Wednesday, November 14, 2018

GOAT Debate: Strength of Schedule

One of the worst arguments to make during a GOAT debate is that a certain player belonged to a stronger era than another. It's an argument that is purely subjective, because there is no method of measuring how strong one era is compared to another. However, when comparing players from the same era, it is crucial to compare the quality of opponents that each player faces.

There are many ways to measure a player's strength of schedule and it has been measured by many people in many different ways. My contribution here should be seen as one more angle from which to view the topic.

What I want to do is compare the frequency with which Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have had to face the other ten best players of their era. So we will need a total of 11 players, and we already have three. Other wise people may have picked a slightly different group of 11 players, but these are the ones I selected to compare along with the Big Three: Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer.

Matches played against the group:
1. Djokovic - 284
2. Federer - 250
3. Nadal - 247

Regardless of who you support in this debate, we can all stop and admire the fact that each of these three have played about 250 matches against the same 10 players in their careers. Djokovic leads this comparison by 34 matches, which is even more impressive when considering that he has played the least professional matches of the trio.

Percentage of all professional matches in which the opponent is from the group:
1. Djokovic - 28.23%
2. Nadal - 22.31%
3. Federer - 17.37%

That is a staggering advantage for Djokovic and it begs the question: why such a big gap? I don't think Craig Tiley is behind this one. There are a few reasons for the difference.

Why Nadal's percentage is lower...
Nadal's best surface is clay, which is the surface on which few big events are held. As a result, Nadal puts more small events on his schedule where he is less likely to face the top players in the game. Ferrer also has a similar schedule which is why the Spaniards played each other 31 times, which is the third most Nadal has faced any opponent. Still, the kind of tournaments where Cilic is going to make a deep run are not the same tournaments that Nadal is winning, so he is less likely to play that kind of player as frequently. Nadal also suffers more early-round losses than the other two, because he is less successful on grass and hard courts.

Why Federer's percentage is lower...
Like most of the rest of the group, Federer is more likely to do well on hard and grass courts. However, Federer is also older than everyone else on the list. Had the list featured players like Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian or David Ferrer, Federer's percentage would be slightly higher. Federer's career has spanned almost two decades, so his numbers would always be slightly lower regardless.

Why Djokovic has the highest percentage...
Djokovic, more than any player in tennis history, is dominant on all three surfaces. In nearly every tournament that Djokovic has played in his career, he is reaching the stage where he is going up against the best players of his era. Even when Djokovic doesn't win tournaments, he frequently reaching the finals and semifinals of tournaments. That's why Djokovic has more weeks at No. 1 than Nadal despite having less Grand Slam trophies.

Anytime someone wants to compare the win-loss records of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal in a GOAT debate, they must also look at who the three players played against. The data makes it clear that Djokovic is consistently playing against better opponents than what Federer and Nadal are having to face.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tennis Twitter Turned Into A Leftist Mob

A tennis journalist that I truly respect in spite of our differing opinions is Courtney Nguyen. So when I saw Nguyen's tweet yesterday regarding Tennys Sandgren, it caught my attention. She said "Ours is a wonderful sport full of passionate fans from the very marginalized groups attacked by the rise of the alt-right. Don't tell us to calm down."

If tennis Sandgren were truly a member of the alt-right, I would agree that much of the reaction that has been seen over the last 48 hours from tennis fans is justified. However, there seems to be some serious confusion as to what makes a person a part of the alt-right movement.

That word "movement" is key, because that's what the alt-right is. Like any other political movement, it seeks to grow in popularity to be able to eventually influence public policy. That means that someone who believes in the alt-right's movement should be seeking to grow it's popularity.

But when given the opportunity to do so, Sandgren repudiated the alt-right. He even went as far as to say that Christian values are incompatible with alt-right values, discouraging fellow believers from associating with the movement that he is being accused of supporting.

That alone ought to end all speculation that Sandgren is even sympathetic to the political movement. Still, some are accusing the American tennis player of secretly holding pernicious beliefs, while pretending publicly to denounce the movement. What evidence do they have? His Twitter account.

While fellow American tennis players like Jarmere Jenkins, Nicole Gibbs and John Isner, who all have personal relationships with Sandgren, have stuck their necks out to defend him, Sandgren's accusers think a few tweets are more indicative of what kind of a person he is.

Granted, some of the tweets are distasteful and indefensible, but they don't meet the burden of proof to accuse Sandgren of supporting the alt-right with so much evidence to the contrary.

One of the Twitter users that started the accusations, conveniently compiled what were considered the most damning tweets (out of thousands) that Sandgren has posted in the last several years. In other words, this list is the worst of the worst.

