Now in its seventh year since replacing the Tennis Masters Cup as the end of season event, this year’s ATP World Tour Finals is the most lucrative yet. Prize money has been raised by half a million dollars to a total pool of $7m, and there are plentiful ranking points also available for players - the winner earns 1500 points, placing this event between a Grand Slam and a Masters 1000 for ranking point potential.
Breaks in London
Last year’s matches at the O2 featured a very high amount of service breaks - just 72.8% of service games were held. Until 2014, data showed that conditions were just a touch on the slow side, with 80.2% of service games being held in 2013, 80.7% in 2012 and 78.0% in 2011.
Novak Djokovic has won an incredible 55/56 post US Open matches in the last three years. The Serbian has also won his last 25 matches on indoor hard against top ten opponents.
These were all below the 3-year Indoor Hard ATP Tour mean of 80.8% service holds. It will be interesting to see whether the 2014 data was an anomaly due to the low amount of matches, or whether it’s more indicative of conditions and the fact that elite players frequently have matches which feature a high number of service breaks.
Can anyone stop Djokovic?
All eight qualifiers were known in advance of the Paris Masters, with Richard Gasquet making up the numbers as first alternate. In both the ATP and WTA round-robin end of season events, the alternate has regularly stepped into the group stages, so, for the purposes of this preview, Gasquet will also be assessed in addition to the main eight.
Novak Djokovic has won the last three events at the O2 and this rubber-stamps his incredible late season form generally. The world number one has won an incredible 55/56 post US Open matches in the last three years, with his solitary late season defeat coming at the hands of Roger Federer in the Shanghai Masters in 2014. Quite amazingly, the Serb has won his last 25 matches on indoor hard against top ten opponents.
Prior to this trio of victories, Roger Federer claimed titles in 2010 and 2011, and this duo have won nine of the last ten Tour Finals between them. Given this historical strength from arguably the two strongest players on Tour on hard surface, it’s absolutely understandable that Djokovic and Federer are the tournament favourites in most bettors eyes.
A tournament for the favourites
On the subject of favourites, there is a trend for favourites to thrive in the event. From 2011-2014, blind-backing favourites returned £274 from a £100 hypothetical stake at closing prices, with an ROI of 4.64%.
78% of favourites won their matches, with the biggest priced underdog winner being 5.53 (David Ferrer against Andy Murray in 2011). Kei Nishikori’s victory over Murray was the biggest priced winner last year at a closing price of 2.92.
In these four years, just 31/59 (52.5%) completed matches in this event were won in straight sets, indicative of the competitive nature of this tournament. This is also completely out of line with all other end of season events, which have a strong tendency for a player to win in straight sets.
Andy Murray’s issues against top ten players, and elite players in particular, have been relatively well documented and this is proven by the Scotsman’s 46% win rate in his last 50 matches against top ten opponents.
Considering this, perhaps bettors may wish to consider backing favourites to win 2-1, and underdogs, when perceived to be value, could be viable to be backed +1.5 sets on the set handicap.
The following table illustrates the statistics of the nine contenders for the tournament, across two years on Indoor Hard court, sorted by combined hold/break percentage.
Indoor hard matches 2013 - 2015
|Player||Matches||Won||Win %||Service hold %||Break opponent %||Combined hold/break %|
The data above clearly shows just how dominant Novak Djokovic is over the competition, with the highest combined hold/break percentage by a distance (10.5% over his nearest rival based on that metric, Andy Murray).
The world number one also boasts the highest win percentage (86.0%) against top ten opponents in his last 50 matches against that opponent bracket, and the highest percentage against top ten opponents on indoor hard. In short, the Serbian is tournament favourite in the betting for good reason.
Only two other players have over a 50% win rate against top ten opponents, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Federer, who enjoys the general pace of indoor hard, sees his percentage of wins against top ten opponents rise to 70% on the surface, but clay-loving Nadal’s percentage falls to 45.8%.
Federer looks to be statistically the closest overall rival to Djokovic, whilst it will be interesting to see if Nadal’s gradual improvement in the last two months continues here. There has been much debate about whether the Nadal will ever be able to recapture his top form; results in this tournament could act as a good indicator for what 2016 has to bring for the former world number one.
Andy Murray’s issues against top ten players, and elite players in particular, have been relatively well documented and this is proven by the Scotsman’s 46% win rate in his last 50 matches against top ten opponents, this rises to slightly over 50% on indoor hard.
Second ranked in terms of combined hold/break percentage, Murray’s participation at the O2 was, at one point, in doubt following Great Britain’s qualification for the Davis Cup final, to be played after this event.
It is far from inconceivable that Murray may prioritise the Davis Cup, given that it is reasonable to conclude he has a better chance of title success against the Belgians. Odds on his matches may be worth keeping an eye throughout the tournament.
Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer’s hold/break stats are of a solid level, but both have very poor records against top ten opponents, with only alternate Gasquet having a worse record.
Strangely, Ferrer, who prefers clay, has a better record against top ten players on Indoor Hard, perhaps indicative of his high fitness levels, which will be useful in these end of season tournaments. He’s also won the end of season Paris Masters, on indoor hard, previously.
Despite his talent, it’s difficult to see Berdych overcome his mental fragilities in London, and it’s worth noting that he also has a woeful head to head record against both Djokovic and Nadal.
Of the eight qualifiers, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka remain to be assessed. Both are immensely talented and, on their day, can beat the best. This is illustrated by a better record against top ten opponents than the likes of Berdych and Ferrer. However, both are very inconsistent, and this high level is far from guaranteed.
Nishikori has been struggling with injury and form of late, whilst indoor hard isn’t Wawrinka’s favoured surface - demonstrated by him having the lowest hold/break percentage of the contenders on the surface, and his win percentage against top ten players falling on the surface. Having said this, the lack of pace of the O2 may be more to his liking than some of the quicker indoor surfaces, such as Basel in his native Switzerland.
Alternate Gasquet is there to make up the numbers, and he will almost certainly be underdog against any player in the field. His record against top ten players is horrific, and despite a very good last few months, in the autumn of his career, this is unlikely to change.
Djokovic aside, a very competitive event can be expected and bettors using the statistics above as part of their betting strategy will be well equipped to profit from the last event on the 2015 calendar.
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