Post-Match Analysis: Sabine Lisicki v Agnieszka Radwanska

It seemed impossible to top yesterday’s gentlemen’s quarter-finals drama, but Lisicki v Radwanska managed it with a heart-stopping series of early leads, nervous misfires, multiple comebacks and nerve-wracking stand-offs. Lisicki was brilliant in the first set, disastrous in the second and both at times during the third. Radwanska played more consistently and often more inventively, but couldn’t quite do enough to hold Lisicki back. If the first ladies’ semi-final was short on thrills, this one threatened to over-deliver. How on Earth can the final beat this?

IBM’s SlamTracker certainly had its work cut out. SlamTracker’s predictive analytics works on over 8 years of Grand Slam history and over 41 million points of data to pull out the key factors that might affect the momentum of the match. By exploring each player’s past performances, both against their opponent and players with a similar style, it defines three keys to the match: the statistical targets each player needs to hit if they want the best chance of coming through victorious.

Lisicki’s keys to the match focused on her service games. Firstly, SlamTracker identified that she needed to win more than 39% of points on second serve. Secondly, the software predicted that she needed to win more than 14% of her first serve points with an ace. Finally, Lisicki needed to win more than 71% of points when serving at 30-30 or Deuce. She couldn’t afford to have Radwanska break her serve.

Radwanska’s keys concentrated more on her return and rally games. While serving, the World No.4 needed to serve less than 21% of serves into the body. Otherwise, she needed to win more than 36% of points when returning Lisicki’s first serve, and win more than 28% of rallies with 3 or fewer shots when returning. For SlamTracker, those short rallies would be crucial to the direction of the match.

The first set was Lisicki’s strongest. She hit two of her keys to the match targets, winning 50% of points on second serve and more than 71% of points when serving at 30-30 or Deuce. She was behind on winning first serve points with Aces, with just two in the set, but with Radwanska falling short of all three of her targets the match was heading her way.

The second set, however, was a different story. With 3 Aces Lisicki just about met one of her keys during the set, but fell behind on the others. Meanwhile Radwanska hit two of her targets, winning 55% of her receiving points and in excess of 36% of points when returning first serve, and also performing well on the short rallies. Lisicki’s first serve percentage dropped from 67% in the first set to 55% in the second, and she went from winning 85% of points on first serve to winning just 50%. Radwanska’s first serve percentage was more consistent, with 79% in the first set and 75% in the second, and she was winning more points. What’s more, Lisicki made 17 unforced errors in the set to Radwanska’s three.

Radwanska clinched an early lead in the third set, and the match seemed headed in her direction. Yet Lisicki pulled back to equalise, and the rest of the set was a tug of war. Lisicki would pull ahead with some astounding play, only to crash back down with a lost rally or unforced error. Radwanska, meanwhile, was playing points with incredible flair. By the fourteenth game Radwanska was leading, with two of her keys to Lisicki’s one. Yet Lisicki finally turned this around, winning the set 9-7 in one final service game. Her first serve percentage rose back to 68%, while she won 66% of points on first serve and 50% on second.

Lisicki ended the match with just one of her keys to the match targets and Radwanska with none, but in a match this tight that one key – Lisicki’s second serve performance – was enough. It’s doubtful that Lisicki will face such a gruelling test in Saturday’s final against France’s Marion Bartoli, but who knows? Stranger things have happened at Wimbledon this year.

For a full match report, visit wimbledon.com

Stuart Andrews