Dominating Your Countrymen

General Sport News

Tennis News / General Sport News 156 Views

Dominating Your Countrymen

General Sport News

Tennis News / General Sport News 156 Views

When Andy Murray lost to fellow Brit Kyle Edmund at the 2018 Eastbourne International, The Sunday Times headlined that this was Andy’s first loss to a countryman in twelve years. Indeed, twelve years is a long time, and not too many readers will remember his round of 32 loss against Tim Henman in 2006 at the Thailand Open.

However, if you don’t play often against players from your country, twelve years may feel much shorter. Indeed, between his losses in 2006 and 2018 Andy only played and won four matches against other Britons. From October 2006 to June 2016 there was not even a single match Andy had to play against one of his countrymen. Out of the five matches since his loss in 2006, he won four. Doesn’t look that impressive anymore.

So who are the players that really dominated foes holding the passport? First, let’s look at the longest winning streaks in terms of matches. The list shows players who amassed at least a 10-match winning streak against players from their country, since 1991. Matches that were not completed due to retirements or walkovers are ignored.

Player        Start        End        Matches
Pete Sampras    1993-03        1994-05        34
Pete Sampras    1995-12        1997-02        23
Rafael Nadal    2004-08        2005-10        22
Sergi Bruguera    1993-09        1995-07        20
Rafael Nadal    2008-05        2010-05        19
Sergi Bruguera    1992-04        1993-07        19
Andy Roddick    2006-07        2009-08        18
Guillermo Coria    2002-08        2004-05        18
Stefan Edberg    1991-07        1994-02        18
Andre Agassi    2000-01        2001-08        17
James Blake    2006-02        2007-07        16
Juan C. Ferrero    2002-09        2004-04        16
Rafael Nadal    2012-05        2013-10        15
Carlos Moya    2004-01        2005-01        15
Tomas Berdych    2006-06        2017-01        14*
John Isner    2013-04        2014-07        13
Rafael Nadal    2011-03        2012-04        13
Roger Federer    2009-08        2013-03        13
Andre Agassi    2004-08        2006-03        12
Juan C. Ferrero    2000-02        2001-04        12
Magnus Larsson    1996-04        1999-08        12
Rafael Nadal    2016-02        2018-04        11*
David Ferrer    2011-07        2012-04        11
Novak Djokovic    2008-06        2011-11        11
Andy Roddick    2003-06        2004-03        11
R. Schuettler    2000-08        2003-08        11
Lleyton Hewitt    1999-06        2001-05        11
Y. Kafelnikov    1995-03        2000-10        11
Carlos Costa    1993-07        1994-04        11
Renzo Furlan    1991-03        1994-08        11

* Active streaks of active players

Three players, Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal and Sergi Bruguera, each with multiple entries, stick out on top of the list. Coming from countries that are known for regularly having players at the top of the rankings, these streaks look even more impressive. Obviously, Pete Sampras, for instance, often got the opportunity to play against other Americans. Hence, when he was at the peak of his career, he could pile up wins for his streak count over a short amount of time–as long as he kept defeating formidable opponents such as Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang.

What if we relax the number of matches contributing to the streak and take a look at the temporal duration of a streak? The list shows all winning streaks against players from the same country lasting 36 months or longer and consisting of four or more matches. The third column shows the duration of the streak in months, the fourth column shows how many matches per month were played during the streak–to give an indication of how regularly the player faced a fellow–and the last column shows how many matches contribute to the streak.

Player        Start        Dur    M/Mon    Matches
Tomas Berdych    2006-06        127    0.11    14*
Jurgen Melzer    2003-07        87    0.07    6
Juan MD Potro    2009-02        85    0.08    7
Thomas Muster    1991-06        83    0.12    10
Tim Henman    1999-03        74    0.09    7
Novak Djokovic    2012-06        70    0.07    5*
Roger Federer    2000-05        69    0.12    8
Milos Raonic    2012-05        69    0.06    4
Y. Kafelnikov    1995-03        67    0.16    11
Lleyton Hewitt    2009-02        65    0.09    6
David Goffin    2012-01        63    0.06    4*
F. Volandri    2003-09        58    0.1    6
Dominik Hrbaty    2000-10        57    0.07    4
Kevin Kim    2000-08        53    0.08    4
Lleyton Hewitt    2001-11        51    0.08    4
Steve Darcis    2008-06        50    0.1    5
A. Chesnokov    1991-04        47    0.11    5
Gustavo Kuerten    1997-04        46    0.11    5
R. Krajicek    1992-06        44    0.23    10
Roger Federer    2009-08        43    0.3    13
Novak Djokovic    2008-06        41    0.27    11
Renzo Furlan    1991-03        41    0.27    11
Magnus Larsson    1996-04        40    0.3    12
Marcos Ondruska    1994-03        40    0.1    4
Andy Roddick    2006-07        36    0.5    18
R. Schuettler    2000-08        36    0.31    11
Tommy Haas    2009-06        36    0.19    7
F. Gonzalez    2006-08        36    0.14    5
H. Zeballos    2014-02        36    0.11    4

* Active streaks of active players

(Andy Murray’s streak is not on this list, because we define the duration of a streak as the time between the first and last match satisfying the condition of the streak, in this case winning matches against countrymen. In his case these dates are June and October 2016 making his streak just short of four months.)

Tomas Berdych comes out on top of the list with a huge gap over the second-place Jurgen Melzer. Berdych’s still active streak of winning against countrymen started more than twelve years ago (the duration of the streak is not exactly that long, because currently the streak stops at his last completed match win which was against Jiri Vesely in January 2017). The streak currently consists of 14 match wins with a relatively low rate of matches per month (0.11).

All of the players who topped the former list don’t qualify for this one, because their streaks, while spanning large numbers of matches, didn’t last as many years as the latter accomplishments. However, two members of the big four, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic appear. The case of Roger Federer is special in that since 2005 out of 26 matches, he only faced two different opponents. Of these 26 matches, he faced Stan Wawrinka 24 times and Marco Chiudinelli twice. His streak starting in 2009 essentially represents his head-to-head against Wawrinka over this period of time. Fun fact: David Goffin is the only player from this list who still has a clean sheet and never lost a match against another Belgian on the ATP tour.

Aside from the current streak of Tomas Berdych, the lack of long active streaks shows us that there are no countries where one player has been dominating everyone else over the past few years. Even the top guys occasionally lose when facing an opponent from the same nation. There’s only one way to reliably avoid losing to a countryman: As Marcos Baghdatis, Grigor Dimitrov, or Kevin Anderson can tell you, the trick is to hail from a nation with no other top-level competition at all.

Peter Wetz is a computer scientist interested in racket sports and data analytics based in Vienna, Austria.

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