The match between Federer and Ebden at the 2018 Halle Open looks like a tight one, given the score 7-6 7-5. This is somewhat puzzling to us at the start, for is Federer not greatest grass player of all time playing perhaps at his best or second-best tennis in his career so far? Is he not supposed to be cruising through his matches, losing the occasional, but not going above 6-4 too much for the sets he win? Well, we believe that such on grass, a match's tightness cannot be measured solely on the basis of the tightness of the scoreline....
This is mainly due to the fact that grass is the surface most advantageous to the server*
Which is in turn due to the grass, for some scientific reason, flattens and speeds up tennis balls. The greater probability of generating a positive momentum on the server's side naturally translates into a greater probability of winning the point. This in turn means that the natural progression of a typical set on grass should follow that of a zig-zag pattern, in which each player takes turns to win each of their serving games. It is for this reason that the longest game ever played in professional history happened at Wimbledon - the legendary encounter between Mahut and Isner. Thus, having tight scores on grass does not in fact provide that much of a clue as to the disparity in performance between the two players during the time of play, unless this disparity is significant enough. We believe that such disparity should be judged by two other less intuitive measures
1) Tie-break score
The merit of using a tie-break score in the analyzing of match performance is the fact that momentum is no influencing factor on the outcome of a tie-break. When a server can only serve for two consecutive points, he would not have the often subliminal psychological advantage of realizing that there is a significant amount of space in which he would enjoy the upper hand. This naturally reduces the quality of his serve, as compared to whenever he is serving in a normal game situation. Because of, and alongside, this neutralization of serve, the tie-break serves as a much more accurate judgement of a player's general match-play ability, given the accumulative nature of its point scoring.
2) Observable quality of play
This may sound vague, but books can indeed be judged by their covers, at least in the world of professional tennis. It has been part of our tennis-viewing experience that tie-breaks often occur when one player seems to be playing in a more dominating way - for example, when one player wins his service games faster and with less points than the other. In cases like such, the less dominant player was simply using his the factor of momentum to edge him towards a tie-break, one which he would most definitely not win.
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