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Old 11-13-2012, 04:06 AM   #5
Bobby Jr
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While I agree with the general argument, the path of debate chosen has a few holes in it - despite the OP implying or stating outright otherwise - which can potentially scuttle the intention to paint an argument as being a voice of reason and logic.
Originally Posted by sonicare View Post
In a service game, you have 2 aspects:

- The serve as a standalone shot

- What you back your serve with i.e. your ground strokes...
This isn't really the whole picture though... the returner also plays a significant part in how a service game goes. If the era you're playing in is typified for it's great returners then service stats will adjust accordingly, and vice versa.

Originally Posted by sonicare View Post
If two players have the same percentage of service games held and one of them has an inferior toolbox to backup their serve, basic deductive logic will tell you that this player has to have a better serve in order to have the same hold percentage as the first player.
That logic is a little too basic and incomplete. Again, it doesn't allow for the other major factor: the quality of the returner. We cannot accurately screen for return quality, nor factor how two different returners would return the same serve on different occasions, nor how the same returner would return two different serves.

*Simple* logic would be a better explanation for the approach used - it avoids including the multitudes of variables which would make a quick statistical analysis almost impossible (notwithstanding most of the data simply isn't available). It makes use only of the information which is already available (let's just assume it is all correct) which could be seen as wanting in some respects if you were to do a truly representative comparison of serve quality.

Originally Posted by sonicare View Post
The three guys ranked above Pete Sampras clearly have worse ground game than Sampras so the only way they can hold more often than Pete is by having a better serve.

There simply isn't another option. It is logic 101 and it seems to escape the NN-BS'ers.
As above, it might seem right when you use only the easily available data but it is far from being the "only way" or that there "simply isn't another option". Of course there are other options - how about returners are worse than they used to be? Perhaps they take bigger cuts because they know a meek return wont suffice and so the return percentages drop accordingly with the increased risk that comes with that approach?

Perhaps the balls are significantly more server friendly than they used to be. Can this idea be completely discounted? If so, characteristics comparison between balls from 1995 and 2012 should be available and be able to be used to screen for the bias it would create. If not, it can't be discounted as a significant factor.

On the original topic specifically I think the tennis of yesteryear is very often overrated in terms of its quality. The pace, angles etc typical of each era are often viewed and judged with such partisan eyes it almost defies belief. Countless times I've seen people argue that Lendl had a forehand as good, or better than Federer's. Looking at the footage and trying to be as objective as possible I sometimes wonder if they've ever seen footage or even watch tennis all that closely. The same comparison can be made for many GOAT-worthy shots.

Did Sampras have the greatest all-round serve of all time? Or did he just get the best results with it (which therefore factors in the era and opponents also)? I say he's close... but then Agassi and others who ought to know have sometimes said otherwise (then again, many of these guys are well known to be pretty myopic in their views and/or quite poorly educated so their own biases cannot be ruled out either).

Last edited by Bobby Jr; 11-13-2012 at 04:10 AM.
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