Author: Tom Tao

Losing a semi-final at milton year end tournament 2022

Losing a semi-final at milton year end tournament 2022

 

It is a mixed feeling for me right now.

Losing a close match brought disappointment, particularly for a game I feel I was actually the better player.  But I failed to convert on those points that really matter to the match’s outcome.

At the same time, I am also satisfied and relieved that I don’t need to play the final tomorrow against the same player I lost in the final last year.  After a marathon match(2 hr full), I would appreciate taking tomorrow off and focusing on my family to prepare for Monday’s work.  It would NOT be good if I win today and then retire for tomorrow’s final at 8pm.

Dave did an outstanding job again organizing the whole thing I enjoy the whole tournament at Milton tennis club, and hopefully have another chance later this year.

Let me breakdown today’s game this way

No SwingVision consent today

Definitely a surprise.  I have played against this opponent in a ladder match and he has no issue with it. But today he refused, claiming last time was enough.  I respected his preference, but find it a bit weird because of the inconsistency.  It is 2nd time received a refusal for setting up the equipment.

Line call argument

The first game starts with two controversial calls. At one point I believe he waited until the balls bounced twice, and 2nd point he hit it long so I called out.  He immediately raised his voice and complained.  I ended up giving him the benefit of the doubt on both times.   One of the goals I came in today is to enjoy the game and not get into arguments on line calls.

After that, I gave him all the points on my side and didn’t argue a bit on any points he called out on his side. What upset me is there is one point initially I thought was out so I raised my hand.  However the balls actually bounced in with topspin, so I changed my call and call it in.  He started to taunt me, saying words like “you are going to call it out right?”.  I told him that it was very disrespectful and I choose not to argue with him only because of his age.

Struggle to get back to the game

Maybe because of the incident, I wasn’t playing my best game and quickly I was behind 2:4 and later 3:5. In game 7, I faced multiple game points but ended up breaking him after a 13 min dogfight.  The same goes for game 9, in which I clawed it back and broke him again to make it 4:5

There are still questionable calls during these games, but I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The outcome of these games is barely impacted by these calls.  I also felt relieved about not falling behind by 3 game score.

My main tactics were NOT working at all – his backhand was very solid today, very different from the last time we played in the ladder match.

Took the lead

After failing behind 3:5,  I took the next three games and got my first lead at 6:5.  That is the point I starts to feel I am the better player today :  I am almost 20 years younger, in good physical condition, and we are in the 2nd hour.  On game points, I noticed his main weapon (forehand cross-court attacks) has more and more errors.

We exchanged a few breaks and then I had a critical hold to break the game open at 8:6.  If we are playing an 8 game set, it would be over. Sadly the format of the semi-final is first to 10.

He got frustrated and served two double faults at 6-8.  Now it is 0:30 , 6:8.  I went to court 3 to get those balls, feeling that if I broke him again to make it 6:9, the game would be over.   And I was telling myself – he isn’t quitting – I need to take the game. Sadly – I didn’t execute this plan well.  He ended up using his main weapon again and got two consecutive points to even it to 30:30.   I wish I could go to the net and show my balls !  I didn’t, and the tide turned again.

Losing 4 games in a row and letting the opponent closing out

Even though I was fully prepared for a dogfight with a marathon match, my opponent’s competitiveness and the ability to raise his level & focus impressed me.  My legs are starting to cramp a bit.  How can he sustain this physical challenge?

My mentality wasn’t right, and I ended up paying for it.

We went back and forth on this critical game, but then there is a questionable line call again.  I am 90% sure my forehand lob was in, but he called it out when we are at the 3rd deuce 6:8.   I was a little upset and then quickly made an easy error on his next serve.  In hindsight, I lose this game because of the easy error on the serve, not on the questionable calls. Now it became 7:8.

To this point, I have switched my tactics to start to feed the balls into his forehand, because his backhand was rock solid. I had some success by leading 40:15 again on 7:8.  Again I was playing conservative by generating short balls, and he took advantage of that with another consecutive forehand winner cross court. He ended up even the score at 8-8 after saving 5 game points.

