Once again, the business end of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament – Wimbledon – has arrived. On Tuesday, in our blog post Data visualization & Business Intelligence assess Wimbledon 2012, we used Business Intelligence and data visualization to prove that the top seeded players from both the women’s and men’s draws inevitably dominate at the All England club. But what role does nationality play? If any?
NOTE: A few technical dramas prevented us from making this post available on the Friday in the lead-up to the final weekend at the All England Club. So, here’s a posthumous look at the build-up to the 2012 Wimbledon singles finals.
Crème dela crème of the men’s crop rise to the occasion
In the men’s draw, the very fluffiest of the cream has once again authoritatively risen to the top, with four out of the five top ranked players making it through to the semi-finals of the men’s draw – Novak Djokovic SRB (1), Roger Federer SUI (3), Andy Murray GBR (4), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5).
Male winners by nationality at Wimbledon
And, with combatants of different nationalities – albeit all from Europe – we thought it would be interesting to assess their chances based on nationality.
On face value, if nationality is anything to go by, history is on Murray’s side, with the men’s champ calling Great Britain home on 35 occasions.
Switzerland has claimed the winners’ trophy on six occasions, but that’s all down to the racquet of Roger.
And because a Frenchman has tasted ultimate success on the grass courts of London just seven times, does that mean that Tsonga has one-fifth the chance of glory compared to the Scot?
Probably not. If historical performances based on nationality were a good indicator of form, then it seems unlikely that the entire Australian male contingent would have been bailed out of the competition in round one – for the first time since 1938.
But, it is said that nations breed generations of winning athletes. So, does analyzing winners by nationality over time shed any more light on the chances of the current crop?
Male winners by nationality over time at Wimbledon
Murray will again carry the weight of great expectations into the semi-final – for the fourth consecutive year – of a tournament that has been denied a local victor since 1936.
While Great Britain enjoyed enormous success in the early decades of Wimbledon competition, tennis prowess in that part of the world appears to have been steadily evaporating for the past 80 years.
Murray overcame Spanish hard-man David Ferrer in four grueling sets (6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6). History says that aside from Nadal’s recent success, Spaniards struggle to transfer their powers from the confines of the clay court.
Murray must head into his semi-final match-up with Tsonga with some confidence, holding a 5-1 head-to head record against the Frenchman. Although Tsonga would be approaching the 2012 semis with a certain measure of self-assurance, dispensing with Philipp Kohlschreiber (7-6, 7-6, 6-2), and reaching the final four at Wimbledon for the second year in a row after a ground-breaking 2011 triumph over grass court king Roger Federer. However, it’s also been lean-pickings for Frenchmen at the All England Club of late, with the land of the croissant only accomplishing one victory in the past six decades.
In the Djokovic – Federer match-up, the questions is this: Can the aging master – disputably the best that’s ever been – take it up a notch against the all-conquering Djokovic; a man at the absolute peak of his powers? I mean, it’s hard to see nationality coming into this one, with both men accounting for their respective country’s only victories in London.
Federer leapt into a record 32nd grand slam semi after a dominant 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over perennial deer-in-the-headlights, Russian 26th seed Mikhail Youzhny. And, if Federer carries this form into his next two matches, he has a chance to win an astonishing seventh Wimbledon title and regain his cherished No.1 ranking.
Friday’s opponent is in the midst of a form run rarely seen, notching up his 32nd grand slam victory from his past 33 – his only defeat coming at the clay conquering hands of Rafa in the just-gone French Open finale. But there is a glimmer of hope for Federer, with Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent, German Florian Mayer, unsettling the Serb’s usual ease-of-rhythm.
Will the Serena show roll on?
Meanwhile, in the ladies’ draw, Victoria Azarenka’s Wimbledon campaign came to a screeching halt, knocked out by Serena Williams in the ladies’ singles semi-final (6-3, 7-6). She was then subsequently bundled out of the mixed doubles race.
But maybe that’s no coincidence. No Belarusian woman (or man) has ever taken home the Wimbledon crown.
Female winners by nationality at Wimbledon
Conversely, Serena has earned herself a shot at a fifth Wimbledon crown (and 14th career grand slam) and is still going strong in the women’s doubles, teaming with older sister Venus to dispatch of quarter-final opponents Kops-Jones and Spears (6-1, 6-1). And maybe Serena’s run shouldn’t come as a surprise either – American women have utterly dominated the grass courts at the home of bangers and mash, lifting the cup no less than 54 times.
Serena will meet first-time finalist Agnieszka Radwanska – the current world No.3. Radwanska is the first Polish player to make a grand slam final in 75 years. And no Pol has ever won Wimbledon. But perhaps there are some other factors at play here…
Although the betting market has Williams as an almost unbackable favorite, age is firmly against the American, with Martina Navratilova the last 30-year-old to clench a major singles championship. However, Williams has never lost more than four games in a set in any of her previous encounters with the Pol – maybe that’s a better reason to back the American; other than the fact that she’s American. And, in case you needed another reason to throw your support behind the red-hot front-runner, Radwanska enjoyed an unprecedentedly easy path to the final, only having to face one player (Kerber aside) ranked inside the world’s top 75 (No.19 Maria Kirilenko), with the average ranking of her opponents a very beatable 94. Oh, and some advise for the Pol: Don’t drop the first set – of the 194 grand slam singles matches in which Serena has claimed the first set, she’s lost just four. Good luck Agnieszka.
No matter the outcome on Saturday, Williams will move to No.4 on the WTA rankings.
Female winners by nationality over time at Wimbledon
American women have enjoyed great, and sustained, success in the open era at Wimbledon.
The wash-up? If Williams wins, Azarenka will reclaim the world No.1 position from Maria Sharapova. Or, if Radwanska pulls off a monumental upset, Azarenka will remain at No.2, with the Pol claiming poll position.
The pay debate
Nationality aside, the professional tennis circuit has recently been split by another factor – gender equality. French tennis player, Gilles Simon, recently spiked bitter debate when he suggested that men should receive more prize money at Wimbledon because they play more attractive tennis. Sadly his comments were backed by the Andys – Murray and Roddick. Another argument of Gilles is that women don’t have to work as hard for the money. Whilst it’s true that ladies’ matches are restricted to three sets, compared to five in the men’s game, is it really true that men have to sweat-it-out more to earn that ultimate cheque?
Wimbledon finals match length: Minutes per set (men vs women) since 1950
The short answer? No; no they don’t – well at least in terms of minutes played per set.
Since 1950, the minutes played per set during the Wimbledon ladies’ and men’s final have been very even. Men slugged out longer final encounters in the 80s, but this was countered in the women’s final stanza in the mid 90s, with additional big spikes in ’55, ’70 and ’05.
So maybe nationality isn’t the best indicator or predictor of success at Wimbledon – but we’re still tipping Serena. What is clear, is that prize money equality is more than justifiable based on effort exerted on court by both genders.