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Vital Statistics

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Originally published on 10/04/14

When you are a coach I believe it’s important to be flexible and open to new ideas. In tennis there is much we can learn from other sports. I’m a big football fan and I love watching Jose Mourinho’s teams. In my opinion he’s the best football coach ever. When his players go out on the pitch nothing is lacking in their preparation.

Mourinho will have told each of them about their own team’s strategy and what they can expect from the opposition – both as a team and as individuals. If you’re a Chelsea defender, for example, you will know everything about the forwards you will be facing: the runs they like to make, the foot they prefer to shoot with, their special skills. Baseball is another sport in which the best coaches apply a scientific approach. I was fascinated by the film “Moneyball”, in which the Oakland A’s recruit a winning team on the basis of some clever number-crunching by a smart Yaleeducated economist.

Tennis has been very late in coming to this particular party, but I’ve been working on the “Moneyball” and Mourinho principles for many years now. I believe there is a huge amount we can learn through statistical and video analysis of tennis matches. Many coaches are still working in much the same way as their predecessors did 50 years ago, but times are changing. There are some technology companies developing sophisticated systems which could transform the way we coach. It’s now possible to teach a computer to watch a match in the way that you would watch it, so that it will give you the exact statistical feedback that you’re looking for.

"If you ask 10 different coaches what they have seen during a match you might get 10 different answers

When I started out as a coach I knew that I needed to gather as much information as possible about my players and their opponents. I’ve always believed that if you give your player a great briefing before a match you multiply their chances of success. Of course I’ve always had my own opinions, but I think it’s important that you back up those opinions with hard facts.

If you ask 10 different coaches what they have seen during a match you might get 10 different answers. You put a lot of emotion into a match when you are watching your own player, which means you can have your own perception of reality. If you’re going to try to change something in your player’s game that’s a huge responsibility. You need to be able to show statistics that confirm what you’re saying is right. My goal is to reach conclusions which are based on facts, not emotions. A figure is a figure.

This is an excerpt from 'Vital Statistics' by Patrick Mouratoglou.  To read the full article, get your hands on a copy of tennishead Volume 5 Issue 1Subscribe to the magazine today or download tennishead on iTunes.

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