Tag Archive: Rhyne Williams


For the past couple of days, I’ve found myself wondering about just how advantageous home court advantage is in tennis.  Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?

Yesterday, I finally started to look for answers. Since I found no sites online that distinguish between home and away records in tennis (and if there is one, please let me know so I can feel silly about having done all this work), I decided to do my own research on the matter. Here’s what I found:

Player Home Hard Court Win% Away Hard Court Win% Home Clay Win % Away Clay Win % Home Grass Win % Away Grass Win % Overall Home Win % Overall Away Win % % of matches played at home
Jack Sock 54.55% 50.00% 65.79% 62.50% 50.00% 33.33% 56.29% 52.94% 89.88%
Michael Russell 63.04% 56.48% 62.81% 44.04% 58.33% 42.86% 63.35% 48.75% 68.37%
Denis Kudla 56.73% 61.54% 55.56% 45.45% 42.86% 58.62% 57.29% 56.60% 78.97%
Tim Smyczek 57.27% 61.11% 59.26% 0.00% 66.67% 55.00% 57.47% 52.27% 91.63%
Ryan Harrison 58.46% 57.14% 53.85% 45.45% 55.56% 50.00% 55.88% 51.61% 68.69%
Rajeev Ram 49.50% 53.00% 35.71% 33.33% 70.00% 34.48% 52.17% 48.24% 71.99%
Rhyne Williams 50.62% 40.00% 59.46% 62.50% 0.00% 40.00% 54.59% 55.88% 84.47%
Alex Kuznetsov 54.84% 52.50% 61.73% 25.00% 62.50% 53.33% 55.21% 46.94% 83.04%
Wayne Odesnik 62.24% 51.28% 70.59% 58.08% N/A 50.00% 62.56% 56.36% 64.40%
Bradley Klahn 65.98% 50.00% 41.18% 50.00% 0.00% 50.00% 59.52% 50.00% 92.65%
Donald Young 58.05% 57.50% 56.00% 0.00% 40.00% 36.36% 57.07% 47.73% 81.55%
Bobby Reynolds 61.87% 56.00% 53.85% 27.27% 40.00% 53.66% 60.15% 51.38% 82.73%
Steve Johnson 58.14% 72.73% 47.06% 60.00% 50.00% 75.00% 57.03% 69.23% 83.12%
Austin Krajicek 58.09% 76.47% 65.22% 33.33% N/A N/A 60.22% 65.22% 89.00%
Brian Baker 53.70% 53.33% 87.14% 73.33% 66.67% 61.54% 64.07% 59.57% 83.09%
Robby Ginepri 58.02% 50.00% 48.15% 45.65% 69.23% 39.02% 56.99% 50.26% 66.26%
Tennys Sandgren 63.11% 40.00% 55.17% 16.67% N/A N/A 59.56% 27.27% 94.33%
Bjorn Fratangelo 46.94% N/A 63.64% 75.00% N/A N/A 57.66% 75.00% 89.54%

And yeah, I know that table is hard to read. Alas, my wordpress/HTML tabling skills aren’t what they could be.  To that end, I had to eliminate the “Indoor Home Win Percentage” and the “Indoor Away Win Percentage” columns in order to make room for the rest.  If you’re desperate for that information, I’ll be happy to email it to you.

To make things slightly more legible/enjoyable, I’ve colorfully highlighted the numbers I’m focusing on.  If you’re interested in the methodology behind how I arrived at these numbers, do please check the footnote*.

But within this horrid chart, the first thing that jumps out at me is:

Three of the four players who have a better winning percentage outside North America than they do within have something in common — can you spot it?  That’s right: they all played collegiate tennis. Rhyne Williams, Stevie Johnson and Austin Krajicek all have better records in far-flung regions than they do in the American North.

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

Steve Johnson and Rhyne Williams, NCAA Trophies In Hand

This suggests a few things.  First, the learning curve isn’t as steep transitioning to the pro game from college. This could be because a) they’re more familiar with playing against hostile crowds and people cheering against them (those of you who watch college tennis will know of what I speak); b) their bodies are more developed and physically able to keep up with the men as they begin life on the pro tour; c) their strategic sense is more developed or; d) all of the above. I lean toward “d”, myself, but I’m open to other suggestions.

(Author’s note: yes, I know Tennys Sandgren’s match record away from home flings a statistical wrench at my theory.  However, Sandgren is the American who plays the largest percentage of his matches on U.S. ground, and I don’t consider eleven matches (3 wins, 8 losses) to be a large enough sample size to be statistically relevant.  So my theory remains largely undamaged.  I think.  Maybe. You be the judge.)

Does Tennys Sandgren's Winning % Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

Does Tennys Sandgren’s Winning Percentage Away From Home Make My Theory A Stretch?

