Djokovic like a sponge – tennis mastermind hails Novak ahead of Aus Open tilt

By Sports Desk January 15, 2020

Craig O'Shannessy knows Novak Djokovic better than most. He was the brains behind the 16-time grand slam champion's revival.

When O'Shannessy teamed up with Djokovic as his chief strategist in 2017, there were doubts over the Serbian star and whether he was a spent force on the ATP Tour due to injuries and form.

Djokovic drifted to 22nd in the world rankings during the 2018 season after ending the previous year without a slam crown – Australian Open (second round), French Open (quarter-finals), Wimbledon (quarter-finals) and US Open (absent due to injury).

However, highly regarded Australian strategy analyst and data pioneer O'Shannessy masterminded Djokovic's rise back to the top with three consecutive major championships thanks to a specific gameplan and emphasis on numbers and patterns.

Djokovic won four slams in total with O'Shannessy – the Australian Open (2019), Wimbledon (2018, 2019) and US Open (2018) – before the pair went their separate ways at the end of the 2019 season.

Providing an insight into Djokovic ahead of his quest for a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown in Melbourne, O'Shannessy, who provides players with reports and videos focusing on serving patterns and rally lengths before every match, told Omnisport: "He was really fantastic.

"He was also really receptive, really inquisitive, he is a sponge. There were so many times that I'd give him data and he was locked on to it. He always looked at it as much as possible. He had a real thirst for all the analytics I'd provide him. My job was to make things simple. He is a very smart guy. I think the record and success he had, a big part of that was going onto the court and having the confidence in the gameplan."

O'Shannessy, who now works with 2019 US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, Jan-Lennard Struff, Alexei Popyrin and Tennis Canada, said: "We met in 2016 and I just showed them the work I could do, which was a lot of video work, analysis of matches, reports that led to video and it was something they weren’t doing at all in their team. We started at the beginning of 2017 and did it for three years, which in tennis years is a substantial amount of time, and it was very successful.

"Early on, I asked him how I could best be an asset for him. I had showed him everything I could do and the big thing was he wanted to see video. He hadn't seen a lot of video from his matches and what he did well. The big thing early on was the confirmation that certain ways and patterns that he gravitates naturally to on the court and didn't know whether they were really the best options.

"A lot of it early on was to show video of his best patterns of play, what worked the most, why he was winning, provide gameplans for every single match over the three years for the opponent, so he never went in blind. We always had a gameplan and knew the tendencies of opponents. Really double down at the big events and against his big rivals, to ensure no stone was left unturned."

At the age of 32, Djokovic – regarded as one of the all-time greats – trails Roger Federer's slam record (20) but can specific training with the use of analytics help prolong his career in pursuit of history?

"Novak is the kind of player that when he's practising, likes to feel the ball, likes to have rhythm, likes to have a large volume of hitting," O'Shannessy added. "But at the same time, there's one element being 'I need to feel good about my game but I also need to spend time working on the patterns that I know will be the most conducive to me winning matches'.

"Being smarter, a lot of the data does direct itself to being smarter on the practice court and not just grinding away, but running patterns of play and serving to a location to receive a ball, then to go to another specific location. For sure that knowing while you win matches and knowing that it's much more in the shorter rallies than the longer rallies, then you go to the practice court and develop those patterns."

Related items

  • Coronavirus: Federer challenges fans, celebrities in volleying drill Coronavirus: Federer challenges fans, celebrities in volleying drill

    Roger Federer challenged celebrities and fans to join in a volleying drill on social media on Tuesday.

    With the ATP Tour suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 20-time grand slam champion looked to engage fans on social media.

    In a video posted on Twitter, Federer – wearing a panama hat – volleyed a ball repeatedly against a wall at close range, and asked others to do likewise.

    "Here's a helpful solo drill. Let's see what you got!" the Swiss great wrote.

    "Reply back with a video and I'll provide some tips. Choose your hat wisely #tennisathome."

    Many fans took up the challenge, with Federer replying to several efforts.

