Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon is just about all out of things to write about.
This past week brought with it very little in terms of actual tennis news.
Not that we mind. When we’re in the midst of what’s increasingly looking like a race revolution, who could possibly have the nerve and gall to discuss and think of tennis and only tennis? Or put another way: why even discuss the lack of tennis matches we’re having when folks around the world are protesting the very real, painful and true injustices that visible minorities have battled and suffered over the years? (Once again, if you would like to help out please consider doing so here.)
For now, tennis remains far from a potential return. This means that if we ignore this very, very critical and important thing happening all around the world—and, again, there is no way in hell that you should—we’re firmly in the land of little news, little inspiration. Every tournament or event that had to move has moved, leaving us precious little things to grasp on to and write a quick 600 words about.
So why not, like, have fun?
A few years back in 2016, the good folks at Tennis Australia’s Game Insight Group (GIG) looked at some of the fastest players on tour. We’ll get to the results, which you can see in full here but first, a word on what the results are actually showing us. GIG had looked at data over the past three years at the Australian Open to measure the speed of players when running over a distance of three meters or more.
As for the results themselves, some things stand out.
On the women’s side, Simona Halep is the one with the top speed at 23.04 kmh, followed by more or less who you’d expect in the rest of the top 10, players like Carla Suarez Navarro (2nd), Dominika Cibulkova (3rd), Angelique Kerber (7th), Garbine Muguruza (8th)—and, well look if it ain’t our good old Canadian Eugenie Bouchard all the way up at No. 5. To see Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams ranked No. 11 and No. 13 isn’t exactly surprising, but seeing Victoria Azarenka down at No. 22 was.
On the men’s side, it’s Novak Djokovic who’s ranked No. 1 with the fastest top speed but we’re still not over seeing Lleyton Hewitt, who by 2016 was a grizzled soon-to-be 35-year-old ranked No. 306 in the world, as the third player on this list. To see the fiery Australian in the twilight of his career still so high is inspiring really.
But that’s not all that the results show us. To go along with the highest top speed, GIG also measured the average top speed among the same players—and here too, we have some surprising results.
On the women’s side, Kerber stands above the pack with the fastest average top speed but Genie Bouchard, who could turn on the jets as much as anyone, seemingly just doesn’t run that fast all that often. On the men’s side, Roger Federer, who had only the 17th fastest top speed, actually does extremely well on average whereas Djokovic, the peak speed king, has a fairly pedestrian average top speed. Maybe there’s something to the effect that it’s not (only) how fast you run but how and when you do it?
What we like about such a study is how it quantifies things for which we have unfortunately had a tendency to rely on the eye test previously. If for no other reason than to give context to all those articles mentioning who is or isn’t the most fit, fast or otherwise athletic players on tour (see a few picked randomly through Google here, here and here), then this study and others like it will have been a success.
It’s no small feat.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG