Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Silence is Deafening

by Savannah

Notice it? ESPN's report on the statistical probability of the last ten US Open draws being random hit like a Mike Tyson punch to the jaw of the USTA. Sure the man who runs the draw made a weak response saying "not us" but the report stands and anyone looking at it with an open mind can't help but agree with the conclusion reached by the authors of the study.

Here is the statistical data.

Men's Grand Slam Percent of draw simula-tions as easy as actual draws
Australian 71.2%
French 69.5%
Wimbledon 37.0%
U.S. Open 0.3%

Women's Grand Slam Percent of draw simula-tions as easy as actual draws
Australian 94.7%
French 99.2%
Wimbledon 30.7%
U.S. Open 0.0%

Since Wimbledon uses their own system there is no cause for alarm that their percentages are low. They admit that their system isn't random and the simulations prove that.

The probability that the US Open draws for the last ten years have been random is, to put it mildly, non existant.

As regular readers know I've taken the position for years that draws have been rigged to favor certain players. It was always amazing to me that some players were given cup cake draws while others had to fight tooth and nail to get to the quarter finals where they would arrive battered and bruised, barely able to crawl on court while a favored opponent waltzed on court fresh as a daisy.

There is an old canard about statistics and lies but let me say this. Does anyone think ESPN rushed this report out without having more than one geek review it? Would ESPN stake it's reputation on a report attacking the reputation of one of the pillars of American sports? Don't you think that ESPN knows that the report calls into question the validity of certain players "dominance" of the event, an event it spends beaucoup bucks to broadcast? This is old news to me but it's sent some fans over the edge.

The overwhelming fan response has been to call bullshit, that the basic assumptions of the study have to be wrong. On one fan site where posters have the option of flying their country's flag the overwhelming majority of posters flying the stars and stripes have said the report is garbage. Others have just called bullshit because they don't believe this could be true.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Anything done via a computer program can be made to reflect the will of the person or organization requesting the work. Anyone who has worked in an office can tell you how easy it is for a programmer to make sure a desired result comes out of an analysis. It's not quite garbage in, garbage out but say the desired result is that Player X make the final relatively unscathed. When the computer spits out the "random" draw lo and behold Player X is playing qualifiers and juniors trying to break into the Main Tour while Player Y is facing Murderer's Row.

Examples? Let's look at the 2007 US Open ATP draw.

(1)Roger Federer vs Jenkins (Q)
Schuettler (Q) vs Capdeville (Q)
Ascione (Q) vs De Voest (Q)
[WC] John Isner USA vs.Jarkko Nieminen FIN (26)

(21) Juan Carlos Ferrero ESP vs. Feliciano Lopez ESP
Robert Kendrick USA vs. Igor Andreev RUS
[WC] Donald Young USA vs. Chris Guccione AUS
Sergio Roitman ARG vs. Richard Gasquet FRA (13)

(9) Tomas Berdych CZE vs. Marc Gicquel FRA
Simone Bolelli ITA vs. Julien Benneteau FRA
Gilles Simon FRA vs. Waske(Q)
Fernando Verdasco ESP vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA (22)

(32) Ivo Karlovic CRO vs. Arnaud Clement FRA
Thomas Johansson SWE vs. Nicolas Massu CHI
Jose Acasuso ARG vs. Martin Vassallo Arguello ARG
Justin Gimelstob USA vs. Andy Roddick USA (5)

(4) NikolayDavydenkoRUS vs. [WC] Jesse Levine USA
Nicolas Kiefer GER vs. Vincent Spadea USA
Peter Luczak AUS vs. Luis Horna PER
[WC] Alex Kuznetsov USA vs. NicolasAlmagro ESP (28)

(19) AndyMurray GBR vs. Cuevas (Q)
Juan-Pablo Guzman ARG vs. Jonas Bjorkman SWE
Dominik Hrbaty SVK vs. Hyung-Taik Lee KOR
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo ESP vs. Guillermo Canas ARG (14)