You also may notice a red-highlighted Bjorn Fratangelo hangin’ a hefty 75 percent win rate in the foreign soil column.  In this case, the word “soil” is the key to figuring out that stat; e.g. the 2011 French Open Boys Champion is a red clay hound, and there ain’t hardly many red clay courts Stateside.  So he and his team have done a great job finding the proper venues through which he can find success.

The above numbers also give Ryan Harrison a couple of boosts he might be in need of these days: Harrison is the only “young gun” to play over 30% of his matches away from home. Only  the older guys like Robby Ginepri, Wayne Odesnik, and Michael Russell have played a similar schedule. Plus, Ryan has a winning record both at home and on the road.

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USTA AO Wildcard Playoffs Final Day Recap

Well it’s all over for us crazy tennis fans in 2010.  The Australian Open Wildcard play-offs have finally come to an end here in Atlanta and I must admit that I already miss my friends, the fans, and the players of this wonderful sport.

Personally, this was such an incredible event for me because I was able to meet so many new people who are actively involved in the tennis world in one form or another.  I got to know UVA Senior Michael Shabaz since I was the lucky one to pick him up from the airport, and what a terrific guy he is.  I found out so much about him (mainly because I can’t keep my big mouth shut and I like to ask a lot of questions).  This is what Italian people do by the way, they talk a lot. 

Anyway, Michael is a 23-year-old anthropology major and lives in Fairfax Virginia (a suburb of Washington DC).  As we conversed, and I subsequently bored him to tears, he proudly told me that his grandfather, who was a talented soccer player, went to high school with Andre Agassi ‘s dad in Iran (many decades ago).  As most of you know, Agassi’s father was an Olympic boxer. You can read more detail about that in Agassi’s autobiography “Open”, which I highly recommend by the way!  I learned to love Andre even more than I already did after I read his book, and of course his wife shares my name.  I just wish I could have a modicum of her tennis talents.  Dare to dream …

There is no better way to learn about tennis players then by spending time in the players lounge of any tournament, and the AO WC event was no exception.  I was able to talk to, and listen in on many conversations and it was truly so much fun for me as the huge tennis fan that I am.  I am a huge sports fan in general, but tennis is undoubtedly one of my faves.  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I also play A LOT of tennis too. 

Anyway,  in the course of one day I met Ryan Harrison, Rhyne Williams, Jack Sock, Melanie Oudin, Coco Vandeweghe, Jamie Hampton, Denis Kudla, Jordan Cox and Tim Smyczek.  I learned so many neat things about these players.  For instance, did you know that Tim Smyczek  and John Isner are roommates?  They live in Tampa, Fla and train at Saddlebrook together.  And they also just played  in a charity event up at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where Tim is from. 

Coco has a mean game of table tennis, Melanie Oudin is such an absolute sweetheart, and Rhyne Williams is one BIG guy!  When he got up to play table tennis with Kudla, I was like, “Whooaa dude!”  He is very funny by the way.  Ryan Harrison on the other hand was a bit harder to get to know, which at first I took for pretention, but learned that this wasn’t the case at all.  He is a truly a very nice guy, just very serious about his profession I guess.  He was really cracking the jokes on the court and had me in stitches, really. 

So, I have to save one of new favorite players for last I guess and that couldn’t be anyone else but Jack Sock.  Not only is he one of the sweetest young men that you will ever meet, but his whole family and camp are this way.  His brother Eric, his aunts and uncles and his coach, Mike Wolf, were just so gracious and appreciative of everything you did for them. They all must have said “thank you” a thousand times and to be honest, I really didn’t think I did anything to help them, not enough anyway. 

Jack Sock serving one up at the Racquet Club of the South

I can’t wait to see all these young players go out and compete again in the near future.  The Australian Open cannot come soon enough for me, I can assure you, but we have Auckland (amongst others) to look forward to.  Smyczek, for one, will be going to Auckland by the way, and his “roomie” is the defending champion.  When I mentioned to Tim that several top 20 players are now competing in that tournament, he made it very clear that Isner was to have NO problem defending his title.  It was very, very cute.  I definitely backed off at that point and went and got myself a beer, to which Tim replied, “oh could you get me one as well?”  LOL!  To  which I replied, of course, “Regular or lite?”  No, I really didn’t say that; I just said that they all had to go out and play Team Tennis with Patrick McEnroe so it probably wasn’t a good idea. 

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The Australian Open Wildcard semis were nothing short of spectacular today.  The women’s matches were both over in straight sets with CoCo Vandeweghe defeating Beatrice Capra and Lauren Davis defeating Krista Hardebeck.  I watched more of Coco’s match than Davis’ and I’ll tell you what… that Coco is full of fire and spunk no doubt.  And boy is she tall!  She has a tremendous amount of power and Capra did not know how to retaliate against Vandeweghe’s weapons.  Should be a great final between Coco and Lauren Davis starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Now on to those fiery men who all brought their goods today for sure.  Jack Sock was unstoppable to say the very least and in such impressive form.  Even after rolling his ankle he managed to close it out in straights against Kudla, and Denis was not playing badly by any means.  I think that just says a lot about Sock; he has the talent, the spirit and the passion to become an elite player.  Mentally he is so stable.  And his touch at the net… beautiful.  He reminds me of someone so much older than an 18 year-old.  So sweet and humble.  One just hopes that he stays that way.

