Data visualization and Business Intelligence presents: The US Open

Today’s data visualizations brought to you by: Yellowfin, now making Business Intelligence even easier.

As an Australian-based company, we at Yellowfin were ecstatic to see Sam Stosur dismiss a less-than-gracious Serena Williams to claim the 2011 US Open women’s singles title.

The landmark victory broke Australia’s drought of 31 years, with Stosur being crowned Australia’s first female Grand Slam singles champion since Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s 1980 Wimbledon triumph.

The breakthrough also represented the first time an Australian woman had secured the single’s trophy at Flushing Meadows since Margaret Court Smith in 1973.

The stirring Stosur victory (6-2, 6-3) at Arthur Ashe Stadium, in front of a capacity crowd of 23,000, got us thinking about past tournament champions. Who has won the most US women’s crowns? Which nations have experienced the most success? And is the final a battle royal or an anticlimactic whitewash?

US women’s singles champion by nation (1887 – 2011)

Without assessing the data, most would probably assume that US women have experienced a substantial sum of success at the US Championships. However, it’s probable that only the die-hard enthusiasts and true tennis aficionados would have been aware of the degree of that dominance.

Since the US Women’s Singles Championship begun in 1887, women of US citizenship have had a stranglehold on the title, lifting the winner’s trophy an astonishing 88 times. Thanks to Stosur’s win, Australia moves into (a very distant) outright second spot on the leaderboard of nations, with six victories. Belgium holds onto third thanks to the recent efforts of Kim Clijsters (2005, 2009, 2010).

US women’s singles runner-up by nation (1887 – 2011)

But which nations have most often experienced final hurdle heartbreak?

US women are just as often the perennial bridesmaid as the prolific victor (or blushing bride) at Flushing Meadows, also claiming the consolation prize 88 times.

Australia and Great Britain slot into equal second with eight shiny dinner plates apiece.

16 most successful women at US Open (1900 – 2011)

The individual players with the fullest trophy cabinets, courtesy of the US Women’s Singles Championship (1900 – 2011), are:

  • Molla Bjurstedt Mallory (NOR/USA): Won 8 Championships (1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1926)
  • Helen Wills Moody (USA): Won 7 Championships (1923, 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1931)
  • Chris Evert (USA): Won 6 Championships (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982)

US women’s singles champion by country over time (1900 – 2011)

But do the hopes of a nation rely on the individual brilliance of once-in-a-lifetime athletes, or do countries produce generations of champions?

It’s difficult to deliver a definitive answer. American women have experienced enormous success throughout the championship’s history – even winning 11 of the first 13 women’s singles titles prior to 1900. In fact the USA’s dominance of the women’s draw has been so overwhelming, 74 of 100 available titles between 1900 and 2000 remained in the tournament’s homeland.

The launch of the Open Era saw a mild diversification of winners amidst America’s sustained supremacy. Though it’s clear that countries other than America have been reliant on the skill of one or two.

US women’s singles champion left vs right handers (1887 – 2011)

Other than nationality, what other factors suggest potential center court prowess at the US Open?

Well, being right-handed seems to help, with only seven lefties giving the left-handed salute to the crowd since 1887.

US men’s singles champion left vs right handers (1881 – 2011)

OK, I hear you protest, but most tennis players are probably right-handed, so you’d expect more right-handed players to take home the silverware. True; but 24 lefties have triumphed in the men’s draw – comparatively, that’s over three times the success-rate.

Number of games per match per year (US women’s singles final 1900 – 2011)

The birth of the Open Era and introduction of the tiebreak have had limited impact on the total number of games played.

Since the inception of the Open Era in 1968, the extremes appear to have been banished from the US women’s final, with all matches lasting between 15 and 33 games. This trend seems to have intensified further in the last 15 years, with all finals since 1996 being fast and furious affairs, lasting between 15 and 22 games.

The tiebreak, invented by Van Alen in 1965, was introduced at Wimbledon in 1971. The tiebreak originally came into effect when the score in any set, except the last, was eight games apiece. In 1979, this changed to six games apiece, excluding the final set.

The US Open adopted a variation of the tiebreaker in 1970 – the nine-point shootout (sudden death at 4-4) – with the winner of the tiebreak being the first person to reach five points.

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