Today I saw in the first Sampras-Agassi USO final that two balls just ticked off the racquet but were treated differently. A Sampras serve that barely grazed Agassi's racquet, and continued right in a straight line, was counted an ace. A Sampras serve that Agassi managed to deflect a few feet off to the side (though the ball still hit the back wall), was counted a service winner.
This actually conforms with my thinking on it. I wasn't going to bring it up before because it's really rare. But you've probably seen it: for example, a passing shot that the net player can barely graze with the edge of his racquet; the ball continues in its course and lands within bounds. Technically that's a deflection off the racquet, but it's hard not to call that a winner -- even if it's not what we sometimes call a "clean winner."
At the baseline, too, you may have seen a ground stroke, or a serve like Pete's in the Agassi final, that is barely grazed but continues on its way.
I think of it this way: the returner has done essentially nothing to the ball in those cases. When the returner can deflect it off course, and it lands out of bounds or in the stands, it's an error; they did something to the ball and put it out of bounds.
What I call grazing happens so rarely, but when I saw it affecting a significant stat like Sampras serves and service winners, well maybe it has some significance.
Yeah, as far as net approaches, in todays stats I think a players has to hit at least one shot around the net for it to count as points won at net.
So if someone approaches the net & their opponent misses the pass completely it doesn't count.
But I see nothing wrong with the former method -- if that's what it is -- of including missed passes. There is no question that just being seen at the net applies pressure and induces some errors.
Ditto someone missing an approach, they all just go in the error column.
This makes more sense to me. But in the end I'm willing just to agree with you on a consistent method -- provided we get some kind of idea that this method was (or is) widely used in the years we're going to be looking at.
Maybe they have to be in a certain spot on court(like the service line) for a missed approach or missed pass to count as a net pt?
On replays I often see net points begin and end with a missed first volley, the player's feet still behind the service line. It would be nice if the lines on the court provided an objective method, but I'm learning how much about our sport requires some subjective judgment.
I will try to re-watch a recent match that I can get 'modern' stats on(website) & try to see how they count net pts.
Good, this is something I haven't done. I've been focused almost entirely on winners.
Have you done the Becker-Sampras '96 ATP final? Was just going through the espn broadcast & they had their numbers at net in the 5th set & it was only around 90 pts for both players, so I assume missed approaches, passing shots, etc weren't counted. I also have a winner count for early in the 5th, if you want to compare with your stats.
Yes, I'd love to see any mid-match stats that you have. German TV showed set-by-sets stats; it would be good to compare them to each other, and against my own.
And I have no net stats at all for that match.
I've done all but a few games; I'll have my full copy in a few days.
If I start taking this stat maybe I'll do 2 separate stats, one with the traditional net pts won, & the other with approaches etc. I have a feeling some of thiose Edberg matches would see a dramatic difference, he was coming in a ton, but didn't always have to hit a volley. His numbers would be even higher if they counted missed passes.
Right, for instance that comparison you did in the Edberg-Chang thread. I also did a comparison once with ESPN's net stats for Safin-Fed and Wilander-Cash (both at the A. Open); I could see that Safin and Fed were coming in less than the 1988 finalists, but those comparisons would have to be thrown out the window if the net points are being counted differently.
There's no match where I have any conclusive evidence that the statisticians are doing this or that. Just suggestive data here and there. The best evidence I have is in the 1982 USO final. Mid-match, I took down the CBS net stats as they were displayed, and it looked like CBS might not be counting winners/errors on the approach. But they could have been changing the stats as they reviewed them mid-match, who knows.
But in the first 10 games, CBS does look like it's counting approach winners/errors. My numbers – Lendl winning 0 of 2 approaches, Connors 8 of 12 – go up to the CBS counts of 0/4 and 10/17 if approach errors and winners are counted.
For Wilander-Agassi, I have Agassi coming into net 89 times without approach winners/errors. I never went back to add those, but you said that NBC's final count was 110. That sounds about right to me, for Agassi's types of approaches.
So you've got two matches there that could serve as good tests.
what about if someone comes in & gets an unreturned serve? are you counting that as an approach?
Yes. I've done it on the principle that a person can be seen coming in behind his serve, so the receiver feels pressure. And sometimes you don't need to see the player actually rush forward; you can expect it if you know the player.
A potential problem is with a big server. I've only taken net stats for people like Connors, Wilander, Orantes, Agassi, Mecir; they don't blow smoke down on you with their serves. But what if a big server comes in behind a serve that would be unreturnable anyway? In short, I'm talking about guys that have lots of service winners. I don't have plans to count net stats for Becker, Sampras, et al, esp. since those stats are often published; but for them I think it would be a problem.
I'd say just don't count their aces and unreturnable serves as net rushes.
And then find out what the statisticians are doing
oh, & I thought of another match that probably had a very high ratio of winners(non service) Agassi vs Rafter '95 AO. That may rival the Eltingh match, Agassi was on fire, & his numbers were often higher vs attacking players. Maybe the NY times has info on it.
I found a stat that Agassi had only 3 unforced errors. Good match to check for him. The Times has only a few lines on it.
Rafter and Agassi played their SF at W in '01, and NBC referred to "winners" in an interesting way. You would think that by 2001, "winners" was widely understood to include service winners. But Rafter had 30 aces for the whole match, and at 2-all in the third set he had 18 "winners". I marked those down as not including returns (can't remember if that was stated), but either way, that stat cannot include his aces. He'd be left with no other winners.
SI had a stat box for the Sampras-Rafter final. No category for service winners, just aces and winners. Sampras had 27 aces and 40 winners. Is it possible he just had 13 placement winners over four sets? I don't think so.
Swing back to the 1984 final, and you'd expect that service winners were not yet included. Anyway that's what I expected. But I counted the winners earlier this week, and it turns out that NBC's stat for McEnroe -- 35 winners -- includes the 11 aces they gave him. I count 24 other winners for him (placement winners), and 4 of what you and I call "service winners", meaning unreturnable serves other than aces. So it looks exactly as if the aces are being counted in the winner column. Remember I said above, this is the match that conflated aces within the category of service winners, when NBC referred to McEnroe's 11 "service winners/aces" at the end of the match.
Honestly, I'm going to treat all published and TV stats as provisional from now on; I don't know what they include without counting the winners myself.