Guess the badminton player!

Badminton match

First of all, I am not a betting company agent and has no experience calculating the chances of players. But, I am really into analytics and I wanted to check some things just for fun. Just to play a bit with numbers again. I am not a sport psychologist but a lover of general and performance psychology. I had some thoughts on the other day and wanted to check out 2 of my hypotheses. They are overlapping so I do not want to separate the description of findings. Here they are:

1. Can I classify players based on how many times they won a rally when serving or when receiving?

I mean here if I can say about a player that it is better at serving or also good at receiving.

2. Can I predict the outcome of a match between two players by their previous serve-win and receive-win ratio?

I have found a popular badminton athlete who has sufficient records of performance which potentially could determine the mental preparedness of the player for a match. That`s an important part of justifying the hypothesises. So I checked the performance of the player on the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters 2020, the athlete has played on the 22nd of January.

Okay, so what we can see down here. That`s my method. I think it`s one from many. I bring you through on it. XX and XXXX are representing the names of the players. First 2 columns for ‘Serve’ showing when they`ve served, second 2 columns for ‘Win’ shows when they`ve won a point. Next 2 columns for ‘Serve-win’ when they`ve won a point from their services, and the last 2 is the opposite when they`ve won a point from their oppositions serves.

What I needed at the end is this.

It shows that 4X and 2X have been close to each other`s performance in the first and in the second set the differences grew bigger. Now we are done with the numbers, let`s move to the mental side and give meaning to the math!

What if everybody expected 2X to win and that made an unbearable pressure? Why 2X`s motivation could not bring`em through on that obstacle? What if 2X feels anxious about this result affecting future results and that had an effect on 2X`s decision making? What kind of mental distractions could happen to this player on that day? What other distractions could 4X provide? Is it possible that the environment made an impact on this match? What other circumstances could raise the level of distraction or even frustration? Is 4X better than 2X? Well, on that day at least, yes. There is 1 thing sure, 2X`s performance has significantly dropped after losing the first set. 4X won to 21:18 and 21:9. To me, it seems like 2X no longer wanted to perform. Maybe 2X felt like this fight is derogative in the second round? Hmm, we don`t know for sure.

But I have got rather curious about 2X because I know this player could play much better formerly. So I wanted to compare a match and I went back to 2008. Here`s another match result from a final of 2X:

In the first set 2X shown a great dominance based on the numbers and when I`ve seen the match, I would tell the exact same. The player had controlled the game from the beginning to the end. There was no doubt about 2X`s mental preparedness. This match only gave me 1 question: What happened with 3X`s mental preparedness? Both of them reached a great tournament`s final, both of them physically prepared and prodigious. So what could not work out for 3X? Were the situation/environment/game abilities were different for 3X? So I`ve checked another match between them from 2012, in a final, again.

Both of them are prepared. 2X lost the first which is something we have seen in the first match. Nothing`s interesting. 3X felt even more confident as won the first set, it is a good sign for 3X, isn`t it? But then in the second, multiple things have happened which made a great impact on 3X`s mental performance. 3X`s Serve-win ratio has dropped from 48% to 9%. Means, from 11 of its own serves 3X could only win 1. How mentally demolishing this could be? Imagine, your opponent is constantly taking nearly all your chances away. It felt choking. 3X is now mentally downwards steeply, lost the 2nd set in 20 minutes, finishing the set with an effortless, unforced error. 3X needed a plan to mentally recover from that state. 3X reached a good score, it was 18 all. At 19:18 to 3X, 3X made a mistake and let the opponent`s shot drop in. An easy mistake in a tense situation. it was the moment when 3X has got mental fatigue. And then, 3X mentally collapsed. There was no turning back. 2X won, again. If we take a look at 2X`s first match, which was not in a final at all, this is odd, right? It was in the 2nd round where the pressure was much less and as a good player, 2X could definitely risk a bit more to win.

Hypotheses turn into Theories

  1. Can I classify players based on how many times they won a rally when serving or when receiving? The answer is yes. If you have large datasets about their games against others and each other as well, you can create clusters of all the players like ones have serve-win and receive-win ratios about 100-71%, 70-61% 60-56% 55-36% and 35-0%. Just for start and then fine-tune it. After that, you can also calculate real-time chances with this or a similar method, based on their previous records. Because you know the average results of the player in the first, the 10th and the 29th rally of a match. I believe this is how betting companies calculating their chances. Furthermore, you`ll be able to say that which player will collapse or creep back and at which part of the match this will most likely happen. Funny isn`t it?
  2. Can I predict the outcome of a match between two players by their previous serve-win and receive-win ratio? Ohh yes, I can. The more matches they`ve played, the more accurate predictions will be possible. Theoretically. But that is why we love badminton because it is not that simple. A line judge can make a mistake or a service judge or someone`s flashing with a camera and pissing the player off. Or getting an injury because of all these things lured them away from their focus. Nothing is sure but there are numbers we can work with.

And finally, guess the players 2X – 3X – 4X!


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