(10) Tommy Haas GER vs. Darcis (Q)
Benjamin Becker GER vs. Petzchsner (Q)
Paul Goldstein USA vs. Sebastien Grosjean FRA
Max Mirnyi BLR vs. Marcos Baghdatis CYP (18)

(29) Filippo Volandri ITA vs. Michael Llodra FRA
Stefan Koubek AUT vs. Sam Querrey USA
Fabrice Santoro FRA vs. Albert Montanes ESP
Michael Russell USA vs. James Blake USA (6)

(8) TommyRobredo ESP vs. Reynolds (LL)
Mardy Fish USA vs. Echagaray (Q)
Przyziezny (Q) vs. Michael Berrer GER
Ernests Gulbis LAT vs. PotitoStarace ITA (30)

(17) CarlosMoya ESP vs. Phau (Q)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ESP vs. Igor Kunitsyn RUS
Mariano Zabaleta ARG vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber GER
Nicolas Devilder FRA vs. Mikhail Youzhny RUS (11)

(16) Lleyton Hewitt AUS vs. Amer Delic USA
Andreas Seppi ITA vs. Agustin Calleri ARG
Sela (Q) vs. Nicolas Lapentti ECU
Edouard Roger-Vasselin FRA vs. Juan Monaco ARG (23)

(31) Jurgen Melzer AUT vs. Diego Hartfield ARG
Juan Martin del Potro ARG vs. Nicolas Mahut FRA
Carlos Berlocq ARG vs. Radek Stepanek CZE
Mario Ancic CRO vs.Novak Djokovic SRB (3)

l(7) Fernando Gonzalez CHI vs. Teimuraz Gabashvili RUS
Robby Ginepri USA vs. Olivier Rochus BEL
Stanislas Wawrinka SUI vs. Evgeny Korolev RUS
Dancevic(Q) vs. Marat Safin RUS (25)

(20) Juan Ignacio Chela ARG vs. [WC] Michael McClune USA
Danai Udomchoke THA vs. [WC] Wayne Odesnik USA
Pavel(Q) vs Meffert (Q)
Kristof Vliegen BEL vs. Ivan Ljubicic CRO (12)

(15) David Ferrer ESP vs. Florian Mayer GER
Florent Serra FRA vs. Werner Eschauer AUT
Xavier Malisse BEL vs. Kristian Pless DEN
Ivan Navarro Pastor ESP vs. David Nalbandian ARG (24)

(27) Dmitry Tursunov RUS vs. Tim Henman GBR
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA vs. Oscar Hernandez ESP
Janko Tipsarevic SRB vs. [WC] Ryan Sweeting USA
[WC] Alun Jones AUS vs. Rafael Nadal ESP (2)

Luck of the Draw everyone said when questions were raised about the top half of the draw. Ironically this is the draw that is mentioned in the report for the men.

Here is the women's draw for the same year, 2007

(1) HENIN, Justine (BEL)vs QUALIFIER,
POUTCHKOVA, Olga RUS vs QUALIFIER,
QUALIFIER, vs SCHRUFF, Julia GER
QUALIFIER, vs (28) SUGIYAMA, Ai JPN

(17) GOLOVIN, Tatiana FRA vs ROLLE, Ahsha USA
CHAN, Yung-Jan TPE vs KNAPP, Karin ITA
RUANO PASCUAL, Virginia ESP vs BONDARENKO, Kateryna UKR
CASTANO, Catalina COL vs (15) SAFINA, Dinara RUS

(10) BARTOLI, Marion FRA vs (WC)GLATCH, Alexa USA
ERRANI, Sara ITA vs QUALIFIER,
PETKOVIC, Andrea GER vs (WC)COHEN, Audra USA
(WC)MOORE, Jessica AUS vs (20) SAFAROVA, Lucie CZE

