Hey guys, nice little debate/discussion going on here. I like it
Some of the stats mainly just put into context what we already know about Sam's year/Sam in general:
- she does relatively well playing people ranked above her - the sample size is small but she places 5th in her h2h vs top 2 players. (2010 and 2011 were probably chart topping amongst her peers if we do a similar comparison I suspect).
- she struggles to do as well against players ranked around or below her (placing 9th or 10th amongst her peers in this category)
Additionally,these stats really stood out for me:
- Her dire 3 set record, in particular when she is a set down. I thought she was improving this year but stats say she is actually not doing much better on this front as its largely the same win/lost % of c. 40% for both years when she down a set. It is this stat that her peers are head and shoulders above her. Although I remain encouraged that she is at least forcing a lot more matches into a 3rd set when she is down a set (she is placed 4/10 in this respect - credit to her) - she just has to somehow conjure a way to not let her winning momentum go after winning the second set and win a few more of these matches, especially after she wins the 2nd set convincingly e.g. Rus (Wimby) and Errani (RG, Istanbul). Like DT mentioned, there is just too big a gap between Sam's best and worse game during a match. How can you go from bagelling / break sticking someone in the second set only to be struggling again in the 3rd set? Unfortunately it happened time and time again this year
- Sam is an excellent front runner - her win % when she up a set is up there with Vika/Masha/Serena. But we all know what makes a champion is how you compete when the chips are down - this remains a vital missing piece in Sam's game - a complete game changer for her - will it happen for her? I am skeptical but hopeful - stranger things have happened but she is running out of years.
- With her weapons, she really should be finishing more matches in 2 sets, instead she is placed 10th in % matches that finishes in 2 sets - this was a real surprise to me.
- She should also be bagelling and breadsticking more often with her game - but she is 7th in delivering bagel sets and 10th in delivering bread stick sets - probably has something to do with her crappy return of serves.
Re her 2010 stats, I was really surprised/impressed with:
- her 7-1 record when she lost the first set (one standout match is her match vs Henin at RG where she lost the first set and won the next 2)
(Incidentally, her only 3 set loss when she was down a set in 2010 was also to Justine. One thing though, all 8 setters were with players in the top 30/outside the top 30. In 2011, 2/6 losses were to top tenners, 2/9 in 2012).
- her having more wins (4) than losses (3) in 3 setters decided by a break.
- 23 bread stick sets!
I put these performances down to 2010 being her breakthrough year, first year in the top 10 less expectation / pressure - corroborates with somewhat care free nature of Sam's play in 2010 that B observed. Also like what you said Silverpersian, her game is still "new" to other players have yet to get to grips with how to handle her. Suppose its more difficult when you are a perennial top tenner in 2011/12 *("the hunted") rather than the ("hunter").
-She seems to be getting breadsticked and bagelled a lot more in 2012 than she was in past years. She ate no bagels in 2010 and 2011 (
), and only five breadsticks. In 2012, she ate two and six respectively. I'm not quite sure how to account for this - it could just be luck.
She actually ate no bagels at all up to Istanbul. The 2 bagels occurred against Sara and Masha respectively. We were bracing ourselves for 3 bagels after her horror show of a first set against Maria. If she did not start as at alternate, she would have ate 0 bagels in 2012, same as Serena and Vika!
Well you can say that her participation in the WTA Champs may have screwed her in more ways than one, she has gotten no benefits from playing whatsoever - suffering 2 additional losses (and in the process undoing the feel good factor from her win against Maria @ Tokyo and magnifying the disappointment of her loss against Sara at RG)and bagels would have done her more harm than good.
Her 6 bread sticks came from:
- GOAT Vika (2 - Doha, USO)
- GOAT Serena (2 - Charleston)
- Nadia (1 - IW)
- Virginie (1 - Osaka)
You could argue she could have done better against Vika but Serena was just unplayable at Charleston. She was really actrocious against Nadia at IW and judging from the translation of the Osaka article, her groundies were exploding all over against Virginie
so probably played horridly. So nothing too wrong with the bread sticks stats for 2012.
A couple of times - particularly in that match with Wozniacki at Moscow - she totally lost confidence with her serve. It suggests to me that she's a bit concerned about playing good returners, and doesn't trust herself to win service games against them
My observation is that she has lost her faith in her serve for whatever reason (her injury?), especially her first serve after the Tokyo QF. IMO, her first serves lost its effectiveness due to its predictability and it being not placed very well thereafter i.e. not going for her first serves. There were many matches after Tokyo where her % points won on her 1st serve were well below 50% which is really odd for Sam. I noticed that most times after Tokyo she went either with the serve down the tee (either well within the centre line / missed) or middle of the box. Noticed that she hardly served the acute angled serve out wide with pace (not kick, at times in the Moscow final, even the kick was not acute enough to open up the court) on both the deuce and ad court (particularly the ad) after her QF with Maria. Her serves out wide to deuce/ad courts were quite "safe" i.e. well within the tip of the service box so her opponents had no trouble returning them with pace most of the time e.g. vs Julia in Beijing. This is what Serena does really effectively - the gap between her serve down the tee and out wide is so huge that Maria, one of the best returners out there was often caught off guard and missed a return if she guessed Serena's serve direction wrongly during the Istanbul final.
Like you, I think she did more with her forehand - more angles etc during 2010 compared to now. I think she can do a lot more with her forehand - spinny angled shots to create width rather than ripping it all the time.