(Dig in; this is a long post. Located within includes commentary on the new ball, critiques of serve selection, and the “reason” CM lost the game).
Every once in a while there’s a compelling enough match that I dig out my patented “Match Tracker” spreadsheet and spend a bit of time analyzing a game to find some hidden insights as to the result.
Given that we just witnessed a scintillating match between the then #1 Daniel De La Rosa and the now newly ascended to #1 Conrrado Moscoso for the Longhorn Open Final, one with a back and forth 15-14 first game, I thought i’d take a dive and see what information we could glean.
The video, if you want to re-watch it, is here: https://www.facebook.com/racquetballtour/videos/697166515201347
The match tracker data for Game 1 is now uploaded to this Google xls:
The first tab is a detailed accounting of all 54 rallies, while the second tab has the aggregated data that will be the basis of most of this analysis. The other tabs explain the serve and rally codes in use.
Lets dive in and get some interesting info:
– Game 1 Length: 32mins, 36 seconds
This works out to around 36 seconds per rally. That’s about what I’ve seen with most of these other match tracking i’ve done, especially in tense, strategic games. Moscoso is a bit of a slower player, with a pedantic, deliberate serving motion, which adds some time. DLR isn’t exactly speedy himself, and had a ton of missed first serves in this game, which extended the time.
There were also two time-outs taken and two rather lengthy towel time-outs, so taking those delays out, you’re closer to a 29minute game and about 32 seconds per rally. Not bad.
– Rallies: there were 54 rallies exactly here: There were 29 points scored, 24 side-outs, and only one replay.
It was a rather clean game; just one replay, no avoidables, and that replay was a pretty soft one in this viewer’s opinion, coming on a play where Moscoso claimed a swing hinder but DLR looked exasperated that it was given.
– DLR won 27 of the rallies, Moscoso 26, and there was one replay. Not much between them in this game, as @Favio Soto repeatedly said while doing the finals broadcast with Tourney Director Soly Kor .
– Number of 1 shot rallies (aka Aces): 1.
– Number of 2 shot rallies: 16.
– Number of 3-shot rallies: 13
So more than 50% of the rallies were of the bang-bang-bang variety. This is what you’d expect with two skilled shot-makers.
– Average Number of Shots per rally: 2.74 not including the serve.
So, this is one of the points I wanted to get into. The Longhorn Open was the first event to use the new Gearbox ball, which we know is thicker and slower. Many have speculated about what impact this would have on the pro game. Would it slow down power players, would it drastically increase rallies? Would it lead to fewer aces? Would it lead to more aces?
First off, the court type and altitude makes a huge difference in the game, irrespective of the ball. Austin is just a few hundred feet above sea level, but featured concrete walls, which minimize the impact a bit of a slower ball. So that de-emphasizes a slower ball a bit for this event.
That being noted, here’s what we found in this data: an average of 2.74 shots per rally after the serve is roughly half a shot more per rally than the last time I did this analysis (the Kane-Andree Atlanta 11-10 game, which came in at 2.2 shots per rally), and a bit more than another, older game between two power players (the 2002 Kane-Cliff Halloween classic game that’s all over youtube): that one came in at 2.59 shots per rally.
What we really need to do is go back to the last time DLR-CM played (the Denver final in 2021) and do similar analysis. But even then, that match was at altitude and may not give us a neutral accounting either.
It is possible that the Gearbox ball resulted in about half an extra shot per rally, or one extra ball every other rally. It is also possible that we’re seeing the impact of a skilled defender like DLR who liberally used ceiling balls off of drive serves and rarely made an error during rallies, as compared to the playing style of Kane, which was basically to go for shots at every opportunity and resulted in a a ton of 2- and 3-shot rallies in that game.
At the end of the day, the Longhorn semis featured #1, #3, #4, and a #15 player who’s far better than #15 in the semis, so the players who were “supposed” to get to the semis basically got there. If the Gearbox ball supposedly favors the control player, then why didn’t we see the tour’s best control players (guys like Parrilla and Landa) do better? Landa was upset by Carter in the 16s and th en spent the rest of the weekend complaining about the ball on social media, while Parrilla ended up losing to another excellent control player in Mar. Perhaps the pre-eminent power player on tour right now is Moscoso; he made the final with relative ease.
More to come on this topic as we see how the tour goes forward with this ball, but that’s my thoughts for now.
Coincidentally, the longest rally of the game was just 9 shots; it occurred relatively early in the game and ended with a Moscoso forehand error.
Number of dives: only 6. Given how much these two players dive, they really did not spend much time on the floor. that’s probably because they were both making too many un-gettable shots.
Number of rollouts: 13. This was the number of times I saw a shot that was irretrievable, no matter where the opponent was standing. 13 rollout winners out of 39 total winners. That’s actually somewhat low; we definitely saw a ton more passing shots and use of lines/angles in this game versus going-for-broke kill shots.
Lets dive into some Serving stats. DLR first:
– 28 serves, just one 1 ace
– Only a 67% first serve in rate: he missed 9 of 28 first serves. That’s not very good.
– DLR drove serve 100% of the time; not one first serve lob.