(27) ZVONAREVA, Vera RUS vs QUALIFIER,
(WC)ALBANESE, Lauren USA vs LIKHOVTSEVA, Elena RUS
POUTCHEK, Tatiana BLR vs CAMERIN, Maria Elena ITA
KERBER, Angelique GER vs (8) WILLIAMS, Serena USA

(3) JANKOVIC, Jelena SRB vs GAJDOSOVA, Jarmila SVK
ARVIDSSON, Sofia SWE vs GOVORTSOVA, Olga BLR
OBZILER, Tzipora ISR vs WOZNIACKI, Caroline DEN
QUALIFIER, vs (29) STOSUR, Samantha AUS

(19) BAMMER, Sybille AUT vs TANASUGARN, Tamarine THA
KING, Vania USA vs SHAUGHNESSY, Meghann USA
CRAYBAS, Jill USA vs QUALIFIER,
COHEN-ALORO, Stephanie FRA vs (14) DEMENTIEVA, Elena RUS

(12) WILLIAMS, Venus USA vs QUALIFIER,
OLARU, Ioana Raluca ROU vs HARKLEROAD, Ashley USA
DANIILIDOU, Eleni GRE vs MEUSBURGER, Yvonne AUT
DULKO, Gisela ARG vs (21) BONDARENKO, Alona UKR

(25) SANTANGELO, Mara ITA vs DUSHEVINA, Vera RUS
BYCHKOVA, Ekaterina RUS vs QUALIFIER,
QUALIFIER, vs REZAI, Aravane FRA
NAKAMURA, Aiko JPN vs (5) IVANOVIC, Ana SRB

7) PETROVA, Nadia RUS vs BACSINSZKY, Timea SUI
RODIONOVA, Anastasia RUS vs SAVCHUK, Olga UKR
QUALIFIER, vs SZAVAY, Agnes HUN
BRIANTI, Alberta ITA vs (32) KRAJICEK, Michaella NED

(22) SREBOTNIK, Katarina SLO vs MOLIK, Alicia AUS
KIRILENKO, Maria RUS vs MULLER, Martina GER
KOSTANIC TOSIC, Jelena CRO vs VESNINA, Elena RUS
VAKULENKO, Julia UKR vs (9) HANTUCHOVA, Daniela SVK

(16) HINGIS, Martina SUI vs JOHANSSON, Mathilde FRA
MALEK, Tatjana GER vs QUALIFIER,
QUALIFIER, vs AZARENKA, Victoria BLR
CIBULKOVA, Dominika SVK vs (23) GARBIN, Tathiana ITA

(31) MEDINA GARRIGUES, Anabel vs WOZNIAK, Aleksandra CAN
DOMINGUEZ LINO, Lourdes E vs CHO, Yoon Jeong KOR
PIN, Camille FRA vs QUALIFIER,
ZAKOPALOVA, Klara CZE vs (6) KUZNETSOVA, Svetlana RUS

(6) CHAKVETADZE, Anna RUS vs (WC)WEINHOLD, Ashley USA
(WC)JACKSON, Jamea USA vs PRATT, Nicole AUS
GRANVILLE, Laura USA vs QUALIFIER,
KANEPI, Kaia EST vs (26) MIRZA, Sania IND

(24) SCHIAVONE, Francesca ITA vs DECHY, Nathalie FRA
ARN, Greta GER vs PASZEK, Tamira AUT
BREMOND, Severine FRA vs GALLOVITS, Edina ROU
BENESOVA, Iveta CZE vs (11) SCHNYDER, Patty SUI

(13) VAIDISOVA, Nicole CZE vs KUDRYAVTSEVA, Alla RUS
PENNETTA, Flavia ITA vs PENG, Shuai CHN
MATTEK, Bethanie USA vs BRENGLE, Madison USA
TU, Meilen USA vs (18) PEER, Shahar ISR

(30) RADWANSKA, Agnieszka POL vs MORIGAMI, Akiko JPN
LOIT, Emilie FRA vs RAZZANO, Virginie FRA
SHVEDOVA, Yaroslava RUS vs DELLACQUA, Casey AUS
VINCI, Roberta ITA vs (2) SHARAPOVA, Maria RUS

Here is what I said back then. Remember the comments are on the 2007 versions of players.

