Tennis is a Game of Errors? Not if you want to improve

In tennis, if you add forced errors and unforced errors together, you can justify the statement “tennis is a game of errors”. The problem is it’s a really lazy way of reporting what happens in a tennis match. Consider these definitions:

Unforced error – I missed a shot that I shouldn’t have missed.

Forced error – Because my opponent’s shot was so good, I missed the following shot.

Agreed? That being the case, I am responsible for my unforced error. My opponent is responsible for my forced error. If you’re placing those two things in the same “stats box” and using it to justify tennis being a game of errors, you’re not comparing apples with apples…….by definition!

Further, if you also agree that the definition of a winner is “my opponent’s shot was so good, I couldn’t get to the next shot”, surely forced errors are as good as winners, and should be compared as such? Read the definition of forced error and winner again.

Why is the differentiation important?

Without differentiating what is forced and what is unforced, you have no way to measure player patterns and where they need to improve. It doesn’t matter if they’re a developing junior, a college player or a pro.

Now we get to the cries from the crowd regarding what is forced and what is unforced. There aren’t as many of those situations as you might think. In our experience, it’s rarely more than 5% of total points in a match. So to lump them in together really is lazy reporting of the facts. It’s shallow analysis to suit the narrative.

Good News

135’s AI will record the difference between unforced and forced errors and credit them to the correct player. If there’s vision of a match, our AI can do exactly what one of our expert analysts can do.

No footage?

Record using the 135 App. Whatever the case, the AI is only as good as the system you’re using to record the analytics. If you’re recording analytics without differentiation between unforced and forced errors, you have no way to measure improvement because you’re not comparing apples with apples.



Consider the three points in the video below.

Point 1 is a clean ace. No debate there.

Point 2 is the same serve from the same player. Analysts who subscribe to the “game of errors” theory will tell you that’s a return error because the returner got his racquet to the ball. 

Point 3 is a missed return of second serve.

Which two points are the apples, and which one is the orange?!

Using the 135 Framework, the first two points are shot, while the third one is a 2 shots. 

“Game of errors” would say that examples 2 and 3 are both errors.

Hawkeye would say they are all 1 shot rallies because Hawkeye doesn’t count any ball that doesn’t land in the court.

The only way to measure improvement is to ensure you’re comparing “like” with “like”.