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Murray's Wimbledon exit not so surprising, according to IBM analysis

Andy Murray of Britain attends a news conference after being defeated by Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in their men's singles quarter-final tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London July 2, 2014. REUTERS/Billie Weiss/AELTC/Pool

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Andy Murray's defeat at Wimbledon on Wednesday should have come as no surprise, according to a new IBM system that claims the Briton was a less aggressive player than opponent Grigor Dimitrov.

Computer giant IBM credited Dimitrov with 50 aggressive forehands to 44 for Murray during Wednesday's men's quarter-final match, in which Bulgarian Dimitrov knocked out last year's men's champion in straight sets.

While the two players almost tied on aggressive backhands, at 18 for Murray and 17 for Dimitrov, the Bulgarian scored a net 86 aggressive shots in total during the match, beating Murray's 71, IBM said in statistics provided to Reuters on Thursday.

This year's Wimbledon marks the first time IBM has used the system.

It was developed using data from last year's Wimbledon championship and U.S. Open, as well as this year's Australian Open, to identify four factors that define an aggressive shot.

They are: speed; landing location of the ball; distance the opponent had to move to get to the shot; and the opponent's position for the return.

A team of 48 tennis experts sitting courtside during a match then determine how aggressive a player's shot is compared to that of the other player, based on the criteria.

The statistics cannot be used to predict with certainty who will win a match, but they can help to analyze why a particular match against a particular player went the way it did, and also to prepare for an opponent, IBM says.

The U.S. company has had a partnership with Wimbledon for 25 years. Its analysis on aggressive shots is just part of a massive amount of data it has collected about matches.

"What we see is a trend in all sports that data is changing the game," Bill Jinks, an IBM engineer working on the project, said.

Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, who is ranked 13th in the world but beat Germany's Angelique Kerber, ranked 7th, on Wednesday to reach the women's semi-finals, said her coach looks at the IBM data.

The system calculated 38 aggressive forehands for Bouchard during the match against 29 for Kerber, and 23 aggressive backhands versus just 15 for the 7th seed.

"My coach has used them," Bouchard said at a press conference after the match. "(He) doesn't go into every specific detail with me, but gives me kind of a general sense of some things going on either with me or maybe the opponent I'm about to play.

"So I think he actually really appreciates them and uses them."

(Editing by Susan Fenton)