Tag Archives: Tennis

Point, Game, Set and Match

Tennis matches are won by the player winning the last point.

Football matches are decided by a rare event – a goal. The team scoring the last goal may not win. Cricket uses an accumulative scoring pattern like tennis – plenty of runs are scored in each match. Again, the team scoring the final run may not win. All runs scored in cricket, whether scored by the batsman or the extras conceded by opposition are of equal value. In the final analysis, only aggregate counts. Team scoring more runs (in a completed limited overs match) wins the match.

Tennis follows a distinctive scoring system. There are two teams who take turns to start the point – one player serves and the other returns. The ball remains in play until it is not returned, hits the net or sprayed outside the playing area. A point is awarded at the end of each play. The corresponding call for winning a point is : 0 – “love”, 1 – “15”, 2 – “30”, 3 – “40” and 4 – “game”. Thus team winning 4 points wins the game.

Points won by the server are mentioned first. A score of 40-30 means, serving team has won 3 points and receiving team 2. A score of 0-40, read as love-40, indicates all 3 points for receiving side. A game can’t be won with the difference of a single point. This means that there are no 7 point games in tennis where one team has 4 points and the other 3. In such situations, the game continues for an even number of points – 8, 10, 12, .. until one side takes a 2 point lead.

When both sides have won 3 points, the score will be 40-40 which is read as deuce. The next point does not decide the game but the side winning the point is given an advantage. A score of A-40 indicates serving side has 4 points and 3 points for receiver. Thus 40-A score indicates 4 points for receiving team. Side winning the point after advantage, wins the game. Otherwise the score reverts to deuce (i.e. 40-40).

This scoring system can also be understood by treating A-40 as a 40-30 situation. If the server wins next point then it will be the first to reach 4 points with a difference of 2, thereby winning the game. Else the score will become 40-40 or deuce. If receiver wins the point, then treat it as a 30-40 situation. Receiver will win the game by claiming the next point or the game reverts to deuce.

The serving side has an advantage in winning a point. It is observed that 60-65 percent points are won on serve. Here we will use p=0.64 as the probability of player on serve to win the point. This means the receiver has a chance of q = 1-p to win it. At deuce, server needs to win the next two points – a probability of p*p or p2. The probability of next 2 points shared between two teams is 2pq because either p wins and then loses (q) or loses the point first (q) and then wins (p). After 2 such points, we return to situation of deuce. Combining these two scenarios, we can determine the probability (d) of winning from the position of deuce as p2+2pqd which can be simplified as d = p2 / ( 1 – 2pq). Substituting p =0.64 and q = 0.36, we find that d = 0.76. It means that if a server wins 64% points on serve, the likelihood of winning from a position of deuce is 76%. If player wins 60% points on serve, the chance of winning from deuce reduces to 69%.

It is obvious that the chance of winning from 30-30 is the same as the chance of winning from deuce since both situations require either winning next 2 points to finish the game (one way or the other) or reach 40-40 after splitting successive points.

From the perspective of server, winning 4 points indicates 100% probability of winning the game and losing 4 points means 0% chance of success. It is proved above that the probability of winning from 3-3, 4-4, or any other n-n is 76%. By knowing these 3 constants, it is possible to determine the probability of winning from any other score. At 40-30, a player will either win the next point(pa) to win the game (100% chance of winning) or lose the point(qa) to reach deuce (d). This value is calculated as pa*1 + qa*d which equals to 91% chance of winning the game on serve from 40-30 when the server wins 64% points on serve. The chance of winning from 30-40 can be similarly calculated as winning the next point to reach deuce or losing the next point to lose the game – pa*d + qa*0. This value is slightly less than 50%.

