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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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.