In the first tweet, Sandgren thanked a fan for offering support and added #americafirst. The issue is that the fan was a Trump supporter. That means that associating with any of the millions of Trump supporters, while being patriotic is the mark of a member of the alt-right in the view of Sandgren's accusers.

The next evidence was that Sandgren has had amicable Twitter exchanges with Nick Fuentes. I had no idea who Fuentes was before all this started and still don't know much, but guilt by association is weak evidence at best.

Next, Sandgren made two pro-life tweets. As mentioned before, Sandgren is a Christian, and his pro-life stance is consistent with biblical values. These tweets say far more about his religious views than his political views.

Moving down the list, one of Sandgren's news sources is the Daily Wire, whose editor-in-chief is Ben Shapiro. Sandgren already clarified that where he gets his news from does not reflect at all what he believes, but let's ignore that for a second. As an orthodox Jew, Ben Shapiro has spoken out against the alt-right many times and is among the most hated people by the alt-right. Last year, he received the most antisemetic tweets of anyone on Twitter. He also frequently uses his news site to denounce the alt-right. True supporters of the alt-right detest the Daily Wire and Ben Shapiro, not share their content on Twitter.

The next evidence is admittedly the most condemning. Sandgren made a pair of tweets making fun of gay people in a gay bar. These tweets are truly distasteful and indefensible. Having said that, these are just two tweets out of thousands that were made five years ago when he was 21 years old. He hasn't tweeted anything like this since then. Tennis fans have every right to take objection to these tweets, but they do not justify the accusation of being alt-right.

The following tweet is not much better, using a stereotype about asian women driving to make fun of a friend. This tweet was a reply and not meant to be seen in public. This in no way justifies what was said, but he has never said anything like this publicly. I think this was a severe lapse in judgement rather than an indicator of his genuine personal beliefs. This tweet really does not reflect well on him.

In the next tweet, he compared Karl Marx unfavorably to Adolf Hitler. Somehow, in the minds of Sandgren's accusers, strongly opposing communism is equivalent to supporting the alt-right. I hope no one sincerely believes that you must be a member of the alt-right to strongly oppose communism.

The next tweet shows Sandgren replying in agreement to a tweet by Mike Cernovich, who quoted a tweet and called it fake news. The original tweet was deleted, so I'm inclined to assume that it probably was fake news.

The next evidence is that he has retweeted Alex Jones twice. Alex Jones is a dishonest person, but the issue ought to be the content of the tweets rather than the person who wrote the tweets. The particular tweets that were retweeted had to do with transgender bathrooms. People can feel free to disagree with Sandgren on this issue, but most conservative republicans are against transgender bathrooms. If this is what it means to be an extremist, much of the right side of the political spectrum in the United States is extremist.

We already dealt with the topic of Ben Shapiro, so I'll skip the next tweet.

The next tweet was when he criticized tennis fans in New York for not supporting John Isner, who should have been the home favorite. Sandgren was sticking up for his friend, and in the wake of this controversy, John Isner has returned the favor.

The following evidence is that he is not a fan of Serena Williams. Before you assume that this is racism, he was cheering for another black American Sloane Stephens, who was playing against Serena Williams. Also, it is possible to dislike Serena Williams without hating an entire race of human beings. I should also mention that the tweet in question has been cropped by many Twitter users to remove the headline. This inaccurately makes it look like Sandgren is commenting on the pictures of Serena Williams screaming rather than the content of the article, which is what he was really commenting on.

The next evidence is a list of people that Sandgren follows. He already clarified that follows are not endorsements, but the list includes people like the president of his country along with other certified Twitter users that are popular follows for many Americans. Again, if Sandgren is an extremist or member of the alt-right, so is a huge portion of the United States.

The next evidence is that over a year ago, he wrote two tweets about a conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton. In 13 months since then, he hasn't brought it up again. This issue is clearly no longer relevant, because he doesn't seem to believe it anymore. What you would hope would happen when someone finds a conspiracy theory interesting is that they would eventually realize that its not true. In the case of Sandgren, he quickly realized it wasn't true and moved on.

Finally, Sandgren has retweeted Fox News, Drudge Report and Cloyd Rivers, which are all widely followed and retweeted Twitter accounts. This one is really a stretch. If this is the worst stuff that can be found out of thousands of tweets, there is no justification for accusing Sandgren of being a supporter of the alt-right.

As Jarmere Jenkins rightly tweeted before being bullied into deleting his tweet, this shouldn't even be a story. Sandgren just reached his first career quarterfinal at a major and this should be celebrated. Instead the last 48 hours has been an unwarranted trial on Sandgren's character.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Great Response To A Dumb Question

Let's look at this Tennys Sandgren issue that has dominated Twitter over the last 24 hours for what it is: a witch hunt.