At this point, he has switched tactics by using his forehand to get the angle, then approaching the nets to finish the points. To his credit, he was flawless during those overheads which I found not easy for a relatively short opponent.  He closed the game out over the next two games, in which I didn’t play well at all against his new tactics.  This is the same one Matthew was using against me.

In closing

Losing is a bit painful, but it can motivate me to get better.   I didn’t go to the net at all – after concluding it not effective by watching our last game highlight.  That was definitely a miss.  I had the physical height advantage.

It is still a hell of an experience. I still enjoy it and this is really the beauty of tennis games.

 

The first real ladder game against a 5.0 player

What happens today (fact)

  • This is my third ladder match at Milton tennis club.  My opponent is Andrew.  He ranked two spot(#2) above me(#4). 
  • The weather wasn’t great.  We almost cancelled the match due to the rain earlier. Realizing our upcoming schedule might not fit for another match, both of us made effort to get to the court and finish the ladder match. 
  • The result is one-sided.  I lost by 1:6.   We chose to use the 6-game instead of the 8-game pro set due to the weather delay.  The game only lasted 25 minutes.
  • Total points played: 45.  I won 38% of them (17 of 45).
  • I served quite well today (88% first serve in) and had 5 service winners.  

My hot takes 

  • I lost today because I feel my opponent is the better player
  • I wasn’t able to match my opponent’s intensity & shot speed.  When feel pressured and rushed, my rallies were often short. This gave my opponents too many chances to move forward and attack inside out.  This momentum keeps going and I was in a hole 0-4 very quickly.
  • My word playing at Milton’s Court 1 (showroom court) is 0 for 3 so far.  (lost to Henry, Suriyan, and now Andrew)I should avoid playing at this court for important matches in the future 🙁
  • When holding break points twice, I chose to play defence and let my opponent dictate the points. This works with ppl with/below my level, not today. When losing those two precious games, I lost my momentum and  my confidence

My post-game analysis after watching the video from SwingVision- 

  • I lost today because I chose the wrong tactics – I played too safe and bet my opponents would beat himself with unforced errors.  In my experience, It never worked when playing against opponents with both skills & experience.
  • My defense wasn’t up to my standard.  There are a few times when Andrew started to attack inside-out, and my returning shots were immediately falling short.  That makes me an easy target to get “finished” , and this led to the quick drop of my confidence. 
  • Even though my service was solid, I wasn’t hitting enough on his backhand, particularly for my 2nd serve.  As a result, he can attack my 2nd serve with ease, and got 2 winners out of my first two service games.  That also led to me having doubt of my abilities in the match.

Next steps

  • In order to work on my aggressiveness, the slinger bag I bought a few months ago is suitable to work on “techniques”.  
  • Mental part would be more difficult – essentially how can I feel more “confident” to generate my own pace ?  I guess the only thing I can do is to play against players slightly above my skill level this summer. 

 

 

 

First outdoor game in 2022 season – my tennis journal #1

Finally, I am able to play my first outdoor game, recorded using my newest equipment fence cap (bought on Black Friday 2021). It is a pro-set game with Kevin – my doubles partner from Credit Valley Club Inter-county “B” team. We didn’t play very often recently, as he spent more time on doubles and I focused on singles match plays.

The game was played at Glen Abby community part upon my request. The weather is cloudy with mild wind conditions, 8 degrees celsius in early after. I believe this to be an ideal weather condition for tennis, but Kevin feels it is a bit too cold. He said the balls feel too hard with the cold temperate. My topspin heavy style neutralized the bad weather condition, as I usually don’t need to hit the ball perfectly to generate points.

For the actual scores, I won the 1st set 8:3 by winning the last 4 games straight. The 2nd set was much closer and ended with 1-1 when the times ran out (the total score for the 2nd set was 15-15).

My conditioning is still nowhere close to my peak level. If we have enough time to finish, the 2nd set would be a lot closer. Fatigue seems to impact me much more than Kevin.

