Indian Wells. . . and the Peanut Gallery

We will continue our discussion of the IW draw, try to add to the excitement everyone is feeling about the year’s first Masters.

But first let’s take-out the garbage.

I love it.

I will pound this blog with ATP insight until the cows come home, out-write and out-think my wealthier tennis punditry in straights; be that as it may, when some of these hooligans from the peanut gallery come sauntering-in from their chic wine bar or hookah lounge haze, like buskers playing their poverty cards, driving their Jaguars or whatever the fuck they wear, playing their bullshit blues about their hero: (fuck off) I have to speak-up.

The peanut gallery has taken the 2017 Indian Wells draw announcement as another opportunity to build their case for Djokovic, the unlucky slow-court specialist who’s been fed to the lions, impaled, starved, frozen, etc.

Let me remind this readership (and any “visitors”) of my unchallenged respect for Nole; read my blog, search “Novak Djokovic,” i.e., stick around so you don’t get confused as I just want to shed some of my own light on this test of tennis intelligence.

To be fair, this isn’t as much about intelligence as it is about argument, specifically logos, which involves the speaker/writer’s confederacy of documentation built to persuade, or what is often merely (unfortunately) the fanatically (fantasized) statistical argument that one purports to complete what could be a fraudulent transaction. 😀

I was hoping to begin tonight’s post along these lines: No one outside of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has won Indian Wells since 2004. Before you come roaring back to say someone other than the Big 3 won the title in 2010, you’ve already been mouse-trapped since Federer and Ljubicic, now, are ONE (If you don’t believe me, read and “watch” this post).

Instead, I have to sit on the wall and defend the kingdom. I guarantee that Djokovic would not (and I repeat “would not”) condone the garbage his fanboys and girls are doing on this eve of IW, a place the Serb has almost called a Masters home. The shit congregations do in the name of their idol. Wow.

So, dig this: I was getting ready for work today, reading and marking-up this and that text when I saw a tweet come across the wire from someone named CindyBlack3. She had some tennis stats, immediately spoke to sympathy for the Serb; so I checked it out. Here are her two graphs:

Djoker_fangraph

Djoker_fangraph2

Sure, you might have seen them on Twitter, or elsewhere, such as your favorite little fangirl’s blog who is spinning like a Tasmanian devil right about now.

You can see in the bottom left of the image this individual’s name. I glanced at the graphs, whiffed that quintessential fangirl perfumey scent and began asking a couple of questions:

Perhaps you can pick-up a bit more of the conversation, which I had to abandon, unfortunately; a guy’s gotta work.

But there you have it. The graph I mean. Seems pretty much an indictment of Federer. And another baptism of Djokovic as the true messiah, the one we’re failing to recognize, who has been shielded from our eyes by the blasphemy of Fedal.

This is not a joke, but it sure seems like a joke.

We know this narrative quite well. And I actually subscribe a bit to its thesis. The peanut gallery says Novak is the unlucky one. They call the draws “suspicious,” even “rigged” against their idol.

I say, indeed he is unlucky: he came to prominence during the time of Fedal.

Of course, here’s the lunacy. They don’t think Fedal is a legitimate source of greatness. Listen to their arguments. Look at their statistical arguments. It’s bananas.

The peanut gallery says he hasn’t been appreciated, that we’ve taken his greatness for granted.

I have actually followed his career fairly well. You probably have, as well. He’s been marvelous. No question. But so have the other two.

What are you saying, CindyBlack3 and the rest of that horde? That Novak is better than Nadal and Federer? Are you just coming after Federer? Is it the GOAT you’re trying to kill, stuff and put on your wall? What exactly is your point?

That the sport is a grand conspiracy to elevate Federer above everyone else?

The graphs above must have involved a little (meaning a lot) of research, I suspect. I certainly thank CindyBlack3 for the work. I would have to spend quite a bit of time checking all of that data to really have a definitive grasp on the accuracy.

