Player DNA: Big serves, big contenders

  • Game Insight Group

A battle of the big servers and two title contenders from Japan, Game Insight Group in partnership with Infosys takes a look at the data behind the stories to come on Day 2 of Australian Open 2019.

Kyrgios v Raonic: the Aussie’s edge?

The most explosive contest in round one, the battle of the game’s big(gest) servers. Milos Raonic (fastest) and Nick Kyrgios (second-fastest) clocked the two most rapid serves at AO 2017 and 2018.

Their second serves also rank high on the speedometer, with Kyrgios fifth overall at an average 201km/h and Raonic sixth on 199km/h, compared to an average across the draw of 185km/h.

Both men favour their forehands, Kyrgios 54 per cent of the time and Raonic 59 per cent of the time, but with serve so dominant, the key shot could be the return.

This is where Kyrgios has the more attacking instinct, on average standing 0.8m inside the baseline when facing a second serve (sixth-most attacking), while Raonic stands 0.8m behind the baseline (82nd).

Osaka looks to strike first

Only one female player this century has won a hard-court Grand Slam having never previously made a Slam quarterfinal or better - Naomi Osaka.

Can she back it up at AO 2019? Our Player DNA numbers say that her cannon first serve and mental game will hold the key.
Osaka has a big first serve, generating the highest ball speed (197km/h) at the AO over the past two years. If her serve is on, she’s hard to stop.

When opponents get a look at her second serve though (which drops 10km/h below the top-10 average), it can spell trouble.

She’s the sixth-best exponent of controlling space and then capitalising from the back court, primarily relying on her backhand (after all, she does have the third-most dominant backhand to forehand ratio among the 32 seeds).

Mentally, her top-10 rating on our Clutch measure suggests she can be nails when the scoreboard gets tight.

Nishikori has the tools, but …

He’s in form, he’s one of the best ball strikers in men’s tennis but can he go 7x5 sets down under?

GIG’s Player DNA rates Kei Nishikori as having the eighth-best ball striking and fourth-best tactics from the baseline in men’s tennis.

He has one of the sport’s most balanced back court set-ups (hitting almost the same number of forehands as he does backhands) and unlike many of his peers, is equally effective in dominating with either wing after the serve.

The big question mark that looms for Nishikori is whether he can withstand the physical and mental test of the AO and go the distance.

With the Australian summer of tennis now underway, stay across Australian Open platforms for the latest updates and player profiles from the Game Insight Group.