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Visualizations of the First Day of Round 3 at the 2016 U.S. Open

We are nearing the end of the first day of Round 3 and the surprises continue. There were some big wins and near big losses for the players at Flushing today. In this post, I will look at the point-by-point predictions for 5 of the day’s tightest matches. By looking over the charts of the match-in-progress can help us appreciate how a match was won and what some of the most shocking wins of the day were.

Edmund takes down Big John

In one of the biggest shocks of the day, Kyle Edmund continues the team GB winning streak at the U.S. Open with a massive upset over John Isner. Based on FiveThirtyEight predictions, Edmund had just a 15% chance of walking away with a win. How did he overcome the odds?

Taking an early lead was a help. Breaking Isner’s serve in the fifth game of the first set and managing to hold serve for the rest of the set put 1 on the board for Edmund, raising his chances to 32% going into the second. But Isner made it clear he wasn’t going to back down, breaking Edmund in his first service game of the second set. Isner went on to win that set and brought back his win advantage to 80% going into the third.

After a shaky start in the third set, when Edmund had to fight off 3 break points in his first service game, he not only held but gave Isner a taste of his own medicine in the next game. Edmund broke Isner’s serve in that game and his win probability rose steady for the remainder of the set. When Edmund eventually put a second set on the scoreboard, his odds were then even with Isner. The fourth and most heated set of the game saw the win probabilities fluctuate by swings of 10 percentage points multiple times. With only one break point generated and no break points converted, it all came down to the tiebreak.

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Edmund had a 54% chance of taking the match at the start of the tiebreak. After winning 2 points, those chances raised to 74%. Isner made a mini-comeback but Edmund eventually gave himself three match point opportunities and by the 12 point of the game secured the biggest win of his career.

Pouille Reigns

Another massive underdog on Day 5 was Lucas Pouille. With just a 33% chance of a win against Roberto Bautista-Agut, Pouille was going to have to do something special to advance to the next round. It didn’t look good for Pouille for most of the match. In fact, going into the fourth, with 1 set won to Bautista-Agut’s 2, Pouille’s chances had dropped to 15%. It wasn’t until the 12th game of the fourth that Pouille took the match in his hands, winning the first break of the set and taking the set at the same time. Though it was a long time coming, Pouille seemed to have figured out his game strategy by the fifth. Breaking Bautista-Agut in his first service game, Pouille raised his win chances to 80%. With the second break in the fourth game, his win was a statistical certainty.

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Baghdatis Battles Thru

After Ryan Harrison’s upset of Milos Raonic, many wondered how much of the win was due to Raonic’s physical struggle with the sticky conditions in New York. Baghdatis’ definitive win over Harrison in the third round gave us the answer. Baghdatis was the 64% favorite going into the match. After taking the first set, those chances were at 75% or better for most of the rest of the match. There was only one period of the match when Baghdatis was truly threatened. This was the break Harrison earned in the fifth game of the second set. When Baghdatis earned that break back and went on to win the tiebreak, he could still afford to lose the third set and still be the 3 to 1 favorite to take the win the four.

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Keys' Escapes

Madison Keys and Naomi Osaka, some of the biggest hitters and most colorful personalities on the women’s tour, served up a thriller for Day 5. Keys must have felt confident going into the match, having an 82% chance of a win. Osaka sent an early message that she wasn’t going to make this easy for Keys when she broke the American’s serve in the first game. Still Keys had the upperhand for the first set and most of the second. In fact, Keys’ chances were over 90% at the start of the ninth game of the second set. Then Osaka made her move. In the tenth game, Osaka took the first break and served out the next game to take the set.

But even with one set each, Keys was the heavy favorite to win the last set. Keys’ odds were at 70% in the first game until Osaka took the early break leveling the odds with Keys. The tables turned completely in Osaka’s favor when she broke Keys again in the fifth. At that point, Keys’ chances were at an improbably 5%. But somehow Keys (perhaps helped by a tight Osaka) dug deep and found away to earn back over the next five games–forcing a decisive tiebreak. The momentum swings during the tiebreak were huge but Keys, the more experienced player, did manage to close it out. She’ll no doubt be looking for an easier win in her next round.

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Tsurenko Triumphs

The biggest win of the day for the women had to go to Lesia Tsurenko. Ranked 99 in the world, Tsurenko’s chances of defeating World No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova. Those chances looked even more bleak when Cibulkova won three breaks and took the first set. At that stage, Tsurenko had to fight against a 15% win chance to take the match back. Both players struggled on serve in the second and all but one service game saw a break of service. By managing to hold that one game Tsurenko made the set score even and increased her win probability to 35%.

It was still an uphill battle against the odds for Tsurenko in the third. She earned the first break in the fourth game, which must have made her believe that she had real chance to take the match. That break turned out to be a critical one as the players went on to exchange breaks of service twice over the remaining games of the set. The final break earned by Tsurenko in the tenth had just a 40% probability at the start of the game. It wasn’t the first time in the match that Tsurenko did the improbable but it would be the last time she would have to do it to earn her place in the next round.

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