Folks, you can spin evidence. Seemingly objective metrics like statistics have all sorts of hidden agendas. CindyBlack3 is dabbling in what we’re calling here in the States a bit of sabermetrics, which is an analytics movement in baseball, derived from the “the search for objective knowledge about baseball” (sabr.org). This is the use of statistics taken to the extreme. There are quite respected critics of this movement, namely “old schoolers” who discount this over-commitment to numbers. These more traditional “analysts” are both old and out-of-touch and quite insightful in their use of the eye-test, crap-detectors and experience. Numbers lie, CindyBlack3.

For starters, look at the Djokovic numbers above. The conclusion is he played more better players than the rest of the Big 4 (“more better” is grammatically correct, I’ll have you know). The numbers tell that story.

The other story? He had to play Federer and Nadal a lot. His draw often had those two who were often seeded higher than he was. You want to bring in the rest of the top-10 and 20 and talk about quality of opponent, etc., etc.? That’s the game being played by this part of the peanut gallery. But that’s less telling than you think it is.

How many times was Djokovic a #3 seed having to play either the #1 or #2 or both? He was unlucky in that he grew-up in a rough neighborhood. He played a #10 and Federer played a #16? Big fucking deal.

I suppose I’ll hear you out on the window that Roger had between Sampras/Agassi and Nadal (then Novak), which he took advantage of big time. But Roger had plenty of success during Fedal and has even won two majors since 2012. Oh, and don’t forget, CindyBlack3 and Fangirl S.A.: Federer is six years older than your boy. You might have overlooked that bit, no? That fuzzys up the numbers a bit there, CB3, et al.

That S.A. bloke threw his favorite little French Open “smear” at the world again today, as well:

Novak_Frenchy

Let me say just a few things about this non-sense. What is the point here? That Novak would have faired better had he been on opposite sides of the draw from Nadal more often?

Folks, I am not a statistician (you probably figured that out). But is there a difference between playing Nadal in a SF and a F? If you’re going to bring-up this concern of having or not having the “luck” in Paris to somehow avoid Nadal for a match or two and say that this is a significant issue, I am going to call you a fire-breathing fangirl carrying a basket of bullshit.

How did Roger benefit from his “favorable” draw (and do comment and tell me if I’m missing something)? He lost to Rafa in RG many many times. Not sure if the draw mattered.

2005 (SF), 2006 (F), 2007 (F), 2008 (F), 2011 (F).

Novak, it’s argued, got screwed in his French Open draws. Look at the graph above. It’s gibberish if you ask me, but I wanted to evidence the BS that the peanut gallery is lobbing into our Indian Wells pre-party.

Novak is 1-6 vs. Nadal at Rolland Garros. Again, please tell me if I’m missing something here, but what is the point of the “facts and numbers”and “Remarks”? That Novak was subjected to a rigged draw where he found himself in a more vulnerable position at the French Open?

Djokovic lost to Nadal at the FO in 2006 (QF – Novak retired down 0-2 sets), 2007 (SF – straights), 2008 (SF – straights), 2012 (F – in 4), 2013 (SF – in 5) and 2014 (F – in 4). So the issue is that 4 of the losses were in a non-final match? What’s the point here, that Novak’s losses are in matches with less significance? Is the argument that he would have been more successful if those non-final matches were finals? WTF.

And as I said before, outside, really, the top-3 (maybe 4), the field was pretty much a bunch of sacrificial lambs. The % of top-5 and top-10 opponents just doesn’t quite move my chain.

Novak did finally beat Rafa in a 2015 QF match, one we all remember. When Rafa was pretty much a mess and a half.

One last point with regards to Rafa and Roger landing in different halves. The Swiss and Spaniard were #1 and #2 (at the French at least) 2006-10 (five years). In 2011, when they were #2 and #3, Roger landed in Novak’s half and beat the Serb in the SF. Is that part of the “law suit”? 2006 thru 2010 was pretty much Fedal, so for Novak to make much noise at all, he had to, indeed, beat some really good players. Nadal and Federer, alternatively, were on top, playing lower seeds by the dozen.

The hysteria surrounding the 2017 IW draw is just the latest “scandal.” The peanut gallery looks for these opportunities to “vent,” or whatever you want to call it.

