Winner to Error Ratios – Tennis Stats that Matter

There are a lot of parents at tennis tournaments and comps every weekend watching their juniors. One of the common comments is “he/she is just making too many unforced errors”. While that might be true, how many is too many and how should an error count relate to the winner/forced error count?

This is where a ratio of winners/forced errors to unforced errors can help. Before I move on, if you need to brush up on your definitions of winners, forced errors and unforced errors, have a look here.

How does GT Stats Calculate Ratios?

It’s pretty simple. Just divide the number of Winners/Forced Errors by the number of Unforced Errors. You can do this (and the app does) broadly by using the total number for all shots. Additionally, calculating individual ratios for serves, returns, groundstrokes and volleys/smashes is important.

Ratios for Pros

There are many stats where comparing a junior player to a pro player isn’t particularly worthwhile. Pros regularly have ratios well above 1:1. The stats sheet below shows the stats from the Australian Open Final, 2018, between Roger Federer and Marin Cilic.

The ratios for each player are impressive. Federer hit 2 winners/forced errors for every unforced error. Cilic was a bit lower at 1.29 winners/forced errors for every unforced error. It would be easy to stop there, until one realizes what their serving ratios are and how much they influence the overall number.

Fed served 4 double faults compared to 51 aces and unreturnable serves. Cilic 5 Double Faults and 41 aces/unreturnables. Their serving ratios are therefore 12.75 for Federer and 8.2 for Cilic. They’re not numbers that 8 to 15 year olds can realistically achieve (OK, maybe a few 14/15 year olds).

Examine the stats further (below) and we find that the ratios for groundstrokes were only 0.77 and 0.61 ie both players made more unforced errors than forced errors/winners off the ground.

That’s pretty huge and proves the importance of serving in modern tennis.

Where Should My Junior’s Ratios Be?

The first thing to note is that juniors – especially 10s, 12s and into 14s – won’t have anywhere near the serving ratios of pros. A junior that age is probably higher on double faults than pros and almost without question lower on aces and unreturnables. Instead of a ratio around 10, juniors will likely be below 1.

Secondly, a ratio for a match can depend on your opponent. If a junior is playing a much stronger opponent, their tendency will be to go for more. Going for more usually means more unforced errors and the ratio suffers.

What a junior should be aiming for is a ratio that’s higher than their opponent’s. Whether your player is highly aggressive or a player who is extremely consistent with great “wheels”, the ratio is what’s going to matter in the final wash-up. Anything approaching 1 or over is excellent, both for individual aspects of their game and their game as a whole.

Final Word on Tennis Ratios

The bottom line is that players (pros AND juniors) will win matches if their ratio is higher than their opponent’s. It’s possible to win without a higher ratio, but it’s likely to be in one of those matches where a player wins the match but loses the point count. Such are the vagaries of tennis scoring.

An important tip is to look at your player’s ratio when they win AND when they lose. Improving each of those numbers is what it’s about!


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