Forget about the impending search for glory at London 2012 – we’ll satisfy all your Olympic yearnings a little later on. Right now, it’s time to chow down on the strawberries and cream as we assess the latest ball crunching, jaw dropping and sweaty-headband-wearing grass court action at Wimbledon (with a little help from fellow tennis aficionados Business Intelligence and data visualization).
Men’s draw puts on princely display
Feverish crowds have packed into Centre Court and its surrounds in anticipation of a men’s and women’s draw hotly contested and up-for-grabs, with each bearing no single obviously dominant player. Even the Prince of Wales – aka Charles – thought this year’s prospective pageant was worthy of his first appearance at the Championships for 42 years.
Current world No. 2, Rafael Nadal, was knocked out before the third round – for the first time in a Grand Slam in seven years – by little known journeyman and Czech, Lukas Rosol (6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4). Some touted the boil-over as the biggest upset ever, with the dramatic five-set victory ending the Spaniards hopes of a record-breaking third French Open–Wimbledon double.
Despite Nadal’s shock exit, four of the top five ranked players in the men’s draw made it through to the round of 8 – Novak Djokovic SRB (1), Roger Federer SUI (3), Andy Murray GBR (4), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5). And, to put Nadal’s surprise loss in further context, it appears that the top seeded players inevitably dominate at the All England Club.
Seeded players dominate All England Club
A total of 128 players feature in each singles event. Since 2001, 32 male and 32 female players are seeded in the gentlemen’s and ladies’ singles tournaments. Prior to 2001, 16 players from the gentlemen’s, and 16 from the ladies’, draws were seeded. Seedings are issued based on world rankings and passed performances at grass court events. Other tournament participants are evaluated and issued wildcards via The Committee of Management and the Referee, or take part in the qualifying rounds which are held at the Bank of England Sports Ground one week prior to Wimbledon.
Demonstrating the dominance of seeded players, no player to make Wimbledon via the qualifying event has ever won the men’s or women’s singles title. Further, no unseeded player has taken the women’s singles title in London. A mere two unseeded players have won the men’s singles championship at the All England Club. And, the two unseeded conquerors – Boris Becker (1985) and Goran Ivanisevic (2001) – were hardly unknowns. Becker went on to claim another two Wimbledon titles amidst a raft of other successes. Ivanisevic was a former world No. 2, but was ranked 125th at the time of his Wimbledon victory due to a stubborn shoulder injury that had curtailed his career for the previous three years.
Women’s draw up for grabs
The 2012 women’s championship has been categorized by upsets, and blown wide open, with soon-not-to-be world No.1, Maria Sharapova, bundled out of the tournament by Germany’s Sabine Lisicki in a 4-6, 3-6 fourth round defeat. Germany’s Angelique Kerber also ended Kim Clijsters Wimbledon career with an emphatic 6-1, 6-1 victory.
But, despite the women’s draw taking many high-profile causalities and failing to produce a clear favorite, the final four combatants are all ranked inside the top 10 seeds – Angelique Kerber GER (8), Agnieszka Radwanska POL (3), Serena Williams USA (6) and Victoria Azarenka BLR (2).
Top 10 seeds play off in Wimbledon finals
History dictates that two top ten tournament seeds very often decide both the ladies’ and men’s final.
Two players seeded inside the top 10 (women and men) fought for the winner’s trophy on 28 occasions between 1926 and 1950, 39 times from 1951 – 1975, 41 times from 1976 – 2000, and 14 times from 2001 – 2011.
An interesting trend is immediately evident. It appears that as the sport has become progressively professionalized, it has simultaneously become increasingly unlikely that players outside the very best in the world will earn the opportunity to playoff for the Championship.
In percentage terms, this trend still holds true despite the six-year suspension in play – due to World War II – between 1940 and 1945 (inclusive). However, it’s worth noting that if someone was to view these data visualizations without any historical context, they would acquire the false impression that top 10 seeds were less successful during this period than they actually were.
While the current incomplete 25 year bracket (2001 – ) is on track to reverse that trend – if current results were replicated over the remaining 15 years, two players seeded inside the top 10 (women and men) would face-off in both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s final a total of 35 times – the period is only 44 percent complete and too early to call.
And, while it’s interesting to note that the best-of-the-best appear to be increasingly monopolizing the Wimbledon honor board in both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s single competition, two top 10 seeded players are becoming comparatively more likely to decide the women’s crown.
So, does this mean that common perceptions that the women’s pro circuit is more evenly matched – with Grand Slam tournaments able to be won by a larger pool of competitors compared to the men’s pro circuit – are wrong? Or, is the meaning behind these figures distorted due to a higher turnover rate of top 10 seeded players in the women’s draw? Results give ammunition for arguments in either case. Five different women have won Wimbledon from 2001 – 2011. But in that time, Venus and Serena Williams have won four apiece. Although, Venus was seeded 14th and 23rd in her 2005 and 2007 victories respectively.
Welcome to the sideshow
If nothing else, Wimbledon 2012 has been an eye-opening experience for players and fans, and an eye-closing one for the competition’s support staff. America’s Mardy Fish, in a fourth round match-up with fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, smashed a sizzling 118mph serve that bounced straight up into the eye of a female line judge. The linesperson was escorted from the court after the Frenchman, American and chair umpire rushed to her aid. Talk about coping an eye full!
Australian contingent decimated
As an Australian headquartered organization, the folks at Yellowfin were keen to throw their staunch support behind the All England Club’s Aussie contingent.
But our home-team hopes were dashed, and its representative decimated, with Sam Stosur the only player to survive a bruising first round that saw Australia without a representative in the second round of the men’s draw at Wimbledon for the first time since 1938. Seasoned veteran and 2002 champion, Lleyton Hewitt, was comfortably beaten by Tsonga in straight sets: 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Budding hope and new-kid-on-the-block, Bernard Tomic, was also bundled out on day two of the first round amid accusations of lazy technique and poor preparation. Australia’s Matt Ebden, Marinko Matosevic, Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia Rodionova, Jarmila Gajdosova and wildcard Ashleigh Barty were all emphatically removed from the 2012 male and female singles events.
Stosur was then subsequently slain at the racquet of Dutch left-hander Arantxa Rus, as her grass court gripes continued on a rain-affected third day. This left Australia bereft of a third-round representative in both the men’s and ladies’ singles draw for the first time since 1939.
Where to next?
Keep a lookout for Friday’s next data blog as we attempt to predict the 2012 Wimbledon finals outcomes.