We can extend this logic recursively. At 40-15, a player will either win the point to win the game or lose the point to reach 40-30 which can be calculated using the formula pa*1 + qa* (Probability of winning from 40-30 calculated above). We can successively move backwards to the beginning of the game with both players at 0-0. There is more than 81% chance for the player serving to win the game. In other words, a player is likely to hold his serve in 4 out of 5 situations with the advantage of winning 64% points on serve. The conditional probabilities of a player winning the game on serve from various score lines for pa = 0.64 :

0 15 30 40 Game
0 0.813 0.667 0.455 0.199 0
15 0.894 0.787 0.598 0.311 0
30 0.954 0.894 0.760 0.486 0
40 0.989 0.969 0.913 0.760
Game 1 1 1

For further details about ‘THE MATHEMATICS OF TENNIS’, please refer to this link by Tristan Barnett and Alan Brown.

At the end of a game, winner will get 100% credit and loser gets none irrespective of the number of points scored. A player may win all the 4 points played, or 14 of the 26 points in a game with 10 occurrences of deuce. In both these situations, the net result is 1 game to winner and nothing for loser. Due to these peculiarities, it is possible to lose a match despite winning more points.

At the end of first game, the opponents will serve. The above process is repeated till someone wins 4 or more points with a difference of two. The probability of winning point on serve for the other team will be different. Here, we will treat both sides as equal – it means that both teams have a 64% chance to win a point on serve. Both teams will alternate serves until the set is won. A set is played until one player or team has won six games. Once again, a team must win a set by a difference of two games. It is possible to win a set 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 or 6-4. If the scores are 6-5, then 12th game is played. Either one side will win 7-5 or the set is decided by a tiebreaker at 6-6.

Just as we calculated the probability of winning a game from various scores, it is possible to determine the probability of winning a set. If the score is 7-5 in favour of the server, then team has 100% chance of winning the set. If the score is 5-7 then the set is lost. At 6-6, the probability of winning the set is equal to the probability of winning the tiebreaker (t). At 6-5, the server will either win the game to take the set or lose it to start the tiebreaker. Like before we can calculate the probability of winning a set at 6-5 on serve as – pga*1 + qga*t. At 5-6, the probability of winning the set will be pga*t + qga*0 because winning the game will start the tiebreaker and losing the game will result in losing the set. The probability of winning at 5-4 can be calculated by knowing the probability for the scores at 6-4 and 5-5. Similarly, we can continue the recursive logic to determine the probability of winning a set after any other game score.

There is no advantage in winning a set whether a player serves first or second in the set. If both players have the same advantage in winning a point on serve, the probability of winning a set from 0-0, 1-1, 2-2, .. is always 50%. Assuming player 1 wins 62% points on serve and concedes 60% while receiving, this nominal advantage will translate to 56.8% chance of winning the set at 0-0, 56.3% at 1-1, 55.7% at 2-2, 55.2% at 3-3, 54.6% at 4-4 & 54.4% at 5-5 irrespective of who serves first.

A tiebreaker game is played at the score of 6-6. The rules of a tiebreaker game are different from a standard service game. First player to reach 7 points with a difference of at least 2 points wins the tiebreaker game and thereby the set. Unlike standard games, server changes frequently during the tiebreaker. Player serving the opening game of the set serves the first point. After that players alternate serving every two points. At the end of 12 points, if both players are still locked at 6-6, two more points are played. Either one player will win both points to claim the tiebreaker 8-6 or two more points will be added with each player on 7 points. Similar to deuce, the process will be repeated until we have the winner. Unlike standard service games, no special calls are assigned to designate points won in a tiebreaker.

The order of serve offers no advantage in winning a tiebreaker. Assuming equal strength of serve, both players will have a 50% chance of winning the tiebreaker at 0-0, 1-1, .. 6-6 etc. A nominal differential of 2% over a base of 60% will result in winning the tiebreak 53.3% at 0-0. It progressively reduces to 53%, 52.8%, 52.6% ultimately down to 52.1% at 6-6 irrespective of who serves first.

Most of the matches are played as best of 3 sets. The player winning 2 sets will win the match. All sets are determined by a tiebreaker if players are locked at 6-6. Sometimes best of 5 sets are played where a player has to win 3 sets. The final set may be played as an advantage set – no tiebreaker used at 6-6. Players continue to serve for 2 additional games until one player wins both.

If both players serve at equal potential, the chance of winning the match is 50% at 0-0 sets, 1-1 sets and 2-2 sets. A 2% differential on a base of 60% translates to nearly 63% chance of winning a 5 set match and 60% chance of winning best of 3.