Re the top half of the women's draw:

Marion. Ana. Lucie. Venus. Jelena. Dinara. Tatiana. Serena. A nice mix of seeds to go along with the world No. 1 Henin. There are also some lower seeds who have had a pretty good year in the mix. Rezai is hungry. Sybille Bammer wants to go deep into the draw. Ai Sugiyama can pull a good one out every now and then. Possible matchups? Justine and Serena for the third time in the quarters. Venus vs. Ivanovic? Maybe. The competition in this side of the draw will be fierce.

This is what I said about the bottom half.

Okay. So let's see. Nadia. Headcase. Daniela. Good player. Two weeks will tax her physically. Martina. Bad back. Svetlana. Have to classify her as a headcase. She is coming back off of a shoulder injury that kept her out of Fed Cup as well. Anna. Good player. Not a great player yet. And how many times this summer is she going to play Sania Mirza? Sania hasn't shown she's got the mental toughness to make it to the second week. Patty. Nicole coming back from illness. Shahar's level of play has slacked off lately. Ms. Radwanska is pretty good but not Grand Slam good yet.

And, oh yes, there is Maria, the "Golden Girl" of the WTA. While the ladies in the top half duke it out, Ms. Sharapova will be banging and grunting her way through to meet a player who has had to bite and claw her way through her matches. I don't mean to disparage any of the players in the bottom half of the draw. I mean who was Marion Bartoli a few weeks ago? Anyone can get hot and pull an upset.

There are those who argue that it is impossible to rig a draw in a players favor because there are too many safeguards in place. But when boards that were known for banning people because they didn't like a player favored by the mods have threads titled "RIGGED!!!!" and another one asking why is it that a certain player seems to always get a nice draw, things are a little out of control. Justine is the top female player in the world. So they threw a qualifier her way for her first round match. Once she gets past her quarter the Big Babes will be waiting for her. Meanwhile number two will be practicing her smile and wave. I guess sometimes it does pay to be No. 2.

I caught a lot of flack for that post but I never hesitated to point out when a player was being hidden or protected. I was never a fan of Justine Henin but I always said they tried to do her in when she played in New York. I should mention that the shenanigans didn't work for the women. Sharapova lost in the third round if I recall correctly and Henin won it all.

So what now? As I write this the USTA hasn't said a word. The crack journalists who cover tennis haven't said a word. Fans who have had abuse heaped on them for saying something was rotten are vindicated. Not every fan has a blog but every fan has an opinion. My questions about how the US Open is run go back to 2003 when the top American got the breaks at the expense of the then top Spaniard.

I know everyone is going to be paying attention to this years draw. Let's see how much luck is in it for some players.


1 comment:

TennisAce said...

I have heard about the easy draws report but I have the one thing to say that I have always said. Both Federer and Henin were such dominating forces in their sport during 2007 that it did not matter what draws they got, they would have still beaten the field. Say for example you took the draws in 2007 and turned it around, do you really think that the players that either person faced during that time would have had a chance in hell of beating them, especially Federer? Even better, Justine got a draw from hell (I remember that one) and what did she do, she took out everyone, made it to the final and did what she needed to do in the end.

Champions do not need people to pad draws for them. They go out there and they fight all the time for every single point. In 2009 when everyone felt that Federer got an easy draw at the French Open, he had to fight tooth and nail every step of the way to win that tournament. Right now with the way Djokovic is playing, do you really think that he will have a difficult draw at the USO? The man has lost 1 match all season long, but yet you will have people who will say that he is getting a cake walk. These people are top players for a reason and frankly the USTA or whomever does the draws do a disservice to them when they think that they need help to do what they have been doing for years.