Men's tennis starts right, ends right

The Alabama Crimson Tide men’s tennis team started its season out strongly, currently holding a 5-2 record. The two losses are what you might call “quality losses,” as they came against then-No. 15 Virginia Tech and then-No. 29 Florida State. Needless to say, the team has done well so far to make this season more successful than last year’s 17-17 campaign.

Tennis is a sport that doesn’t have a wide variety of statistics readily available. However, a few key stats explain the team’s play so far this season. 

Let’s start with Alabama’s performance in doubles.

To earn the doubles point, a team has to win two of the three single-set doubles matches against its opponent. Let’s look at how Alabama has done in doubles this season:

Virginia Tech            L, 2-0          L, 5-2
Georgia State            W, 2-1          W, 6-1
UAB            W, 2-0          W, 4-3
Samford            W, 2-0          W, 6-1
Miami           No Doubles Played          W, 4-1
North Florida           No Doubles Played          W, 4-2
Florida State           L, 3-0          L, 6-1

Looking at its doubles performance, Alabama is 3-0 when it wins the doubles point and 0-2 when it loses it. This stat makes sense, as every point is critical in a match. Starting 1-0 makes it easier to get to four points first. It gives a team momentum. 

So Alabama does well when they take an early lead. What about first sets in singles? How does Alabama do in those?

Here is a table that represents how Alabama has fared with first sets during singles matches:

Virginia Tech          T, 3-3          L, 5-2
Georgia State          W, 5-1          W, 6-1
UAB          T, 3-3          W, 4-3
Samford          W, 5-1          W, 6-1
Miami          T, 3-3          W, 4-1
North Florida          W, 4-2          W, 4-2
Florida State           L, 1-5          L, 6-1

As you can see, Alabama actually does pretty well in the first set. The team regularly tied or won its first set over its opponent, with the exception of the Florida State match. It is interesting to note that in the matches Alabama lost, the Crimson Tide tied or lost the first set total, and in matches where Alabama had only the four points necessary for a victory, the Crimson Tide tied its opponent in first set two out of three times.

What this data shows is that starting fast greatly benefits the Crimson Tide. In a sport like tennis, where every game in a set is crucial, starting fast is important. It forces the opponent to try and come back, while at the same time being cautious, knowing one mistake could doom it.

It is still early, and there are only seven matches to draw from, but this trend should continue to stay true for Alabama. Starting fast should be a focus for the team. It is easier to win when you start out fast, and the data reflects that.

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