Once we have rules to calculate the probability of winning a game, a tiebreaker, a tiebreak set, an advantage set, a best of 3 and best of 5 set match (either with tiebreak set or an advantage set in final set) – it is then possible to determine the chance of winning from any score based on points a & b, games c & d and sets e & f won by player 1 & 2 and who serves next.

Based on the varying probability of win after each point, it is possible to derive a value for pressure on a server. If the server leads 40-0, losing next point does not change the outcome of the match significantly but at 40-30 winning the next point wins you the game while losing will lead to deuce. So the pressure increases. At 30-40, the pressure is even higher as losing the next point costs the game. Losing a game in opening set will not change the probability of winning the match as much as it does in the final set. Thus an identical scoreline mentioned above but in the final set will result in greater pressure on serve.

On 1st March, in Dubai, World #116 qualifier Evgeny Donskoy stunned Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(5). The summary scoreline indicates that Federer broke Donskoy in first set at least one more time than he got broken. The next 2 sets were decided in tiebreaker games. Donskoy won 2nd set tiebreak at 9-7 and the final one at 7-5. Now we will translate the point by point data made available at scoreboard.com into an illustrative chart for each set.

2017dubai_set1

Roger Federer, recently crowned Australian Open Champion for a record extending 18th grand slam, was facing qualifier Donskoy in their first meeting. It should have been a straightforward win for Federer. To offer live odds, punters will use a huge differential between points earned on serve for Federer and points conceded to Donskoy on his serve. These charts treat all players as equal and rely solely on match situation to determine who is ahead and the pressure on serve does not vary by rankings.

Above chart shows Federer in red and his serve in pink. Donskoy is represented in shades of blue. The summary stats show Federer winning 28 points to 18. He also leads in points won on own serve ar 18 – 11. 6-3 set score line indicates no tiebreaker. Federer broke serve 2 times with 3 break opportunities. We notice Donskoy broke him back once at the first chance. We also see that there was only 1 deuce on Donskoy’s serve.

On x-axis we see points played in each game. Barring 1 game, others were over in 4, 5 or 6 points. The longest game was 6th which extended to 8 points where deuce is represented as a yellow dot.

There is no mention of scale on y-axis. This is to indicate that the actual value of points allocated is not important – only the relative difference between red and blue curve is important. We have seen earlier that tennis scoring at the end of each game (& set) wipes out the progress made by losing player and assigns entire spoils to the winner. In this illustration, the credit for points earned in losing games is retained. This will give us an idea about the ability of a player to win points irrespective of the game outcome.

We notice that after first 3 games, the difference between two curves is nominal. Federer is winning a few more points than Donskoy purely due to an extra service game. The 4th game ends swiftly in 4 points with red curve rising sharply. It indicates a love-break for Federer. While 0-15 and 0-30 are treated as nominal points, at 0-40, the first breakpoint is assigned additional value hence red curve rises above blue. When Federer breaks serve on the next point, actual points assigned to Federer increase further to convey that Federer has surged ahead in the set.

Federer holds his serve on love in 5th game.,In the 6th game, which was the longest with a deuce, Federer earned another break point which was saved by Donskoy to take the game to deuce. This is clear by the rise in red curve indicating break point and subsequent fall which shows that the break point was saved and yellow dot indicates deuce. Red curve rises on the next two points indicating Federer won next 2 points to get his second break of the set.

Next game on Federer’s serve is 6 points long where blue line rises sharply towards the end. This means that Donskoy won the last 2 points after 30-30 to reduce the deficit. This was followed by a love-hold by Donskoy.

Federer serving for the set at 5-3 in the 9th game. We see that it is a 5 point game which means Federer does not falter – losing only 1 point on serve. There is an even sharper rise in the red curve, the first one indicating set point and the next increase shows that Federer won the set comfortably.