Here’s an article I found that happens to be ALL IN on the Djokovic peanut gallery. And we all now this man’s work. Talk about over-dosing on the calculator. 😀

The first article (Oct. 2016) ends like this:

Overall there is nothing wrong with Novak Djokovic. Many can make out what they want of his form but he’ll be back; it’s not as if he’s totally terrible with early round losses consistently. Murray might be having great results right now but what will happen when he actually has to play the top guys to win big events? Who knows. Regardless of Murray defending his Olympic Gold (an incredible accomplishment mind you), to say Murray’s year is even comparable to Djokovic’s perhaps isn’t true; one has two Majors while the other doesn’t–that’s the bottom line given Majors are the pinnacle of tennis. The Brit’s consistency this year might well be better than the Serbian’s, but what does that matter when Djokovic is still the one with the better more impressive wins? Not much I’ll tell you that. If Murray does get to become World #1 soon then congratulations to him and his fans, but regardless of anything Djokovic would have still had the better year.

Special thanks to Cindy Black for the Djokovic Murray comparison stats.

There’s our pal, Cindy. 

On a serious note, these veiled attempts to undermine great players, to manufacture dominance via some kind of biased sabermetrics and conspiracy theory are bad for the culture. In passing, this morning, I encountered the mob and lobbed a resistance.

I encourage you to do the same, in your own unique way.

Now let’s start looking forward to some Masters tournament tennis!

5 thoughts on “Indian Wells. . . and the Peanut Gallery

  1. Agree with your critics, Matt, on the views of the peanut gallery. They are overreacting and don’t offer any valuable proof to what they are insinuating.
    CindyBlack3 did a pretty good job in collecting the information from which she (or he?) made those tennis graphs; we have to thank him or her for the work it involved, because as such they are interesting info.
    But that type of tennis stats don’t allow us to jump to conclusions with regard to the possible manipulation of the composition of draws, let alone that Djokovic has been a victim of rigged draws more than anyone else. Stats of a descriptive nature never can.
    The lack of randomness of draws can’t, in any case, be proven by descriptive stats.
    One needs to use statistical hypothesis testing techniques and test hypothesis H° (draws are not rigged) versus H1 ( (draws are rigged), use at least a sample of 30 draws for it, collect than the information needed from this sample, and compare the probability of the outcome with the probabilities on the scale of a statistical distribution to be able to draw any conclusion from it.
    I’ve analyzed may draws, in my little den, for years, and managed only once to really prove, by using statistical techniques, that draws most likely have been manipulated. That one case was a sample of 32 consecutive draws of Roland Garros (1983 until 2014 included), in which the combination of [seed 1-seed 6] never, not even once, occurred in the first quarter of the RG draw. The test results in that particular case allowed me to conclude – with 95% certainty – that at least one of these 32 draws had been manipulated, but still with a 5% chance of being wrong about it. But even such an observation doesn’t give you any information about how many times it possibly happened, let alone allows you to jump to the conclusion that it happened often.
    But apart from this I’ve another problem with CindyBlack3’s stats.
    Remember my comment about the ranking points of players ranked top 10, top 9 etc a few weeks ago ? I didn’t say it explicitly on that occasion, but a knowledgeable reader would or could have concluded it from my comment: the ranking points that go with a certain ATP ranking, are themselves distributed according to a distribution which fits into the normal distribution, if we observe the behavior of those ranking points over a certain period of time. This implies that one player ranked nr. 10 in the ATP Emirates rankings is not necessarily comparable with another player ranked nr. 10. Or would you treat Roger Federer, currently ranked number 10 with 3,305 pts, on equal terms with Nicolas Almagro, ranked nr. 10 from July 25th 2011 till august 8th 2011 with only 2,165 points ?
    One last word with regard to the windows of opportunities for a player. Djokovic won his first slam title already in 2008, at the AO, but didn’t follow this up with other excellent results in the next seasons. Particularly during the 2010 season, in which the field was relatively weak, he had opportunities to excel but didn’t seize them, in contrast with Rafael Nadal who took plain advantage of it and bagged three slam titles. His results in that period can’t be blamed on the composition of the draws, as his current results can’t be either.

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