Social Sentiment Analysis: David Ferrer v Juan Martin Del Potro. Brought to you by Wimbledon Insights

We hoped for some drama, but nothing prepared tennis fans for the thrills and spills of the match between the No.4 seed, David Ferrer, and the No.8 seed, Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro not only came back from what looked like a match-ending injury, but went on to win the match in a heroic performance.

IBM’s social sentiment analytics track how players are being perceived on Twitter throughout the match, watching not just the number of their tweets but their content, using sophisticated tools to decide what percentage is positive or negative. Ferrer began the match with a positive sentiment score of 83%, with Del Potro trailing at 79%. Then disaster struck. Del Potro fell badly in the very first game, aggravating an existing knee injury.

For a moment, it looked like the Argentinian would be unable to continue. “Can’t believe Del Potro has fallen in the first game. This was destined to be a five set thriller with him and Ferrer” tweeted @MattGriffen. Then Del Potro got up and continued the match. “Gotta feel for Del Potro. Brave man to carry on” posted @DanITFC. As Del Potro played on despite obvious pain, the tweets poured in, with over 1500 in a ten minute period. “Del Potro is a Legend, playing the match with an injured knee. Respect to him” said @MitchelJason95. “Unbelievable effort from Del Potro on Centre Court. I’d adore it if he managed to pull through” tweeted @haris_haseeb.

In fact, as the first set continued, Del Potro looked like he could not merely carry on, but actually take the set. “Del Potro is unbelievable. The guy is basically on one leg and is bossing this match!” tweeted @NotFredRhodes. As Del Potro claimed the first set, over 1600 tweets poured in during ten minutes, with 1500 also mentioning Ferrer. “People ask why I like Del Potro so much. I think from today’s performance, we can see why” posted @scott_grimes12.

The excitement continued in the second set, as Del Potro maintained his 79% social sentiment score, while Ferrer’s slipped slightly to 82%. “Dell Potro breaks! Serving for the second! He might actually do this!” tweeted @willdavenport1. “This is the best performance out of anyone in the men’s singles so far this Wimbledon. Brilliant from Del Potro” posted @aidan_duguid95. As Del Potro closed the second set 6-4, over 2000 tweets were posted in ten minutes.

Ferrer fought hard to stay in the third set, taking it to a tie-breaker, but Del Potro finished the set on top to end the match 6-2, 6-4, 7-6. Twitter didn’t reach the same level of fever-pitch as in the first two sets, but the praise kept flooding in. “Okay, fair play, Del Potro. That was incredible” posted @plkunnussijaa. “Del Potro through to the semis. Straight sets win against Ferrer, carrying an injury early on. Wonderful to watch” added @Rketts21.

Del Potro goes on to play Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals on Friday. For a detailed match report visit www.wimbledon.com.

Stuart Andrews

 

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Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan are both slippery self-mythologisers – so why do we rate one more than the other?

Their obsessions with their childhoods have both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

Andy Burnham is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s widely seen as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Sadiq Khan is a man whose policies and opinions seem to owe more to political expediency than they do to belief. He bangs on to the point of tedium about his own class, background and interests. As a result he’s the hugely popular mayor of London, the voice of those who’d be proud to think of themselves as the metropolitan liberal elite, and is even talked of as a possible future leader of the Labour party.

Oh, and also they were both born in 1970. So that’s a thing they have in common, too.

Why it is this approach to politics should have worked so much better for the mayor of London than the would-be mayor of Manchester is something I’ve been trying to work out for a while. There are definite parallels between Burnham’s attempts to present himself as a normal northern bloke who likes normal things like football, and Sadiq’s endless reminders that he’s a sarf London geezer whose dad drove a bus. They’ve both become punchlines; but one of these jokes, it feels to me, is told with a lot more affection than the other.

And yes, Burnham apparent tendency to switch sides, on everything from NHS privatisation to the 2015 welfare vote to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, has given him a reputation for slipperiness. But Sadiq’s core campaign pledge was to freeze London transport fares; everyone said it was nonsense, and true to form it was, and you’d be hard pressed to find an observer who thought this an atypical lapse on the mayor’s part. (Khan, too, has switched sides on the matter of Jeremy Corbyn.)

 And yet, he seems to get away with this, in a way that Burnham doesn’t. His low-level duplicity is factored in, and it’s hard to judge him for it because, well, it’s just what he’s like, isn’t it? For a long time, the Tory leadership’s line on London’s last mayor was “Boris is Boris”, meaning, look, we don’t trust him either, but what you gonna do? Well: Sadiq is Sadiq.

Even the names we refer to them by suggest that one of these two guys is viewed very differently from the other. I’ve instinctively slipped into referring to the mayor of London by his first name: he’s always Sadiq, not Khan, just as his predecessors were Boris and Ken. But, despite Eoin Clarke’s brief attempt to promote his 2015 leadership campaign with a twitter feed called “Labour Andy”, Burnham is still Burnham: formal, not familiar. 

I’ve a few theories to explain all this, though I’ve no idea which is correct. For a while I’ve assumed it’s about sincerity. When Sadiq Khan mentions his dad’s bus for the 257th time in a day, he does it with a wink to the audience, making a crack about the fact he won’t stop going on about it. That way, the message gets through to the punters at home who are only half listening, but the bored lobby hacks who’ve heard this routine two dozen times before feel they’re in the joke.

Burnham, it seems to me, lacks this lightness of touch: when he won’t stop banging on about the fact he grew up in the north, it feels uncomfortably like he means it. And to take yourself seriously in politics is sometimes to invite others to make jokes at your expense.

Then again, perhaps the problem is that Burnham isn’t quite sincere enough. Sadiq Khan genuinely is the son of a bus-driving immigrant: he may keep going on about it, but it is at least true. Burnham’s “just a northern lad” narrative is true, too, but excludes some crucial facts: that he went to Cambridge, and was working in Parliament aged 24. Perhaps that shouldn’t change how we interpret his story; but I fear, nonetheless, it does.

Maybe that’s not it, though: maybe I’m just another London media snob. Because Burnham did grow up at the disadvantaged end of the country, a region where, for too many people, chasing opportunities means leaving. The idea London is a city where the son of a bus driver can become mayor flatters our metropolitan self-image; the idea that a northerner who wants to build a career in politics has to head south at the earliest opportunity does the opposite. 

So if we roll our eyes when Burnham talks about the north, perhaps that reflects badly on us, not him: the opposite of northern chippiness is southern snobbery.

There’s one last possibility for why we may rate Sadiq Khan more highly than Andy Burnham: Sadiq Khan won. We can titter a little at the jokes and the fibs but he is, nonetheless, mayor of London. Andy Burnham is just the bloke who lost two Labour leadership campaigns.

At least – for now. In six weeks time, he’s highly likely to the first mayor of Greater Manchester. Slipperiness is not the worst quality in a mayor; and so much of the job will be about banging the drum for the city, and the region, that Burnham’s tendency to wear his northernness on his sleeve will be a positive boon.

Sadiq Khan’s stature has grown because the fact he became London’s mayor seems to say something, about the kind of city London is and the kind we want it to be. Perhaps, after May, Andy Burnham can do the same for the north – and the north can do the same for Andy Burnham.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.