Now we take a look at the height of the background area charts in pink and light blue. These indicate whether it was a routine or a clutch point. Every point is assigned at least half the max value. The differential will vary as we get closer to the result. Losing the first set does not mean end of the road with a chance to recover in next two. The highest rise is noticed on the first breakpoint of the serve. A break of serve is vital in the set and one break is enough to win the set. The second break point opportunity does not significantly increase the likelihood of Federer winning the match hence the ‘pressure on serve’ does not increase as much as the first breakpoint. Same is true for the sole break by Donskoy. Losing the serve still does not cost Federer enough and we see that he manages to close out the set on his next serve. The pressure index actually drops towards the end of the set because Federer could afford to lose a point without affecting the outcome of the set.

This was a routine first set and fails to get any mention in the ATP match report.

2017dubai_set2

The second set finds only one mention in the ATP match report

Federer looked poised to claim his ninth victory of the year when he held match points at 6/4 and 7/6 in the second set tie-break, before Donskoy fought back to force a decider.

We start with summary statistics and immediately notice that Donskoy won more points (43-37) in set despite trailing in points won on serve (30-32). Unlike the first set, there were no break point opportunities for Federer. Donskoy had one chance to break in the 10th game which was the longest at 12 points and 3 instances of deuce. We notice that Donskoy had a chance to break at 40-A after first deuce. This break point was also a set point hence the differential is higher. Federer saved a set point which is a key information that does not appear in the match report.

In tennis terms, at 6-6 both players are level. Here we see that the blue curve is higher than red at the beginning of tiebreak indicating more points won by Donskoy. In the tiebreak we notice red curve jumping above blue indicating a mini break for Federer. One mini break is enough to win the tiebreaker. Next we see a sharper rise when the score reached 6-4 with Federer serving. This was the first match point where Federer was expected to finish the match. He lost that point on serve to Donskoy. Even at 6-5, he held a second match point, but this time it was on Donskoy’s serve so the chances of converting it were lower but that does not reduce the pressure on Donskoy’s serve. Donskoy saved the second match point to level the tiebreak at 6-6.

Federer won the next point on Donskoy’s serve to lead 7-6 for his second match point on serve. Donskoy won the next 3 points – two on Federer’s serve, to win the second set and level the match. While the tiebreak points increase only by 1 unit, the chart shows wilder swings in red and blue curve at the business end of the match by assigning higher weight to clutch points.

In the second set, Federer had opportunities to win the match while Donskoy had his chance to win the set to enforce a 3rd. Clearly the dynamics of second set is different from the first. The pressure index rises higher than first set when Donskoy had a set point. This index goes off the chart towards the end when the match quickly swung from a win for Federer to the set for Donskoy.

This brings us to the exciting upset in the final set.

2017dubai_set3

The ATP match summary describes all the key moments of the 3rd set.

Federer looked to have regrouped when he broke in the sixth game of the third set and served for the match at 5-4, but again he failed to close out victory, losing his serve to 30.

Donskoy then turned the tables as he broke Federer in the 11th game. But, serving for the biggest win of his career against the 18-time Grand Slam champion, the Russian was broken to love as the pulsating match when (sic) to a deciding tie-break.

Federer once again put himself in a commanding position as he led 5/2 with two serves to come. But in an astonishing turn of events, World No. 116 Donskoy reeled off the final five points of the match to prevail in just over two hours.

Federer broke in the sixth game – blue line representing Federer rises.

He lost serve to 30 – red line catches up.

Donskoy turned the tables – Red line takes charge.

The Russian was broken to love – Red line remains flat while the Blue line levels up.

Federer led 5/2 with two serves to come – Blue line continues to march but not high enough indicating this was not as close as the match point situation in second set.

Donskoy reeled off the final five points of the match – Blue line remains flat. Red line initially clears the deficit then takes the deciding lead to close the game.

Tennis Heartbeat – Federer edges Nadal to win 18th grand slam

It was November 2011. Federer faced Tsonga at the ATP Finals to mark the 100th final of his career. A set and break up, he began serving for the match with less than 90 mins on the clock. I turned to my better half reiterating my prediction about winning Wimbledon in 2012. The one who lives in the moment was not too keen to look that far ahead. The unspoken thought was the earlier loss to Djokovic at US Open squandering 2 match points on serve. Tsonga broke Federer and won the set in a tiebreaker, incidentally saving a match point. Perhaps an hour later Federer started serving again for the match. He closed it out without any drama winning 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 to capture 6th year-end title. That hour or so was spent hardly watching the game, mostly remembering the highs, and reassuring that his game was still solid to win 7 matches over 2 weeks.