After reaching his first career quarterfinal at a major, Sandgren was asked in his press conference whether or not he was linked to the alt-right based on who he follows on Twitter.

It appears that Sandgren was advised not to answer the question, and in hindsight, that probably would have been the right decision. Instead Sandgren went ahead and answered the question brilliantly, saying "you can ask me who I am, and I'm perfectly fine answering those kinds of questions."

So who is Tennys Sandgren? He's a Christian. He also clarified that alt-right values are consistent with his Christian values.

Yet even though he explicitly denounced the alt-right and offered no support to the movement, people are still trying form conspiracy theories that tie Sandgren to the alt-right. The answer that Sandgren gave on the spot doesn't leave any possibility for him to be linked to the alt-right in any way.

Let's back up to the question that started all this. It's a serious accusation to accuse someone of being alt-right. If you're going to accuse a player of this right after a career milestone, you better have some serious evidence. Instead, the only evidence offered was that Sandgren follows certain people on Twitter.

The same people who are actively trying to destroy Sandgren's reputation right now are the same ones who claim to believe in tolerance. Yet when a conservative, pro-life, Christian reaches the quarterfinals of a major, the response has been anything but tolerant.

There are some who disagree with Sandgren's worldview, but have gone on Twitter to point out that he is deserving of tolerance. The response they were met with was personal attacks. Anyone who even supports Sandgren as a tennis player is being considered a sympathizer to white supremacists.

Tennis Twitter in many ways has turned into an echo chamber for leftist ideology, and when someone from outside their ideology breaks into that echo chamber, a witch hunt ensues. The voices of reason get blocked and muted, while the witch hunters continue to believe themselves to be virtuous. All they really are is intolerant.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Navratilova's Consistency: Round 2

As with many of my more opinionated posts, a follow-up post can be useful for instructing those with dissenting opinions how best to characterize my views.

Martina Navratilova swooped in on Twitter today to clear the air that she isn't actually a socialist. To which I could respond "scroll through her Twitter feed and you be the judge," but I'll resist the temptation to do that. I'll take her word for it. She's not a socialist, but instead a progressive feminist that supports unions, which is totally different from a socialist apparently.

Some Twitter folks think that I would be surprised to learn that socialists support unions. It turns out, that this fact was the reason I wrote the post in the first place. Interestingly, Navratilova claims she's not a socialist, but does support unions.

So why would a progressive who supports unions oppose Novak Djokovic starting a player's union for the ATP? This is the question I wanted to answer in my last post, and while many people have called me many lovely names, nobody else has offered an alternate response to the question.

One Twitter user semi-accurately described my view as this "inequality is a good thing as long as someone benefits from it." She then sarcastically added "Capitalism at its finest."

This proves my point. Progressives (I won't say socialists since that's not what Navratilova is) hold that equality is an absolute moral good. Djokovic is fighting for the benefit of some, which has the side effect of inequality. Therefore, Navratilova and all who hold equality as an absolute moral good, must oppose Djokovic's efforts.

Thus, my conclusion that Navratilova's opposition to Djokovic is perfectly consistent with her progressive (not socialist) worldview.

The other point I wanted to make in my original post is that opposing Djokovic is also opposing an increase in WTA prize money. As Jonathan Liew correctly pointed out "ITF rules on pay equity dictate that any increase in men's prize money must be reflected on the women's side."

Therefore, in the name of equality, Navratilova is also opposing women receiving increased prize money at joint events. This is the problem with holding equality as an absolute moral good. If you disagree, what is your explanation for a progressive feminist who supports unions, opposing Djokovic's efforts?

The Federer Prism Isn't Even Fair To Federer

As a fan of Novak Djokovic, the media's habit of looking at everything through what I call the Federer Prism gets really annoying. I wrote about this a lot when Djokovic completed the non-calendar grand slam, a feat that is missing on Federer's GOAT resume. However, the media compared Djokovic's achievement to Roger Federer finishing the career grand slam in 2009. That is because the media can only understand events through the Federer prism.

The latest manifestation of this is to talk about how every player will be reaching their peak when they turn 36. The assumption is that the trajectory of Federer's career is the blue print that every other player either is or should be using to plan the rest of their own careers.

This shows a complete lack of appreciation for what Federer accomplished in 2017. Nobody has ever done anything like what Federer did last year, and to assume that suddenly every other player is going to do the same is absurd.

The best way to recognize and appreciate what Federer did last year is to stop talking about other players trying to do the same thing. It will be decades before anything remotely similar happens again. Give Federer his due and stop analyzing other players through the Federer Prism.