Saturday, February 02, 2013

Longest match in Davis Cup

Being a sports fan may be an amazing waste of time, especially if you get stuck in a pond with black swan matches.

Today I decided to watch the Davis Cup doubles, Czechia vs Switzerland, played in Geneva, a few miles from the LHC. A reason was that some friends and relatives did the same. That was quite a silly decision, I am afraid!

Previously, the longest match in the Davis Cup was the 1982 match between John McEnroe (USA) and Mats Wilander (SWE), 6 hours and 22 minutes. Now, the today's match Berdych-Rosol (CZE) – Wawrinka-Chiudinelli (SUI) has been played for 7 hours and 1 minute. The match ended a minute ago.

You see that the record length finds itself in a whole new category which was unknown in the 1980s. This new kind of an extreme event is clearly a new proof of global warming. ;-)

The Czech duo has wasted 12 matchballs, among other things. You could think that the odds of that are \(p=1/2^{12}=1/2,048\) but it's an overestimate of the "extremeness" because all the matchballs appeared when the Swiss players were serving and the probability that they win the fifteen is higher than \(1/2\) when they serve.

Fortunately, the 13th matchball hasn't been wasted (note that each match is won by a fifteen that follows after a "matchball" is announced). Most Czechs probably don't believe that 13 is an unlucky number so that this is not the worst paradox here. What's more paradoxical is that the 13th matchball was the first one that was played during the service of the stronger Swiss player, Chiudinelli. But he failed to do what his colleague Wawrinka successfully did 12 times before him. ;-) Such things happen and they're not insanely unlikely, especially because the difference between both players isn't astronomical, it's just "marginal".

The sets were CZE:SUI: 6:4, 5:7, 6:4, 6:7, 24:22. The last two figures may be confusing so let me stress it's twenty-four vs twenty-two and these rather large numbers play the same role that is usually played by numbers such as 6:3 or 6:4 or 7:5. :-) The score of the today's fifth set has also beaten the highest score of team tennis, 23-21, sometimes from the 1950s. However, it was nothing in comparison with the highest score of a fifth set in Wimbledon. Three years ago, they managed to play 70-68 in the fifth set somewhere. :-)

As I was watching the match for many hours, I was increasingly thinking it was a waste of time. However, it would be painful not to see the end of the match if I have already invested so much time. On the other hand, this argument wasn't "absolute priority" for me and I was actually ready to turn the TV off. Moreover, as the match was getting longer, my interest was gradually refocusing from the question who would finally win to the question which records for the longest matches would be breached.

When we discuss similar anomalies today (and yesterday), I had to deal with a flat tire on my bike yesterday. In recent years, it would be an event that happens twice a year in average. Within minutes, I take the wheel off, replace the tire with a healthy one waiting in a buffer (with 2 reserve inner tubes), and fix the flat tire (glue a special piece of rubber over the whole etc.). For many years, it would be exactly like that. One hole, one reserve tire, job finished. Occasionally, I would buy a new inner tube or new tire or new plasters and glue to fix the holes.

But yesterday, things were different. When I placed the new tire, it happened to be punctured as well. Maybe I had forgotten to fix a tire in the past. So another hole had to be filled. However, this anomaly (2 instead of 1) wouldn't be worth a few paragraphs. What happened was that I created another hole by using a screwdriver perhaps too dangerously while returning the tire and tube onto the wheel – something that hasn't occurred to me for years, either. To make things dramatic, I found out today (one day later) that my other wheel, the back wheel, was flat as well – a regular sharp piece of glass in the tire was the reason why the tube was empty. So after I walked the bike for a few miles, I fixed the fourth hole in my tires in two days – quite a number! ;-)

Also, I won't even tell you how many hours I have wasted over the last year by trying to upgrade my AMD/Intel GPU Windows 7 drivers. Today, after I decided that all the new drivers above 8.901.4.0 (the same number for the AMD driver and the Intel driver) have some problems, e.g. they prevent hibernation from being completed, I returned to 8.901.4.0 and decided that it's actually equally fast and there's been no progress in the drivers for a year! These switchable graphics cards' drivers are a mess – partly because they depend on a collaboration between Intel, AMD, and the computer manufacturer (PackardBell, owned by Acer) and such a required collaboration (and sharing of responsibilities) rarely works in capitalism because it resembles communism way too closely.