Cricket is a game of aggregation. A run scored is worth the same irrespective of when and how it was scored. Tennis is slightly dissimilar, some points are worth more than the others. It is a game where a player can lose the match despite winning more points. 980 points were played over 665 minutes between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut over 183 games in the final score that read 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. Mahut won 502 points setting a new record for most points won in a match yet failed to qualify for the next round. I wrote about this match earlier and during that epic battle, I kept thinking about a way to represent the ebbs and flows succinctly.

Federer won Wimbledon in 2012 win and regained #1 spot. But my belief that #17 was a week away got severely tested during the 3rd round when Bennettau almost followed Rosol in pulling off a sensational upset. Federer’s back also seemed to be a problem while he continued to progress. Then a familiar obstacle in Djokovic awaited at semifinal stage.

Cautiously optimistic, I decided to test my idea of enhanced tennis points during the match. I checked the final score after each game and live tweeted as below:

5 points played in the opening game with Federer holding comfortably at 15. I allocated 4 units to Federer and 1 to Djokovic. Novak held his serve at love so he moves ahead with a total of 5 units to Federer’s 4. Federer broke in 6th game to win the first set 6-3. Since all points are not equal, he earned extra credit for the break and winning the set.

He eventually defeated Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to face Murray in the final. Feeling confident, this time I decided to record each point in a spreadsheet and published a chart at the end of each set:

After title #17, Federer reached 3 more finals, each one against Novak Djokovic. The first was at Wimbledon 2014 which he lost 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 6–7(4–7), 7–5, 4–6. Not expecting a win, I followed the game without recording each point. The fourth set was one of the best I have ever seen and in the early exchanges of 5th, it looked as if Roger was about to stage an upset. Both these players met again at the same stage in Wimbledon 2015. Feeling more confident this time, the spreadsheet was out as a lucky charm for #18. Unaware of his 100% record in winning grand slam finals when I kept a tally of each point, Roger lost in 4 sets 6–7(1–7), 7–6(12–10), 4–6, 3–6.

Another final at US Open against the familiar foe ended 4–6, 7–5, 4–6, 4–6. 2016 was a repeat of 2013 with no appearance in any slam final. After his semi-final exit, injury kept Roger away for 6 months. Jun 2010 prediction of 20 titles or more was quietly downgraded to 50 QF appearances.

The unfathomable Roger-Rafa final happened at the Australian Open 2017. Spreadsheet was out. All points recorded. The break in opening game of the final set did not diminish the hope and soon 1-3 deficit was overturned by winning the next 5 games.

Federer won 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3. Three sets finished in 9 games but ebbs and flows of each one are different. Following illustrations should help understand how the game unfolded.

set1

In the sparring first set, both treated each other with respect. 4 of the 10 games were held at love and 2 more at 15. 3 other games went as far as 30. The pivotal game was the seventh. Federer went up 0-15. Nadal levelled at 15-15. Federer went ahead 15-30. A perfect drive volley earned him a break point and a wide cross-court by Nadal handed him the game.

Federer won 6-4 in the first set. There were 10 games, each player serving 5 times.The background alternates between blue and dushy pink representing Nadal and Federer serves. Red and Dark Blue colours are used to chart the progress of points won by Federer and Nadal. There are no units or grid lines on y-axis as the actual value of allocated points is immaterial. The state of the game is revealed by the difference between the line curves. On x-axis, each tick represents a point played. Total points played in each game are clearly mentioned. Each player is expected to win on serve hence no additional points for winning a game on serve. We can see that the dark blue curve rises after each tick in the first game while the red one remains at zero. This represents a love hold for Nadal. There are 6 points in the next game with no sharp difference between 2 curves. It means Federer held at 30. Nadal holds at 30 in 3rd game. Federer wins at 15 in 4th. Two love holds in 5th and 6th game. 7th game is the pivotal one where we see the red curve rising sharply denoting a break point. The next tick shows red curve rising slightly which means Federer broke. A love hold in 8th for Federer. Nadal holds a 6 point 9th game. Federer served out in 10th game. Even sharper increase denotes a set point for Federer and the next point concludes the set in his favour.

