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Under Pressure! Siding out in King of the Court

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By Stephen Lee - Beach Stats Analyst

The King of the Court series returned to Hamburg, Germany from June 23rd through June 26th with 40 participating teams and four days of competition. Fast-paced and featuring a different kind of pressure, this unique style of beach volleyball provides a new challenge for players to tackle. A ticking clock and four other teams means there are many matchups and variables at play in each stage of the event.

This analysis uses 2,992 individual data points recorded by BeachData from the event. One of the interesting areas this data lets us dive into is side-out percentage. There are two different side-out percentages for each team from the event. The first one is for the king’s side, the traditional scoring opportunity off of serve receive. The other is from the challenger's side but with the team serving and defending side-out is not an accurate description, a better way to classify it is successful challenge rate. Across both men and women, the average side-out rate from the king's side was 46.27% and 34.51% for the challengers. This is a lot lower than you would expect, for pro beach players who routinely practice siding out. So what has changed?

The difference is the atmosphere and competition! With four other teams, 15 minutes, and only being able to score from one end, the pressure players feel continues to mount as they race to build a lead before running out of time. This fast-paced environment can be brutal as players fight to gain momentum to survive the round. On top of that, the extra effort to successfully side-out is tough work even without the added time pressure.

There were some fun pairings across the field and it is exciting to see that there are many differences in the side-out leaders for both the King/Queen side and the challenger side.

Wickler & Meeuwsen dominated with a crazy 61.83% side-out rate! Seriously impressive stuff for the German-Dutch combo. The next highest was 54.78% from the Polish team Kantor & Rudol, who fought to the 2nd round of the semi-final. One of the other teams that stands out is Samoilovs & Smedins. After a tough opening getting knocked out in the group stage, they battled back to make it through the playoff match before being eliminated in the 2nd round of the quarterfinals. While their sample size was smaller the Latvian duo had a remarkable 54.44% side-out rate on the king's side but with a 33.33% successful challenger rate from the challenger side obviously, it got harder to make it across.

On the women's side, we saw a tighter spread in the high performers. It was the Belgian pair of Van Den Vonder & Cools that had a 57.73% side-out rate and 6th place finish! This was the highest side-out rate on the women’s field and the second-highest overall for the Hamburg event. Another impressive 6th place finisher is the Ukrainian duo of Makhno & Makhno. With an impressive run all the way to the semi-finals, they were siding out at a 56.64% rate from the Queen's side of the court. Norway, the men continue to make noise in the beach volleyball world, but it was Helland-Hansen & Olimstad that did what no one else could statistically with a top 3 scoring rate on both sides of the court! 55.37% from the Queen's side and leading the women with a high successful challenger rate!

Now just to make it over to the scoring side of the court is its own challenge, service pressure to steal an ace or get them out of the system before needing to defend and work to win the rally. This is why we see the average successful challenge rate from the challenger's side of the court to be so low at 34.5%. One of the really interesting stats we see is that only one of the teams mentioned above had a top rate on both sides of the court.

On the men's side, it was the 3rd place finishers Brouwer & Penninga that took the top successful challenge rate of 46.93%. What a fun Dutch pairing to see take the court! Past winners Krattiger & Breer were not too far behind with 43.75%, showing that Swiss transition game at work! The third team rounding out the top three successful challenge rate is Capogrosso & Capogrosso from Argentina who finished with a 40.74%. An interesting note on these scoring rates is the sample size for all three. Brouwer & Penninga had the highest at 81 but compared to the sample rates for the King side-outs it is quite low. The sample sizes for the Swiss and Argentinian teams are low as well, 48 and 54 respectively.

The women's successful challenge rates are closely clustered at the top, separated by less than .4%. Helland-Hansen & Olimstad at 41.18%, Polley & Zeimann at 41.11%, and Aulenbrock & Ferger at 40.85%. Very interesting how close these top performers were. Unlike the men's side, the sample size is more robust, 85, 90, and 71. Two honorable mentions, Schermerhorn & Quiggle and Ypma & Van Driel tied, both had a 39.78% successful challenge rate.

Across the board, the side-out and challenge rate is lower than what you would typically see in a beach volleyball match. The change in effectiveness in team side-out has to do with the one-of-a-kind situational pressure. Between needing to serve tough and also defending against the teams right next to them, the pressure to transition builds fast. Sometimes all it takes is one side-out or transition to build momentum, and in a round where all it takes is a couple of points to survive, it can be hard not to crack under pressure. While those sitting in serve receive battle the distractions, different teams, and ticking clock, it is no wonder why it can be hard to go on a run of points. Once in that groove though it's clear how dangerous these pros' side-out games can be.

Now with the first event of the Crown Series 2022 done, it’ll be interesting to see how teams adjust for future events. Hamburg being in the middle of the Beach Pro Tour was a great change of pace after the World Championships in Rome.

Winning his second King of the Court Crown, Robert Meeuwsen joins Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb as the only players to win multiple events since the unique tournament was tested in 2017!