(If you're ready to install Microsoft-unverified drivers and you have an Intel+AMD hybrid graphics laptop, go to for the newest Intel, AMD drivers modified to work on switchable graphics cards.)

The idea "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is something I have been trying to internalize for years but it may be true that these efforts have only been partly successful. In many situations, I have learned to be a real conservative "in practice" but it's surely true that the temptation to get the newest drivers/firmware even if the benefits of the upgrade aren't clear to me at all is a major counterexample suggesting that your humble conservative is sometimes excessively tempted to behave painfully unconservatively.


  1. Lubos, get kevlar tires. They are a little bit heavier, but unless you are racing it does not make a difference. And they are practically indestructible.You can still pinch the tube if you under-inflate, but nothing will get through from outside.

  2. Long tennis matches raise suspicions of spread-betting influence eg

    In the case of your 4 punctures, I doubt any asian spread-betting mafia organisations were involved.:-)

    After all, we should realise that the worst day of the rest of our life is always yet to be lived.

  3. Lubos, sorry to correct you, but Stan Wawrinka is certainly the stronger player on the Swiss team: in singles he is ranked 17 to Chiudinelli's 139, and he won the olympic gold in doubles with Federer in 2008. It's no surprise he was stronger on the match points. Interestingly, he was in another very long match with Djokovic earlier this year, which he lost 12-10 in the 5th set. Poor Stan, he's been in two of the great matches this year and lost them both.

  4. John F. HultquistFeb 3, 2013, 3:16:00 AM

    If ain’t broke, don’t mess with it.

    Then there is the question of how seriously is it broken?

    In the spring of 2005 I cobbled together a box with an AMD
    Athlon 64 CPU on an ASUS A8N-SLI motherboard.
    I know it is old – that’s why I hate to start messing with it. I should just buy or build a new one.

    The audio went out recently and about once every 5 days
    there is something I think I should listen to.

    I called the local fix-it shop and they are 3 days behind
    but want me to bring it in and leave it, so as to get in the queue.

    Maybe I could deliver it to them and then go watch a 3 day
    tennis match.

  5. The label "practical conservative" fits me and I believe the majority of all people, too. :-)

    When things go bad I prefer to try to repair rather than to put into the rubbish bin; and not yet finished meals I prefer to put in the fridge for later consumption rather than letting them go to waste (as my wife usually chooses to does).

    I'm sure you Lumo prefer a non-polluting recycling (a Green Conservative lifestyle), the same as I do. It did not feel good to having to throw away old foods into the rubbish bin rather than onto the land (or compost heap) when we moved to a city apartment from the country-side.

    However, I believe that "practical conservatism" is an attitude that to an important extent stem from one's personal or recent enough ancestors' experience of an absence of affluence.

  6. Hi Brian, I've heard the numbers. What I meant was that Chiudenelli played a far better, more dangerous tennis last night than Wawrinka, he was far stronger last night.

  7. Hi Luboš.

    Actually, (hot monthly average) extremes are now about 80 % more probable to occur than without global warming. Scientific literature is a better measure than tennis match:

    no extreme physics needed here... ;-)

    Congrats to the match, BTW,


  8. Dear Alexander, regardless of "literature", yours is just a nonsensical statement because a "world without global warming" isn't uniquely well-defined – and the real world, one with "global warming", isn't quite known.

    Of course that if one shifts the typical temperatures by half a degree, it will seriously impact the frequency of temperature extremes. There have been something like 2,000 months on records, so to make a new record is 1 in 2,000 event, essentially a 3-sigma event, so shifting it by 0.2 sigma to a 2.8-sigma events may change 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 1,000. But that doesn't mean that there is anything surprising, dangerous, interesting, or man-made about this observation.