Set2.png

This the first of three 6-3 sets. Once again Nadal served first and held at 15. Federer dropped only 4 points on his serve in the first set but now his forehand was severely tested in an 8 point game.with 1 deuce (highlighted with a coloured dot). Nadal goes up 0-30 but Federer levels it 30-30. Sharp increase in blue curve represents Nadal’s first break-point which Federer saved. Red dot denotes a deuce. Nadal gets second break point which he duly converts. The difference between red and dark blue at the end of second game shows Nadal’s lead early in the set. The next game is even longer with 12 points. This time Federer earns a break point which was saved by Nadal for the first deuce. He surges ahead but Federer levels for second deuce. The second break point is also saved by Nadal for the third deuce after which he holds to go up 3-0. Federer’s serve is under pressure in 4th game as well. Nadal races to 0-40 earning 3 break points. Federer saves first two hence the blue curve remains flat. Nadal converts 3rd break point to lead 4-0. Federer broke Nadal in 5th to reduce the deficit. No further drama with easy holds in next 4 games. This set ended 6-3 with 3 breaks and a hard fought 4th game that included 2 break points which the final score does not reveal.

Set3.png

Federer won the third set 6-1 but it was not one way traffic. 3 break points at deuce earned by Nadal were saved by aggressive serving in opening game. Aces and double faults were not recorded. If the data were available we could highlight the flurry of aces served by Roger. He doled out 2 love games in 3rd and 5th. Nadal was standing about 8 feet behind baseline. Federer stood no more than a foot behind and capitulated on Nadal’s errors to break him in 2nd and 6th game. In between Nadal held one serve in 4th saving 3 break points in a 4 deuce game. Federer served for the set, two breaks up, but Nadal raced ahead earning first of his two break points. Federer saved the first one and then led to reach set point. Nadal saved it with 2nd deuce then had another opportunity to break. Federer won last 3 points to take the set 6-1.

Set4.png

Momentum shifted again. Federer’s forehand was weakened. Nadal took the opportunity in 4th game to break him with improbable angles. He was under pressure in 5th in a 10 point game without conceding any break points. Federer saved a break point in the 6th game. After that both players held remarkably. The second of 6-3 scorelines was decided by a solitary break.

There were no break point opportunities for Roger in the 4th while his serve was under pressure. Federer took a medical time out before the 5th set ro treat his troublesome groin. ATP physio was also called during the set to massage his thigh.

set5

Nadal broke Federer in the opening game of fifth set. Federer responded with 3 break points on Nadal’s serve but unable to convert any. Federer serves out 3rd game at love. Looking to break even, willing to sit out another 6 months if he had to, he continues to be aggressive earning another break point which is saved by Nadal. An easy hold for Federer in 5th game. Another break point opportunity is saved by Nadal in 6th. After deuce #2, Federer levels converting his 6th break opportunity. An easy hold in 7th. Rafa has shown to have unlimited reserves of stamina. Despite frenetic action, the fifth set is still on server with Roger ahead 4-3. He had to take his chances in the 8th to finish the game quickly carrying on the momentum. He had an opportunity to break in all three games served by Rafa. He wins 3 points in a row to lead 0-40. Surely it is game over now.

Not unexpectedly, Nadal saved all 3 break points. And then a fourth one too. There was a 26 stroke rally in between. But he could not save the fifth one. Roger started the ninth game to serve out for championship. He had conceded only 1 point in his last 3 service games. This should be easy.

In the do-or-die game, Nadal moves ahead at 0-30. Federer pulls one back at 15-30 but soon stares at 2 break points. The collective memories of all the matches, where he failed to close out, overwhelm those on and off the court. Everyone breathes as he saves these break points to move towards championship point. First one is saved though. He earns a second one. He serves again. There is a challenge by Rafa. Hawk-eye replay favours Federer. There was a short delay before he could celebrate winning the 18th slam. Some may argue that the delay was longer.

