Wednesday, February 1, 2012

IRT competitiveness

There were some great tennis matches on the weekend down under in Australia. Some of us in The Racquetball Blog office thought was "man, wouldn't it be cool if there were great rivalries like Nadal-Federer or Djokovic-Nadal in racquetball?"

The biggest rivalry on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) now would be between IRT #1 Kane Waselenchuk and IRT #2 Rocky Carson, as they met in 17 of the last 23 IRT Tier 1 or Grand Slam finals (73.9%). But given the long winning streaks Waselenchuk has had the past four seasons, it's a lop-sided rivalry. Of course, even rivalries with lop-sided outcomes can be great to watch. The outcomes of the Nadal-Federer and Djokovic-Nadal rivalries are certainly one-sided, but who wouldn't want to see them play at every event? Waselenchuk and Carson have had some epic matches, so they are somewhat similar to those tennis rivalries.

But you needn't have any specific rivalries for great IRT matches. You simply need matches that could go either way. So let's take a bigger view of the state competitiveness on the IRT and look at how many matches go three, four and five games. Greater competitiveness should mean more matches going four or five games, rather than three straight games.

We've got that data for you from the last six IRT seasons, including the current season. Waselenchuk didn't play in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, so how much his dominance in the last four seasons can be compared to those two.

First, the quarter finals (note: these are proportions, as the number of matches changes across seasons due to the varying number of tournaments; data is from The IRT Historical Archive):

SeasonQF 3gQF 4gQF 5g

The proportion of four game matches has varied a bit across these seasons, but there isn't a clear trend (admittedly it's hard to get a trend out of only six data points). For five game matches, the proportion has been relatively constant across these seasons, and it was lowest in 2006-07, a season Waselenchuk wasn't playing.

Now the semi-final data:
SeasonSF 3gSF 4gSF 5g
2011-12 0.750.080.17
2010-11 0.410.300.30
2009-10 0.610.33 0.06
2008-09 0.540.27 0.19
2007-08 0.39 0.32 0.25
2006-07 0.38 0.35 0.23

So far this season only 1 of 12 semi-final matches has gone four games. It's only partial data for the season, of course, so we'd be surprised if this continued, given the relative stability of the proportion of four game matches over the previous five seasons.

The curious data point is that only 6% of the semi-finals in 2009-10 went five games. That was Waselenchuk's undefeated season, so he was in approximately half of the semi-finals that season (he missed one event) and all of those matches were three gamers. Another contributing factor is that season had only 9 events compared to at least 13 in the other seasons (except this season, which is only half done).

And lastly, the finals, and we've chosen to go with the raw data for this, as there are fewer data points (only one per event), so it's easier for the proportions to fluctuate.
SeasonF 3gF 4gF 5g

There were fewer four game finals the past two seasons than in the three seasons before that, which would be a Waselenchuk effect. The number of five game finals has been relatively constant with the exception of the 2009-10 season, when Waselenchuk won all his matches including every final none of which went five games (the one final that did go five games that season was Jason Mannino's victory over Jack Huczek).

There haven't been any five game matches so far this season, but again, we're only halfway through the season, so there's plenty of time to go tie-breaker.

Overall, it seems that competitiveness has been relatively constant in the last few IRT seasons, and that even with Waselenchuk's dominance.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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