July 12, 2019

Only 12% of Men Think They Could Win a Point Off Serena Williams: A polling site asked British people, "Do you think if you were playing your very best tennis, you could win a point off Serena Williams." 74% of men said no, 14% didn't know and 12% said yes.

posted by rcade to tennis at 06:58 PM - 12 comments

This is being used on Twitter to characterize 12% of men as deluded misogynists.

Is it really required to be one or both of those things to think you could win a single point out of 49 in a 6-0, 6-0 defeat? I wouldn't expect Serena to ever double fault, since she can reduce the risk of that and still beat random man handily, but it seems like the hope of getting a single fluke shot in that many points is achievable.

posted by rcade at 07:05 PM on July 12

I could take many points off of Serena -- as long as we were playing cribbage or gin rummy or something like that. Tennis? I don't think I could take a point off of a 7-year-old.

posted by Howard_T at 07:59 PM on July 12

Frivolous fiddling whilst Rome burns. Currently on the survey site, the first polling that includes a mention of Boris Johnson is nine links down from the top. Priorities, please. The Williams bit is like asking about the king's preferred tea sandwiches in the midst of the Dunkirk evacuation.

posted by beaverboard at 09:21 PM on July 12

Granted, I never took any formal lessons or played competitively, but in my late teens/early 20s I was a pretty damn decent rec tennis player. I befriended a guy in high school a bit older than me that was a former junior national team tennis player in a Middle-Eastern country that also played for a bit at a small Div I school on scholarship until injuries took him down.

A few years after he'd stopped training and playing competitively - and put on 40-50 lbs after living in the US - we'd go out and hit balls. When he warmed up and got his serve correct, I couldn't touch it. Not even close. Even if he told me where it was going to go.

Later, when I was at Baylor, there was a South American guy on the Bears tennis squad that used to come to our parties occasionally. No doubt on a very late night, a group of us asked him if we could sometime just stand on the court while he served at us to see what it was like. He wasn't their ace at all (maybe their 4 or 5, and Baylor's never really been known for their tennis program), but it actually came to fruition. We took turns standing there for four or six serves apiece, and then laughed while kind of shaking in fear. I tried serving to him a couple of dozen times and it was laughable how his returns were, even on my 1 in 10 decent ones.

I don't really want to get into if this is related to the USWNT or if it's misogynist or not (it probably is, and it definitely is), but if you're gonna tell me you could get on the court with Serena and somehow luck your way into a point, I'll bet my annual salary to yours in a goddamn heartbeat without even thinking twice.

posted by Ufez Jones at 10:47 PM on July 12

Excellent information!

If your two example bad-asses couldn't risk a double fault for two entire sets, do you think that would have improved your odds of returning some shots against them?

In the hypothetical I'm playing at my very best. Ninety nine other random men are playing at their very best. Is it really bet-your-salary impossible any of us gets a point? It's not like all 100 are uniformly terrible. Maybe one of us played at the high school level and another won a local amateur tournament.

Because we're all British, where two million people play tennis regularly, that means only 3% play regularly in a country of 66 million. So 9% of us think we could win a point even though we don't play regularly.

posted by rcade at 11:58 PM on July 12

Neither one of them were 'bad-asses'. Just well-trained in the sport. But like pitchers, a lot of the technique on serves depends on the spin, like a throwing a curveball, sinker, or cutter except you don't know which side it's going to go on.

It's a pretty common training thing for tennis players to set up the canisters on the corners of the court and snipe them with different serves. In this scenario, it's like pitchers warming up in the bullpen and not throwing their hardest but working on the spin and placement. And even at 70% speed, your average Joe has no chance at hitting it, because they can nail it every time.

So no, your chances of getting a point vs. Serena (or anyone on the WTA) aren't any better or worse than getting one against Nadal or Djokovic unless you get incredibly lucky on your serve. Otherwise, you aren't going to touch the ball. And that's where the misogyny (and being Wimbledon, racism) comes in.

posted by Ufez Jones at 01:52 AM on July 13

(As I'm writing this, Williams and Halep are trading howitzers. It's making 1-in-49 seem so much harder.)

Obviously people are being horrible with the question -- some of the worst people on Twitter have sports teams in their bio.

Here's a tennis pro: "I have been a tennis pro. The average tennis pro in the US could not win a game against Serena. Not one game. Male or female. The difference in skill between a US tennis pro and Serena Williams is 10,000%." Asked about 1-in-49: "Sure 1 point off a tennis pro, but definitely not one point off of man off the street bro."

What percentage of British men at their hypothetical best could play at tennis pro level?

posted by rcade at 09:56 AM on July 13

A new variant: How old would Roger Federer have to be for you to beat him at your current age?

I don't think the human lifespan is long enough for me to beat him at 52.

posted by rcade at 01:15 PM on July 13

Before I would be willing to consider whether this result is misogynistic or not, I would like to know if the results are different if the question is "Do you think if you were playing your very best tennis, you could win a point off Novak Djokovic?" or even "Do you think if you were playing your very best tennis, you could win a point off a grand-slam champion tennis player?" My hunch is that a handful of responders did similar calculations to what rcade outlined up top and decided a fluke point is possible, and they would do the same calculation regardless of the name at the end of the question. That said, wouldn't it be amusing to talk to the guy who understands he has no chance against Djokovic but thinks he could take (a point from) Williams?

posted by bender at 11:40 AM on July 15

Thinking about the question, either for Djokovic or Williams, I'm not thinking about whether I'm good enough to be able to actually make anything happen on the court, but whether either of them can go a whole match without some minor screw up. I don't think I'd ever be able to get a "winner" but is there some chance that they'd have an "unforced error" at some point in the match? What are the odds of that? And it doesn't have to be a double fault - you'd get to serve for roughly half of the points in a match, so is there some chance that they'd just get your serve off their racket kind of funny and it would go into the net? A chance you hit a ball that they think is going out but just nicks the line? In my case, having virtually no tennis skill, I'd say the odds of me scoring a point are probably worse than the odds of them winning the entire match through aces on their serves and double faults on mine, maybe with a maximum volley length of 2 shots. Also, would you actually have a better chance against Djokovic because he'd have to play THREE sets of error-free tennis as opposed to two for Williams?

posted by LionIndex at 06:36 PM on July 15

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