What matters the LEAST to winning matches.

Have you always wondered what to work on to get better at your matches and start winning?
In this article written by tennis strategy analyst, tennis numbers guru Craig O’Shannessy, you will find you answer…on what area not to waste your time and energy as matters the least.
So what matters most to winning?

Great question! It is also important to know the answer at the other end of the spectrum.

What matters LEAST to winning?

When you examine everyone who won their match and compare their metrics to everyone that lost their match, what one statistic stayed around 50-50? What one analytical point stayed almost identical for the match winners and match losers?

I have the answer…

At Roland Garros in 2017, I compared 17 metrics “straight-up” between the player that won the match and the player that lost the match for both men and women. I wanted to know what metrics match winners did best at, and also what metrics really didn’t have an effect on the final outcome.

Below are the 17 metrics that were recorded at Roland Garros that I was able to compare between the match-winner and the match loser.

  1. Average 1st Serve Speed
  2. Serving More Aces
  3. First Serve Percentage
  4. First Serve Points Won
  5. 2nd Serve Points Won
  6. Serving Less Double Faults


  1. 1st Serve Return Points Won
  2. 2nd Serve Return Points Won


  1. Baseline Points Won
  2. Net Points Won
  3. More winners
  4. Less unforced errors
  5. Less forced errors
  6. * Converting a higher percentage of break points

Rally Length

  1. 0-4 shots
  2. 5-8 shots
  3. 9+ shots

* Converting a higher percentage of break points needs clarification. For example, the match loser may have converted 2/3 = 67%. The match winner may have converted 10/20 = 50%. So in this instance, the match loser would “win” this metric as 67% > 50%.
Where should you be spending LESS of your energy preparing to win matches? Which metric matters the least to winning matches?

Here’s your answer! ?


The LEAST most important metric that helped the match-winner create an advantage over the match loser was Average 1st Serve Speed. 

It came in dead last for both men and women.

Remember, the data points start at 50% vs 50% and separate up and down from there. Here’s an example. Let’s say we get data from 10 matches, and the match-winner, on average, hit a bigger first serve than the match loser eight times out of 10. Then the percentage for this match metric would be at 80%, showing a very high correlation between winning the match and hitting harder 1st serves.

But it wasn’t 80%. It wasn’t anywhere near 80%. Here’s the men’s & women’s metrics:

MEN = 50.8%

Average Serve Speed

  • Match Winner  = 181.8km/h
  • Match Loser = 180.9km/h

WOMEN = 51.7%

Average Serve Speed

  • Match Winner  = 155.3km/h
  • Match Loser = 154.7km/h

This means that out of all the matches played the match loser averaged hitting their 1st serve at almost exactly the same speed as the match loser. There was only a minuscule advantage. It came in dead last place as having influence over winning and losing.

So what’s the real message here…?

If you want to win more matches, absolutely, positively don’t think that adding five or ten or 15 miles per hour (if that’s even physically possible) is the key. It’s clearly not. Putting your focus on something that finishes in dead last place is not going to help you win more matches.

How do you think aces ranked in the big picture? Do you think that the player that hit the most aces won their match almost all the time?
Aces were ranked as the 13th best metric out of 17 for the women and 14th best for the men. In both cases, the match winner hit only about one more ace on average over the match loser.

  • Do not be the player that is trying to add 15mph to your serve because you think you will win a lot more.
  • Do not be the player trying to bomb more aces because you think you will win more.

There are far more important things to focus on than those two bottom dwellers…

For example, the strategy that was first for the men had a whopping 89% correlation between winning this specific battle and winning the match. Hitting a faster first serve was just 50.8% for the men and 51.7% for the women. Not even in the same conversation.