– DLR hit 64% (18 of 28) drive serves to backhand, 35% (10 of 28) to the forehand. A decent 2-1 ratio, clearly meaning to try to keep CM on his toes and not do too much guessing backhand.
– When DLR drove to the backhand, he scored 10 of his 15 points. When DLR drove to the forehand … he scored just one point. 1 point out of 9 drives to the forehand. If I was DLR’s coach … i’d probably say, “stop drive serving his forehand: it isn’t working.”
– When DLR got his first serve in; 12 out of 19 points for 63% rate. When DLR missed his first serve, he scored on just 3 of 9 second serves for a 33% rate. Two lessons here: get your first serve in … and drive serve instead of lob.
Conclusions: DLR did not serve especially well in this game, but showed decent effectiveness when he did get the serve in. He got 4 points either from Aces or from service return errors and two more via classic 3-shot rallies (serve, return, kill). He should abandon the drive to the forehand against Conrrado, perhaps splitting his time 66% drive backhand and 33% hard Z to forehand. He did not try any other hard serves; no jams, no wrap-arounds, no real change of pace drives.
Serve Analysis for Moscoso: Here’s Conrrado’s serving analysis:
– 26 serves, zero Aces.
A pause here. Zero aces from one of the biggest hitters in the game? Is this because of the ball, or is it because DLR is the most skilled player in the game at returning? A combination of both? Also notably, Moscoso did not foot fault one time in this game; this has long been a bugaboo for him, and he used to liberally FF over and over. Has he modified his serving mechanics to sacrifice power for a shorter stride and more control? Unknown.
– CM had a great 1st serve percentage: 23 of 26 serves in for an 88% success rate. That’s super impressive for a guy who hits as hard as he does; its reminiscent of the old one-serve power players like Cliff, Sudsy, Ellis.
– As did DLR, CM drove serve 100% of the time.
– CM hit 92% of his drives to DLR’s backhand (24 of 26). He hit just two drives down the line to DLR’s forehand. Both those forehand serves were over fast: one was a service return error for a point, one was a crushed pass kill for a side-out.
CM had very little variation in his first serves: he didn’t really hit anything resembling a jam the entire game. He hit one serve that looked like it was an attempt at a wrap around, but it more likely was a flown drive serve that hit the back wall a few feet up and probably was a mis-hit. No Z-serves. Perhaps this is why he got no aces: DLR never had to really guess where the serve was going. To me, the times CM did go to the forehand, he so badly telegraphed it that DLR could jump the serve.
– CM did so little serving to the forehand that there’s no value in breaking down FH vs BH drive serve stats.
– When CM got his first serve in, he got points about half the time. 12 of his points came on his 23 first serves in. Probably needs to be higher, and indicates that despite his high 1st serve percentage the serves were not as effective as he needed them to be.
– Interestingly he got points on 2 of his 3 lobs/second serves. And all three of these 2nd serve/lob attempts were 3-shot rallies: twice DLR left up a return and CM buried it, the third time CM went for the kill and missed.
Conclusions: CM needs to get more from his powerful service game. I’d suggest more variation, more jam serves and more z-balls as change of pace/alternative serves. Also, he had such good success with his lobs in small sample sizes, i wonder if its worth trying to lob DLR an entire game to see what happens.
Rally stats. This is where the real reason the game was won/lost becomes evident.
DLR Rally ending breakdown: DLR had 17 rally winners:
– 9 forehands, 7 backhands. Very even spread
– 12 passing winners, 4 pinch/splat winners.
This is amazing to me, b/c DLR’s game is normally to pinch everything he can. Perhaps against this player, who is one of the better divers in the sport, he chose to work the lines more than to go for broke with lower percentage shots. This breakdown does NOT seem to support the slower ball; a slower ball is easier to pinch.
– Just 4 errors the entire game. Three of the errors were on the service return, meaning DLR made just one error during the run of play for the entire game.
– DLR had a 17/4 Winner/Error ratio for the game, that’s 6.25 winners per error. Awesome.
CM Rally ending breakdown: CM had 22 winners, more than DLR.
– 9 forehands, 13 backhands. CM really has an amazing backhand.
– 9 passing winners, 13 pinch/splat winners. This is the Moscoso we know, the most opportunistic shooter in the game right now.
– 10 errors. Moscoso made 10 rally ending errors in the game. Despite all his winners, this was the reason he lost. He had game point on his forehand and missed. Most of his winners were on the backhand, and most of his errors were on the backhand too (7 of the 10).
– CM had a 22/10 Winner/Error ratio. So just 2.2 winners per error as compared to DLR’s ratio, which was 3 times as high.
Conclusions based on the rally stats: DLR was more in control and played a very error-free game, which made the difference in the end. CM plays kind of like Serena Williams: he makes a ton of errors, but he also makes a ton of winners. He drives play and dictates the action. Turn more of those errors into winners and suddenly he’s Kane Waselenchuk.
That’s my deep dive. Honestly, i’m surprised after seeing these stats that it was 15-14. I would have thought it would have been more in DLR’s favor. But the shot-making ability of CM made the difference.
Hope you enjoyed reading this far!