83 episodes

Jeff Sackmann talks tennis and analytics with a rotating cast of experts and superfans.

The Tennis Abstract Podcast Jeff Sackmann

    • Sports

Jeff Sackmann talks tennis and analytics with a rotating cast of experts and superfans.

    Ep 83: Is the Practice Court Broken?

    Ep 83: Is the Practice Court Broken?

    Jeff is joined by Carl Bialik and Jeff McFarland, dipping our collective toe into a debate in the tennis coaching world. With rallies short and aggressive, should players be using practice time differently? What types of skills can still be improved, once a player has reached the top? What tactics can a coach teach their charges, and which ones are too deeply ingrained in the physical nature of hitting the shots? Is a 3- or 4-shot rally qualitatively different from a 5- or more-shot rally? How would you teach Madison Keys to retain the positives of her aggressive style while dialing back the aggression a bit? We offer more questions than answers, which seems appropriate for a topic that is far from settled, and is likely to remain controversial for years to come.

    • 1 hr 7 min
    Ep 82: ATP Cup and WTA Season Preview

    Ep 82: ATP Cup and WTA Season Preview

    Jeff is joined by Carl Bialik and Jeff McFarland, trying out a new format for a new year. We dig into the new ATP Cup, considering whether the format is appealing to players and fans, how we should feel about odd matchups between players hundreds of ranking places apart, and--most importantly--what captains should be doing with the stats available to them. We also look at the top of the WTA ranking table, considering whether Ashleigh Barty will continue her reign for another twelve months, or if Bianca Andreescu--or Karolina Pliskova--will topple her.

    • 1 hr 6 min
    Ep 81: Joshua Robinson on Diriyah Cup and the Ethics of Sports in Saudi Arabia

    Ep 81: Joshua Robinson on Diriyah Cup and the Ethics of Sports in Saudi Arabia

    Jeff welcomes guest Joshua Robinson (@joshrobinson23), European sports reporter for the Wall Street Journal and co-author of the book The Club: How the English Premier League Became the Wildest, Richest, Most Disruptive Force in Sports. We hear from Josh in between his trips to the Gulf, just back from the boxing prize-fight at Diriyah Arena, where the first professional tennis tournament was played in Saudi Arabia. We talk about why oil-rich states use athletic spectacles to "sportswash" their reputations, and what it means for the sporting organizations and athletes that help them do it. We also consider the effect on fans, with what Josh calls "Qatar-ification"--events produced in oft-empty arenas for far-off audiences, in a climate wholly unsuited to the sport. It's easy to ignore this stuff during exhibition season, but these are important issues that transcend sport.

    • 50 min
    Ep 80: Martin Ingram on Predicting Match Outcomes, Bayesian Style

    Ep 80: Martin Ingram on Predicting Match Outcomes, Bayesian Style

    Jeff chats with Martin Ingram (@xenophar), a PhD student in statistics and author of a recent academic paper presenting a new approach to predicting tennis match outcomes. We talk about his model, what makes it different from other common approaches to match prediction such as Elo, and the simplifying assumptions that make it possible. Martin explains the benefits of a technique that allows to incorporate the effects of surface and even specific tournaments, while considering what data we might include in a more comprehensive model.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Ep 79: Paul Timmons on the Broken Structure of Pro Tennis

    Ep 79: Paul Timmons on the Broken Structure of Pro Tennis

    Jeff talks with Paul Timmons (@PaulT_Tennis), author of the My Tennis Adventures blog, about the failures of the ITF to provide a logical structure for up-and-coming players. We cover the gender inequality that makes it much more difficult for women to make a living at the equivalent of the ATP Challenger level, the federations that centralize when they should be localizing, and the inevitability of match-fixing when live data provides so much of the sport's revenue. We also touch on several up-and-coming players, the likely next men's major winner, and why the Davis Cup Finals--for all its flaws--is superior to the upcoming ATP Cup.

    • 1 hr 4 min
    Ep 78: The Davis Cup Finals

    Ep 78: The Davis Cup Finals

    Jeff is joined by Peter Wetz, making his third appearance on the show. Peter and Jeff take a deep dive into the first edition of the new Davis Cup Finals, talking about Rafael Nadal's dominance in both singles and doubles, the surprise heroics of Vasek Pospisil, and why the #2 singles players may be the key to a side's success. We also take a close look at the format, which despite some obvious flaws, gave us a week of gripping tennis.

    • 1 hr 15 min

Customer Reviews

leila654 ,

One of two tennis podcasts I regularly listen to

Love the content, but it would be great if the microphone setup and audio quality was improved!

Ameyer32 ,

Thank you

Thank you for the perspective, insights, and reviews of what’s happening in tennis tournaments. Your podcast is both educational and a pleasure to listen to. Thanks again for all the good work you do.

Moderate to Severe Tennis Fan ,

Ian Hoffman

I really like these guys. They know tennis and get into details about the sport and the tours and analytics that one would never pick up one in hundreds of hours of tennis television watching. It's a good day when there is a new episode in my feed. Sound quality was improved beginning in 2019 and the weird thing where 15s of audio was constantly repeated at end of show was eliminated too. Now it's perfect.

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