Why playing from the back of the court is a losing game

Jenson Brooksby defeated. (2) Kasper Ruud

No. 2 men’s Casper Ruud was knocked out in the second round by Jenson Brooksby 6-3 7-5 6-7 (7-4) 6-2. He had no one to blame but himself. Ruud usually likes to pull off rallies to defeat opponents, but that would never work against a younger, faster version of himself. Ruud used a failed game plan to play an amazing 68 points that was nine shots or longer. Brooksby won 50 of those points. Ruud won 18. Ruud came to the net 27 times (won 16) in four sets for a 6.8 per set average. That’s less than half the tournament average. Too many long rallies and barely getting forward was a recipe for defeat.

Andy Murray defeated. Thanasi Kokkinakis

Andy Murray made a remarkable comeback against Thanasi Kokkinakis early Friday morning, winning 4-6 6-7 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 7-5. Only four points separated the both players at the end (196-192). Kokkinakis led 5-2 in the third set but was unable to fend off the Scot. Getting into the net to take advantage of Murray’s deep rally position would have been an ideal tonic.

The baseline became more challenging for Kokkinakis to gain points against Murray, whose survival strategy relied on simply making one ball more than his opponent. Kokkinakis netted just 39 times (23 wins) in that match, averaging 7.8 goals per set, about half the tournament average. With his base win percentage dropping with every set, the net could have been the key to reaching the third round. Finding the right mix between baseline and net points is the secret.

Bianca Andreescu defeated. Marie Bouzkova

Bianca Andreescu is in the third round after two strong wins. Her excitement in round one against No. 25 Marie Bouzkova was near perfect.

Bouzkova was outplayed from behind in the first set, winning just 35 percent (13/37) of baseline points. She won five out of six at net so at least that worked for her. It would make perfect tactical sense to double the net points in the second set and go forward about 15 times. That didn’t happen.

Bouzkova netted six times in the first set and seven in the second. Overall, Bouzkova won 38 percent at the baseline and 69 percent at net.

Why hasn’t she adapted and gone more online? Only she can answer that, but many players either don’t realize where they succeed in a game or are too afraid to change their plan, even if it results in defeat.

Kimberly Birrell defeated. (31) Kaia Kanepi

Kaia Kanepi, the 31st seed, lost in the opening round to Australian wildcard Kimberly Birrell 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-1. Kanepi gained just 46 percent (57/123) of basis points while Birrell was stronger at 50 percent (61/121). Kanepi should have changed tactics and put a lot more pressure on Birrell from up front, but she netted just eight times in three sets, winning five of those points. In the deciding third set, Kanepi won just 28 percent (5/18) from the back of the court. She desperately needed to get forward, but she only finished the point at the net twice in the third set. This is simply an adjustment error.


Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is the hottest favorite to win in Melbourne this year and his mix of baseline and net play is the main reason. Djokovic has won 55 percent (117/211) from the baseline in the first two rounds, while also winning 89 percent (54/61) at the front of the court.

Of the 32 men who made it to the third round, Michael Mmoh had the lowest win rate in terms of net points won at 58 percent (45/77). The only two men with 58 percent or more in basis points gained were Djokovic’s opponents in this Saturday’s third round, Grigor Dimitrov (59 percent) and Daniil Medvedev (58 percent).

In summary, the worst day in the office for a net player is about the same as the best day in the office for a baseliner.

Craig O’Shannessy is recognized as the world leader in teaching and analyzing tennis strategy. He is the creator of the Brain Game Tennis website and was a member of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team.

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https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/drop-the-base-why-playing-from-back-of-the-court-is-a-losing-game-20230120-p5ce8u.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Why playing from the back of the court is a losing game

Ryan Sederquist

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