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Attacking Play Wins Out at AO2017

This year’s Australian Open has turned many of the game’s norms on its head. While the dust is still settling from the upsets of a number of the favorites in the first week, we are starting to see how some of the surprises for the title have been so successful.

Players like Mischa Zverev and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni wouldn’t have seemed to have much in common at the start of the tournament other than being dark horses for spots in the second week of the tournament. But after each made it thru a wild first week, we can see that they both likely got some help from their attacking style of play.

Jeff Sackmann had an excellent article on this topic in The Economist today. He suggested that the conditions at the Australian Open this year has given aggressive players better odds than they have had in the past.

I was curious how consistent this trend has been, especially on the women’s side where the surprises keep coming.

To look at the level of attacking play of players at the Australian Open I look at the percentage of winners, unforced errors, aces and double faults a player makes relative to their opponent. This is a proxy for the aggression score mentioned by Sackmann but a simplification because it does not consider shot opportunities.

If we look at the women still in the draw, we see that they have all maintained an attacking score over 50% (Venus Williams’ second match being the one exception). By contrast, the three women that lost their quarterfinal match were all playing below the 50% level. This could make this indicator a critical one for the outcome of the Serena Williams and Johanna Konta matchup.

Of the women left in the draw, the most consistently attacking has been Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Johanna Konta. If they can play to the levels of aggression we have seen so far, we could be in store for a first-time Major winner.

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