What’s the time? Time and total point differences in grand slam tennis

Every year, the professional tennis players get to play four major grand slams – the Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open and the US Open. The Australian Open and US Open are both played on hard court surface. Wimbledon is played on grass, and the French Open is on clay.

The surfaces the matches are played on tend to affect the way the players compete, last on court and react to certain shots. Tennis being a sport where the matches are not timed, some players take a considerable amount of time with their activities on the court and others move quickly. In this post, the main purpose is to compare the standard deviation of the total points, the average of total points played, and average of the time played.  From this, we compute the standard deviation of that time played in the major grand slams played in 2017.  While the tennis surfaces differ, how does this side of play differ in grand slam matches in men’s tennis?

First, we estimate the number of second per point as the total seconds for a match divided by the number of points. Note, this is an estimate since the total time of a match includes rests. Professional tennis includes a 90-second rest between end changes, which is extended to two minutes at the end of a set, although the first changeover of the next set does not include a rest. Future work could subtract such rests from the overall time.

Grass is often noted as a fast surface for tennis.  The data supports this.  Wimbledon’s matches averaged 37 seconds per point with a smaller standard deviation of 4. Matches averaged 192 total points with a standard deviation of about 72.  The Australian Open had longer points, averaging 39 seconds per point with a standard deviation of approximately 6 seconds. In all, matches were slightly shorter, averaging 189 points with a standard deviation of 68.  The next longest was the US Open averaging 40 points per second with a standard deviation of 4.  The average number of points was longer at 221 points and a standard deviation of 61.  Finally, clay was the slowest surface in the calculations.  The French Open averaged 41 seconds per point with a standard deviation of 4.  Matches averaged 181 points with a standard deviation of 66. 

The order of points played from highest to lowest are the US Open, Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian open. In terms of the calculated average seconds per point, the order from highest to lowest are the French Open, US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon. While the differences per point are small, they accumulate over time and also underscore the impact of the court surfaces. The French Open had the highest average seconds per point of the grand slam tournaments. Clay courts are notoriously slow, and the rallies take time to be exchanged.

A lot of factors can lead to these differences in average seconds per point and total points in a match.  Tennis is quite hard to predict, as it is not timed and some points and length of the points can be affected by how technically and emotionally sound the players are. Regardless, sit back and enjoy 2021 Wimbledon and feel free to measure the length of points to see how close to the average your match falls. 

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

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