  • PSG soar to 94 points, AVB secures second for Marseille - Stats Perform AI completes the Ligue 1 season PSG soar to 94 points, AVB secures second for Marseille - Stats Perform AI completes the Ligue 1 season

    Football at the highest level in Europe is at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, but there remains plenty to play for in France's 2019-20 Ligue 1 campaign.

    When the virus hit, causing lockdowns and mass sporting postponements, it was just as the seasons were heading towards their conclusion.

    Debate has raged across the continent as to how the campaigns can be salvaged, but most league bodies are leaning towards a continuing determination to wrap up this term before wading into 2020-21.

    As football waits for the virus threat to subside, and for normal life to return, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers behind the scenes.

    Most teams in Ligue 1 have 10 matches still to play - only leaders Paris Saint-Germain and mid-table Strasbourg have 11 remaining - and the goal was to simulate how the season would pan out if the games were played now, to produce a final 2019-20 table.

     

    The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss - based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

    Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

    The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

    All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model - with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

    The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

    Here, then, is a close look at the results of the simulation with the simulated final league standings.

     

    PSG STORM TO TITLE HAT-TRICK

    A third Ligue 1 triumph in succession, and a seventh in the last eight years, had long looked an inevitability.

    Our model shows Paris Saint-Germain sweeping to glory with 94 points, pulling 23 points clear of second-placed Marseille.

    That beats their total from each of the last two seasons - 93 in 2017-18 and 91 in 2018-19 - and confirms PSG remain streets ahead in France.

    Thomas Tuchel's side, with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in their ranks, have a budget that far exceeds the rest, and another 90-points-plus campaign shows how far they are ahead of the rest.

    MARSEILLE SETTLE FOR SECOND

    Andre Villas-Boas has rejuvenated Marseille and bolstered his reputation as a leading coach this season, and second place became theirs for the taking.

    The AI verdict shows them nailing down the runners-up position, albeit by taking just 15 points from the last 10 rounds of matches.

    There had been a momentary stumble from Marseille before the league was halted, with a rare home defeat to Nantes followed by a narrow win at Nimes and a Stade Velodrome 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Amiens.

    Yet a return to the Champions League is on the cards, the simulation shows, with Marseille securing their highest Ligue 1 finish since the 2012-13 season, when they were also runners-up to PSG.

    Rennes, meanwhile, are set for a Champions League debut in 2020-21, with Julien Stephan's team pipping Lille to third place despite both teams finishing on 62 points.

     

    A LILLE DISAPPOINTMENT

    Fourth place represents a blow to Lille, and their coach Christophe Galtier, after last season's second-placed finish.

    It earns them another season in European football, but in the Europa League rather than a return to the Champions League.

    Lille and Rennes were jostling for third spot when the season reached its unnatural break, and Galtier would have been optimistic his side would have been able to overturn their one-point deficit at the 28-game stage.

    The plus point for Lille is that at least the AI simulation does not see them stumbling any further down the table, with the likes of Lyon, Monaco and Nice too far back to mount a challenge.

    Just four points separated fifth from 13th place when the league was stopped in March, but an eight-point gap to the top four meant these teams were always likely to be playing for pride.

    Reims, who sat fifth, dip to ninth place at the season's end.

    THE SINKING, SUNK

    It's au revoir to Amiens and Toulouse.

    Toulouse had already looked doomed, sitting on 13 points from 28 games, and despite the Stats Perform AI suggesting they would pick up a further 10 points from the final 10 games, it would not be nearly enough.

    It was a bleak picture as well for Amiens, who were too far off the pace after racking up just four wins before the virus struck down football.

    Nimes are projected to finish 18th and face a relegation play-off, despite a blitz of wins in February that sent optimism surging through Bernard Blaquart's side.

    Les Crocodiles beat Monaco, Dijon, Nice and Angers in a 15-day burst before defeats to Rennes, Marseille and Metz left Nimes back in the mire, three points shy of Saint-Etienne and Dijon, the teams perched precariously outside the bottom three.

    Nimes would fall short of repeating their four-in-a-row heroics over the run-in, according to the simulated results, leaving the team that finished ninth after promotion last season within two games of sinking back to Ligue 2.

  • Golf's greatest major: Magic Masters or historic Open? Golf's greatest major: Magic Masters or historic Open?
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.