Sport

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked ahead to the ATP Tour Finals, the climax of the men’s tennis season.

The tournament is played on a hard court surface, which goes some way to nullifying the relative advantages afforded to big serving and big returning players by grass and clay courts respectively. But where exactly does hard court fall between those two extremes, and what can this tell us about its impact on the playing styles of grass and clay specialists? Read more

By John Burn-Murdoch and Gavin Jackson

In the latest instalment of The Baseline, our weekly feature on sports statistics, we looked at Serena Williams’ dominance of women’s tennis over the last decade.

Williams has won 17 of the 43 grand slam tournaments she has entered since the 2002 French Open, and the reasons for her success can be explained with a look at performance data for the top players of the modern era Read more

FT Baseline

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Kate Allen

by Kate Allen and Roger Blitz

Usain Bolt lines up in Moscow for this weekend’s athletics World Championships as red-hot favourite for the 100m sprint title.

This chart shows all the official International Association of Athletics Federation times run by men in the 100m in under 10 seconds. It has become a relatively common achievement in the past few decades, but Bolt is a phenomenon, head and shoulders above every runner in the history of the sport – even those later disqualified for having taken performance-enhancing drugs.

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If you watched every American professional football team play every snap, analysed its success, compared it to all other plays in that situation, and then weighed it according to the defence it faced, you would reach an important conclusion: the Denver Broncos have the best chance of winning the Super Bowl on February 3.

That is according to FootballOutsiders.com, whose popular DVOA rating puts the Broncos as a slight leader (24.3 per cent) over second-favourite New England Patriots (23.6 per cent).

Founded by Aaron Schatz, an ESPN columnist, the site provides an in-depth analysis of every single play of the NFL season along with various ratings based on that analysis.

“For me, personally, I started this because I wanted to make better commentary,” says Mr Schatz. “The bigger gap that needed to be closed was between reality and the nonsense of colour commentators.”

Baseball’s “sabermetrics” movement – popularised by Moneyball (both the book and movie) – led the way increasing the sophistication of the statistics used in sport. It was primarily developed by people outside the baseball establishment to help teams properly value individual players.

In contrast, Football Outsiders does provide some predictive qualities, but the data analysis offers a different utility from the of baseball: to educate and inform football fans about a complicated and sometimes misunderstood sport. Read more

Martin Stabe

Iran's weightlifters Behdad Salimikordasiabi and Sajjad Anoushiravani took gold and silver in the men's +105kg

As expected, the US and China topped the conventional Olympic medal tables (however you chose to sort them). But by merely achieving the expected, the sporting superpowers appear much farther down the FT’s weighted medal table, which ranks countries by how much they exceeded pre-Games expectations.

Our table benchmarked nations performance against macroeconomic factors known to affect Olympic performance, such as GDP and population.

Great Britain’s 29 gold medals and 65 overall was enough for third place on the FT table as well as the conventional table – an impressive feat given the handicap our methodology imposed on it by taking into account the host-nation advantage.  Here’s a look at some of the other nations that can leave London extremely happy, having greatly exceeded expectations. Some of them may surprise you. Read more