What I like about my game today is I was able to hit 2 winners on the forehand cross-court, each with over 85km/h on the line. I don’t usually attack that angle on my previous matches

What is interesting is my backhand slice shots type % – only 28% slices. I used to only use slices on my backhand so this is definitely encouraging to see. It could also indicate Kevin didn’t attack my backhand with deep balls much.

2021 Tennis Journey Recap

2021 is a challenging year for me.  I am quite satisfied with the progress I have made with my tennis journey.  I believe I became a better tennis player overall with the technology I have been using.

If you have arrived here, I hope you are a tennis fan (not just a speculator) like me, who is curious to learn to adopt modern technology to improve and enjoy the game. Here are the three things I am aiming to help you achieve :

  • Get a better understanding of how to get the most value out of SwingVision
  • Learn some new tricks and avoid the pitfall I experienced
  • Be inspired to improve your own tennis

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Analyze my tennis post-game videos from a Mac

This holiday I got another tech toy – an M1 powered MacBook Pro 13”.   One of the reasons to justify my buying decision is I will be able to “produce” more tennis tracking videos using the Mac version of the SwingVision. In this post, I’d like to share my initial review of it, after using it for a couple of sessions.

In a normal situation, I would wait for a few more weeks to get a bit more hands-on experience. Unfortunately, the city I live in imposed a new lock-down measure, essentially blocking any indoor tennis over the winter. The plan is to keep updating this with more information available.

Key takeaways & recommendations

  • SwingVision on Mac is a working version that can analyze video captured from any recording device with a minimum of 720p and 30fps.
  • The convenience of viewing and editing the video on a bigger screen with a Mac provides a better user experience.
  • The post-game editing feature is still limited since SwingVision doesn’t allow for exporting video in the Mac for now. However, it doesn’t limit any video edit by tools like iMovie to pre-process the imported video
  • If you are an apple watch user to tag the game with real-time scoring, I don’t suggest you wait a bit. The current combination will result in losing the real-time scoring capabilities since the video and the watch stats isn’t talking to each other.

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How to make a post game tennis video with my Apple Watch and iPhone

This is my #2 post on tennis video analyzing, #6 post on using Apple Watch to track tennis performance, and #11 post on sports in general.

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t over yet, but at least recreation tennis is back. The city I live in have allowed for tennis activity since late May, and I have been play a lot of tennis since then.

I also joined a new tennis club, and actively participated in the ladder game. After playing over 10 games using the newly improved SwingVision app (most recent version 7.2), I have found an effective way of generating a 10-15min highlight video of ALL POINTS played in a 1hr ladder match.

The video highlight generated is overlayed with the match score, recorded real time by Apple Watch. This makes it enjoyable to watch for friends and families, because it feel like watching a Pro match highlight between Federer and Nadal.

The finished video is invaluable. It can be used for:

  • Analyze point by point game performance to look for area of improvements
  • Share with your partner and other audiences
  • Store and archive in your personal library for later usage

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Book review  – Effective data storytelling by Brent Dykes

Book review – Effective data storytelling by Brent Dykes

Nothing feels better than finding a gem at the beginning of 2020, from the current world of information overload.

The gem I am referring to is the this new book called “Effective Data Storytelling” – How to drive change with data, narratives and visuals from Brent Dykes

It amazed me in the following area:

Readability

Over the past few years I have read 15-20 books on a yearly basis, with majority of them are related to analytics. Few disappointed me in practicality, even less excelled at readability.

This book is different. It feel like reading a novel – the joy of reading its own narratives, or in other words “teaching you how to tell stories” kept attracting me to read a few pages every day. I don’t have lots of free time at this stage of my life. Reading a few pages can often makes me laughed, feel resonated, or more importantly inspired to work on my craft.

More focus on data and narratives

The “data visualization” area is already quite crowded. I have personally read over 10 of them, written by authors from various of backgrounds.

In real work environment, it is quite difficult to apply some of the principles like “keeping data ink ratio high”. Here is an example: Analytics piece were often part of the “master” slides presenting to executive on regular basis. When all other 7 pieces from varies departments were jamming the information into busy slides, the pressure to align became way to high to try out something different.