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The USTA wildcard playoffs have traditionally* been a showcase of the American tennis “young guns”, but yesterday’s quarterfinal results saw the established order within the up-and-coming ranks get outgunned and, er, outyounged (with apologies to Donald); only one of the top four seeds advanced to today’s semifinals, and even he is merely 18 years of age (third seed Ryan Harrison). Indeed, of the remaining “men”, the oldest among them is 19 year-old University of Tennessee sophomore Rhyne Williams, with the other three just barely out of juniors.

Regardless of what happens in today’s matches, if I were General Manager of USTA Player Development Patrick McEnroe I’d be very pleased with this particular quartet. For one thing, Williams’ presence shows that PMac’s pushing the college game more to the fore is by no means a foolhardy endeavor. Moreover, the fact that UVA’s Michael Shabaz fell just short of making it two wins in two matches vs. Harrison shows that college tennis is becoming an increasingly viable option when it comes to helping shape the future of the American professional game. John Isner’s success might not be as anomalous and outlying as the big man’s height is after all.

And the ever-more-youthful demarcation even within the up-and-coming demographic here goes some way toward showing that American NextGen is coming up fast. Not to get too carried away on the results of four matches and four individuals, but I’m just saying: as portents go, it’s not half bad.

So, pre(r)amble aside, let’s have a look at the Final Four and their semifinal matches:

Jack Sock vs. Denis Kudla: Sharp-brained readers and tennis enthusiasts will recall that this is a rematch of the US Open Junior final, which Sock won 3-6 6-2 6-2, but did you know: they’ve already met one more time since then? Of course you didn’t; that’s why you come here to read my wildly informative words!  You see, Jack also beat Denis about five weeks ago on clay 7-5 6-4 in the first round of the USA F30 Futures, which is as different a setting from his previous win as can be imagined (this is especially true for people with terrible imaginations).

Despite Sock’s recent dominance, Denis is is actually the higher-ranked junior (#21 to Jack’s #32) and professional (#493 to #872). He’s also also older by five weeks, in case you’re wondering. What does this all mean? I have no idea. Suffice it to say that the Kudla, who beat 4th seed Jordan Cox 6-4 6-3 in the previous round, is not going to be a pushover. However – and this is not a prediction in any way – I would not be surprised in the least if the big boy from Lincoln, Nebraska, who upset top-seed Donald Young 7-6(3) 3-6 6-4 in the first round, continued his winning ways here. Either way, should be a heckuva match.

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What an amazing day of tennis at the Racquet Club of the South today!  I was not able to see the ladies play, but I was able to go around the club and see all four of the men’s matches. Rhyne Williams really brought his A game but to be honest I really wasn’t expecting anything less from him.  He is fresh off his win from the Intercollegiate Championships in N.Y. and honestly when I saw him in person, I was a little taken aback.  He’s very tall and very quick on his feet.  He is going places for sure and is someone to keep your eye on.  Williams beat the second seed Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-0. Wow!

Williams with Coach Chris Woodruff after his win. (photo courtesy of Volstennis twitter)

The match that I saw the least of was Denis Kudla and Jordan Cox, but I sat and watched them play table tennis in the players lounge after their match.  Such unpretentious guys and very eager to answer any questions that I put to them.  Cox is now living in Florida at Bollettieri’s Academy and Kudla is training in Boca right now, but still calls his home Northern Virginia and loves it here.  Kudla will next play Jack Sock in the semifinals.

Speaking of Sock, Jack was on fire today.  He was up 4-0 in the first set and then hurt his hip somehow and I could tell it caused him some discomfort.  Young came back after that, and the match ended up going three sets.  Young lost the match with a double fault and then smashed his racquet into the ground not once, not twice, but three times to really make certain it was broken.  What was so inspiring to me during that match was Sock’s passion. The fist pumping, the C’mon’s!  I absolutely loved it and it was so much fun to watch.  What a cute, cute kid he is, and boy does he really have some talent.  America should be so proud to call him our own.

The final of the four matches was the Ryan Harrison and Michael Shabaz battle. Those two went head to head and Harrison had match point in the second set, but Shabaz refused to surrender and killed the ball to take it to a tiebreak. It was such a fun match to watch.  Harrison is as passionate as Sock but probably has a little more arrogance about him than Jack.  It was good though… all good.  Harrison is very sure of himself and that confidence is going to take him far, no doubt.

So, the semi’s start tomorrow at 1 p.m. EST on Sat.  I am so excited to see these matches so stay tuned for more fun and awesomeness to come!

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