describes athletes' performance in a particular match. Notational analysis (Downey, 1992) and computerised notational analysis (Hughes & Clarke, 1995) are methods of analysing dynamic and complex situations, including competition and training in sports, and have wider applications outside sports.

Researchers and coaches examine player movements, game patterns, tactics and traits without bias; all in an attempt to formulate ways in which players or teams can maximise their prospects of winning (Over & O'Donoghue, 2008). Indeed, in tennis, several studies (Gillet & Leroy, 2009; Takahashi, et al. 2009; Reid, McMurtrie & Crespo, 2010) have determined how match statistics describe and explain a player's success. Hughes and Clarke (1995) compared the match statistics of top players on different surfaces and showed that there were significant differences. Unierzyski and Wieczorek (2004) compared the serve and return-of-serve game patterns and tactical approaches adopted by players in the finals of two Grand Slam tournaments. They concluded that on fast courts players have better chances of winning a point if the serve is placed close to the T and the return of serve is played wide. On clay, players who placed serves wide had greater chances of winning a point. Verlinden, et al. (2004) showed similar conceptual and statistical significant differences between players' performances on fast and slow surfaces. Playing skill is also purported to affect game strategy, with top tennis players who play with high accuracy (a small number of unforced errors) are also reported to dictate matches, finishing points with their dominant shots (Kleinoder & Mester, 2000; O' Donoghue & Ingram, 2001; Brody, 2006; Stoinska, Unierzyski & Hurnik, 2008).

Players' performances are defined by their competitive effectiveness. In professional tennis, the most important indicator of a player's competitive effectiveness is their position on the ATP ranking list. Their ranking depends on the number of tournaments played and the results achieved. Logically, in addition to their ATP ranking, the performance statistics of individual tennis matches would appear to represent another meaningful indicator of player performances. The relationship between the ranking and match statistics of the top 100 male professional players was examined by Reid et al. (2010). A stepwise regression analysis showed that second-serve points won and second-serve return points were the most relevant match statistics, explaining 52% of the ranking variance in the men's game. Other studies compare the performance characteristics of winners and losers (Filipcic, Filipcic & Berendijas, 2008; Choi, O'Donoghue & Hughes, 2009; Cross & Pollard, 2009; Cross, 2010; Cross & Pollard, 2011), although these are generally limited by the smaller number of matches, the shorter period and the level of observed players (Grand Slam Tournaments).

The goal of this study was to find potential differences between two groups of top quality male players according to 15 tennis match statistics. The groups consisted of top 300 ATP players who had won more matches (G_1), which was labelled the high quality group, and players who had lost more matches (G_2), which was labelled the quality group, in given competitive seasons at professional tennis tournaments. A player's success was defined by the number of points and position on the ATP ranking list at the end of 1991, 2000 and 2010, respectively. …

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