ROME, Italy - There is basically nothing that happens on a tennis court that hasn't happened thousands of times before.
But our sport is currently producing cutting-edge new data, providing new and innovative ways of understanding it on a much deeper level.
Evolution is currently in full flight in tennis, and SAP advanced analytics produced some unique statistics from Rome last week that will make the tennis world sit up and pay attention.
In a sport where the margins are so close, winning a point in Paris or losing one in London can change a career. A scientific approach is a breath of fresh air in a historically unscientific tennis culture.
Tennis is a game of errors much more than it is a game of winners, and we have always given our attention to the shot that committed the error, rather than studying exactly where the ball missed the court.
Consider this: in the last four Grand Slam events, there were 49,204 errors committed in the women's game, and only 19,904 winners. That's 71% errors. The tournament with the most was the 2014 US Open at 75%, followed by the 2015 Australian Open with 73%, then the 2014 French Open at 69%, and lastly 2014 Wimbledon at 68%.
As you can clearly see, errors are a big deal even at the elite level of the game, and now SAP is gathering data on exactly where they are occurring.
There are five ways to make an error in tennis. You can hit the ball too short, too long, too far to the left, too far to the right, and miss the ball altogether. At the pro level, we can dismiss the fifth element, and focus on the first four.
SAP tracked 13 key matches in Rome, and the results were crystal clear - the net is still the biggest enemy, and collects by far the most amount of errors. Here's a breakdown of where the errors occurred in the big matches on center court in Rome.
? 46% Net - 454 errors went into the net.
? 27% Long - 272 errors sailed over the baseline.
? 24% Wide - 236 errors drifted past the sideline.
? 3% Long & Wide - 34 errors missed the deep corner of the court.
The first filter we apply to those numbers is that they came from a clay court event, where the ball should be tracking higher over the net than normal, thus reducing the number of net errors.
SAP took the data one step further, and divided the total baseline errors into forehands and backhands.
? Forehands 52.5% errors.
? Backhands 47.5% errors.
That's actually a very good number for the forehand, as on the flip side, the forehand accounted for 61% (272 forehand/171 backhand) of baseline winners.
The final way SAP cut up the court was where the forehand and backhand errors actually landed.
Forehand Errors - Amazingly, it was almost identical wide on both sides, with 140 errors made wide through the ad court, 141 errors committed wide through the deuce court, and 223 in the net.
Backhand Errors - As you would expect, comparatively more were made going crosscourt (for the right-hander), with 128 wide through the ad court, 119 wide through deuce court, and 208 in the net.
These revolutionary numbers from SAP take our understanding of the sport to a whole new level. The net is definitely public enemy number one on the pro tour, and would definitely accumulate many more errors at the club level as well.
Priority number one on the practice court is to continue to take the net out of play. Getting the correct mix of height, spin and power to generate a deep ball is a very wise use of a player's time.
Craig O'Shannessy (@BrainGameTennis) is the leading analyst for wtatennis.com throughout the 2015 season, utilizing SAP Data & Insights to uncover the patterns and percentages that dominate the game. Visit Craig's website at www.braingametennis.com for more expert strategy analysis.