That is what I particularly like the fact that, this book spent 2/3 of the contents on the two pieces that were not considerable less popular, but equal if not more important.

The first piece is data. The book provides both framework and concrete examples showing how we can analyze the data with the purpose of generating “insights” from raw data-set. The definition of “insights” in the book were coincidentally used from Avinash Kaushik’s famous “so what” interview

  1. Why should your audience care?
  2. What should they do about it?
  3. What is the potential business impact?

Recently, I experienced it first hand that a C-suite executive demanding the answers of these questions in a meeting. The meeting didn’t went well, luckily I wasn’t the presenter.

The second piece is narratives. I heard this concept a lot, and this book provided the most clear instruction on how to build the narratives:

Firstly it has introduced a framework called Data Storytelling Arc:

  • Setting the hook
  • Rising insights
  • Aha Moment
  • Solution and next step

This is not entirely brand new concept, as similar framework has been introduced in the past. What’s particular innovating to me is the “story point” concept. The story points are essentially the “meat” that can be built on top of the 4 points frameworks. Some of the typical story points includes – change over time (time series analysis), relationship, intersection (comparison), project forward (forecasting), drill down and zoom out, and lastly cluster and outlier. Lots of these are already familiar to me, but putting them under the umbrella of story points makes those analysis purposeful.

Missing pieces

It might be trivial and a low percent of user will actually check out the sheets/charts used and companion material listed by the book. But when I attempt to check it out, it was not accessible as expected. I was forced to submit an form with an message like this – that is mildly disappointing.

Closing comment

It is a great book. You should check it out

Tennis video analysis – a Primer

Tennis video analysis – a Primer

I received a special gift from my lovely wife during last year’s Christmas.

It is an add-on lens to put on my iPhone to capture more area. It is particularly useful when recording the tennis match from the baseline, because my iPhone doesn’t have a wide angle lens built-in so it doesn’t capture enough area.

To be honest, originally I was just planning to try out the new AI feature offered by SwingVision app. After using it for over 6 weeks and multiple rounds of trial and errors, post game video has become an essential piece of my tennis life. The app itself is still in its infancy stage with all kinds of limitations, however I can see a lot of potential in this area.

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Analyze first and second serve , and rally length breakdown using exported data from Swing Tennis App

Back by popular demand, this blog post continues diving into making use of the data we captured via Swing App from my Apple Watch. 

If you are new to the tennis tracking via apple watch, please check out my introductory blog post.

If you are interested in tennis, and subscribed to the Pro version of the Swing App, you will be able to export all the data to a clean Excel format. That is really cool, but what can you do about it?

In this blog, I will share my experience of playing and analyzing the raw data for over 30 hrs over the past few months. Hopefully by reading this article, you will have slightly more incentive to make use of the data, after your hard fought game and logging via Apple Watch.

We will cover the following three topics with hands-on examples:

  • Basic data cleaning and data modeling for the required analysis using Excel build-in feature
  • How to breakdown the first and second serve performance with speed and distribution
  • How to breakdown the short, medium and long rally on game points

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Tennis score tracking and exported data analysis with Apple Watch using Swing App

Tennis score tracking and exported data analysis with Apple Watch using Swing App

During the winter of 2018-2019, I was able to take my tennis tracking journey into a new level.  By now most of my tennis hitting partners are calling me a “data nerd”, clicking my watch like crazy during the game. But when I show them the stats after the game, they all (seem to be) impressed.

I did the following two new things in particular:

  1. Used the “Point by Point + ” score tracking in the Swing App to track all the points I have played. In total, I tracked 18 matches over the last 4 month, all of them were single matches and played in 1 hour.
  2. Exported the captured data into spreadsheets. By analyzing the data set, I was able to identify some of the limitations, as well as some opportunities to further enhance the analytics experience.

Before we dive in, if you are interested in knowing the tennis tracking tools and methodology, or a high-level overview, you can check my 1st blog post of this series: Tennis tracking after 18 month of usage. Or if you prefer to track drills instead of match, you can check out my last post on advanced tennis shots tracking.

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