Dreading a Wimbledon Final Without FedEx

Air-shot! After a bad bounce, it was the rare sight of an air-shot by defending champion Federer at match point against Nadal on May 16, 2010 to concede his title on clay. Roger led the second set tie-break twice to take the final to a third set but Nadal pulled back to claim two match points. Federer earned a mini-break on Nadal’s serve to save the first championship point. On his own serve, the rally ended when Roger approached the net to claim the point, instead waving his racket at thin air. A few minutes earlier the match looked on course for a third set. Alas!

Madrid was the run up for the French open. A few days later Roger lost at Quarter Final stage to Robin Soderling at the French Open clearing the way for Nadal who improved his own record to 38-1. The Majorcan also won at Monte Carlo and Rome earlier to sweep this season’s dirt court outings. He is well and truly back from where he left at the Australian Open in 2009.

The short season on grass started at Queen’s for Nadal and Federer continued at Halle. Nadal’s 24 match streak was stopped by Lopez in the QF. The top seed at Wimbledon returned to Spain a few days earlier than he had originally planned. Federer on the other hand played all five games to face Hewitt on Sun, Jun 13. He lost in three sets after claiming the first. That was his first loss at Halle since 2002 and his only defeat on grass other than the five-set loss to Raphael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2008 finals.

After loosing in the first round in 1999 and 2000, Roger Federer beat seven time champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 to announce himself at Wimbledon 2001. That year, in the very next round, he lost to Tim Henman. It was the year I enjoyed the Wimbledon finals from Tokyo unaware that I would soon start working in London.

The Wimbledon coverage on BBC includes interactive choice of a number of games which includes doubles and mixed doubles. Grown up watching the coverage on Doordarshan which began on second Thursday with ladies semifinals, this advertisement free coverage is a two week festival. In 2002, I was keen to follow Roger Federer whom I had never seen in action. Well, the seventh seed chose to emulate his performance of ’99 and ’00 loosing in straight sets to Qualifier Mario Ancic.

I can neatly divide my 25 year association with Wimbledon, since Becker won here in 1985, in three parts. It started with the Becker finals linked to Goran Ivanisevic who lost to Andre Agassi (with the exception of Pat Cash win in ’87 over Lendl). There were those middle years, some missed others ignored and only a few watched, of Sampras titles ending with fourth time lucky, wild card, Ivanisevic who beat Rafter in five sets to become a Champion in 2001 (with the exception of ’96 title claimed by Krajicek). And now the third ongoing section of London years featuring Roger Federer in ever final (with the exception of a Hewitt title in ’02).

Wet British summer becomes sweeter with the presence of Roger Federer until the second Sunday. Winning his first title in 2003, he lost to Nalbandian in 4R at US Open, won Australian Open in 2004 but lost in 3R to Kuerten at the French Open. In the next 23 majors, he either won the title or lost to the champion. The period between two French Open defeats to Kuerten in 2004 and Soderling in 2010 should forever be associated with Federer.

Federer had never lost a hard court grand slam final until 2009 when Nadal beat him in five sets at Australian open. That was a time to believe that Nadal may win his missing US title before Federer could lay his hands on the elusive clay. But an injury to Nadal meant 3 more titles for Roger in the next four majors including his solitary French title when he beat Soderling who had earlier eliminated Nadal.

The air-shot loss to Nadal at Madrid, QF loss in 4 sets to Robin Soderling and the latest defeat against Hewitt at Halle does not make it a promising start to another Wimbledon final featuring FedEx. Despite his amazing record on grass, a number of his opponents feel confident against him. Hewitt, Soderling, Nadal, Del Potro, Murray and Djokovic will not be in awe any more and will start the tie on level terms. The draw will be tough and winning six more matches to reach his eighth successive Wimbledon Final will not be the usual walk in the centre court park. Perhaps it is the year to mark the fourth phase of my association with Wimbledon.