Daily Bagel: Mysterious case of Maria Sharapova's clay-court maturation
The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.
• Video: Highlights from Christian Harrison's 7-6 (4), 6-1 win over 127th-ranked Steve Johnson at the Tallahassee Challenger on Tuesday. It was the biggest win of the 18-year-old's career. Harrison is ranked No. 378.
• Peter Bodo looks into The Mysterious Case of Maria Sharapova: Clay stalwart.
A number of elements probably are at work in this radical makeover, starting with one that may not be so obvious. Sharapova was obliged to undergo shoulder surgery and miss ten months ending in May 2009. She has four major titles, but the only one she’s won since that lengthy hiatus was the French Open, in 2012.
I get the feeling that Sharapova consciously or unwittingly hit the “reset” button on her career during all that time off. She certainly returned to tennis with (quite naturally) greater maturity, an undiminished work ethic, a measure of doubt and anxiety that must have enhanced her determination, and perhaps even a new appreciation for chance to play professional tennis. All this suggests that she’s learned a thing or two about patience—and is there a greater virtue when it comes to doing the dirty work than getting good on clay?
• The Davis Cup committee rejected Pakistan's request for a hearing in relation to its disqualification due to its inability to provide a playable surface in its Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. Pakistan intends to appeal.
• Tennis Grandstand zeroes in on two trends that might explain Laura Robson's 2013 slump. She hasn't won back-to-back matches since the Australian Open. Getting hit in the face probably doesn't help either.
A cursory look at Robson’s results reveal a string of five three-set losses, four 6-1 final sets, and three losses from a set up. Robson’s apparent inability to close ostensibly winnable matches against players outside the top 30 is startling given both her talent and the matches that made her relevant.
An even closer look, this time at the stats of Robson’s losses, most recently a two-set defeat to Japan’s Ayumi Morita, shows an ever-increasing amount of double faults (she served 10 against Morita). Coach Krajan’s former students had their own histories of serving woes before hiring the Croatian former pro, but his habit of tweaking his charges’ serve motions to be more side-arm have often done more harm than good, Robson appearing the latest victim of “the yips.”
• Heavy Topspin debunks the myth that good returners induce more double faults.
In the last 52 weeks, Jeremy Chardy‘s opponents have hit double faults on 4.3% of their service points, the highest rate of anyone in the top 50. At the other extreme, Simon’s opponents doubled only 2.8% of the time, with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal just ahead of him at 2.9% and 3.0%, respectively.
The conventional wisdom isn’t off to a good start.
But the simple numbers are misleading–as the simple numbers so often are. Djokovic and Nadal, going deep into tournaments almost every week, play tougher opponents. Djokovic’s median opponent over the last year was ranked 21st, while Chardy’s was outside the top 50. While it isn’t always true that higher-ranked opponents hit fewer double faults, it’s certainly something worth taking into consideration.
• Video: Nice wetsuit, David Ferrer!
• Women Who Serve compiled a few unusual WTA stats. Sam Stosur's three career titles still stands out to me as a crazy one.
• If tennis torsos are your thing, this Tumblr is for you.