Aug 13, 2014
Aug 13, 2014

Using age statistics to gain a tennis betting edge

Using age statistics to gain a tennis betting edge

Tennis bettors, who realise when a player is in decline before the bookmaker, have an opportunity to gain a tennis betting edge. This article assesses when an ATP player reaches a tipping point, and explains the trends that highlight a decline.

It is a cliché in sport, that every retired tennis player knew the moment their body gave up – recovery time Is longer, they are less agile in their prime, the motivation to train and travel is no longer there. Some players will take the decision to retire close to the top of the game, whereas others will prolong their career, either due to enjoyment of the sport, or a last crack at earning a few more decent pay cheques.

Identifying those players that play on past their peak is vital for Tennis bettors, and ascertaining this information as quickly as possible – before the market realises – is valuable knowledge.

The following table illustrates the service hold and opponent break percentage statistics of ATP top 100 players who are currently aged over 30, spanning from 2008-2014, when their ages were between 26 and 34. Please note that Radek Stepanek, Tommy Haas and Ivo Karlovic are all aged over 34, so their most recent stats are not included, but are used to calculate the difference between current year and average combined hold. Also Stephane Robert, Maximo Gonzalez and Victor Estrella Burgos were omitted having played the vast majority of their matches in the Challenger Tour.

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Click the graph to see the full size

Do players decline, as they get older?

To calculate this, firstly work out the average hold/break for each age year, and then compare it to the mean.

From this, it is apparent that the average ATP top 100 player slightly improves with age, with a +0.9% and +1.3% increase from the mean when aged 31 and 32 respectively. Sample size is small for ages 33 and 34, but mainly thanks to a big step up in level from Tommy Haas when 34, these stats were also positive.

Haas himself is an interesting case. The 36-year-old German – the oldest player in the top 100 – fought back from over a year out with injury in 2011, losing all his ranking points in the process. However, by the end of 2012 he was back in the top 20, and reached 11th in the world in 2013. Reports in the media suggest that Haas’ motivation is focussed on his child being old enough to remember watching him play.

The ‘best year’ stats further emphasise that ATP player’s peak between 30 and 32. Ten players of the 28 sampled had their best stats in this age bracket, with a further 13 doing so at either 28 or 29. Therefore 23 players out of 28 (82.1%) had their best statistical year between 28 and 32, with a mere four – Fernando Verdasco, Florian Mayer, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Gilles Muller – having their best career year at either 26 or 27.

On that basis, it can be assumed that the majority of ATP players should have improve further before they turn 28, with their peak being somewhere between 28 and 32. This will perhaps surprise readers, as many tennis bettors assume that an ATP player peaks at a younger age.

Whilst the above analysis has determined the general for when a player reaches their peak, it is obvious that some players – for a variety of reasons – may peak before others. As mentioned previously, having the knowledge of which players are improving or declining in their advanced years is a great advantage to tennis bettors.

Players who peak late

The table below illustrates the best five over 30 year old ATP top 100 players for statistical improvement in 2014.

PlayerCurrent Year to Combined Average %
Lorenzi 9.7
Berlocq 4.3
Garcia-Lopez 3.9
Robredo 3.7
Tursunov 3.6

Paolo Lorenzi has the most impressive stats. The Italian clay-courter reached his first ever ATP final at the age of 32, but was defeated by Federico Delbonis in February. Starting the year ranked at 112th, he’s currently boosted that to 79th, and has enjoyed underdog wins over Juan Monaco, Tommy Haas, Robin Haase and Pablo Andujar on his favoured clay surface.

Close behind are Carlos Berlocq and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. A major feature of the improvement in their thirties is their return game. Berlocq has broken opponents 29.0% in 2014, whilst Garcia-Lopez has done so 28.9% of the time. Interestingly, it took Berlocq until the age of 28 to break opponents more than 26%, and Garcia-Lopez had to wait until he turned 29 to break more than 24%.

Players in decline

The following table illustrates the best five over 30 ATP top 100 players for statistical decline in 2014.

PlayerCurrent Year to Combined Average %
Mahut -5.1
Youzhny -5.0
Hewitt -3.3
Seppi -2.7
Nieminen -2.7

Nicolas Mahut and Mikhail Youzhny have both endured very poor 2014 seasons, and are the players – over 30 – in the biggest decline. Mahut’s ranking has dropped from a season start of 50th to a current 91st, after he failed to defend ranking points in two grass court events which he won in 2013, whilst Youzhny is currently ranked 23rd, after starting the year ranked 15th.

The statistics support their ranking fall, with both suffering around a 5% decline in combined hold/break stats this year.

Mahut’s problem mainly stems from his serve, with the 32-year-old’s overall service hold percentage dropping from 87.7% in 2013 to 78.8% in 2014. Indeed, at 28, the Frenchman managed to hold even more, at 88.9%. This is also the case for Youzhny, with the Russian number one holding just 74.7% this year, compared to a career 79.0%.

Lleyton Hewitt (main issue serve), Andreas Seppi (both serve and return have declined) and Jarkko Nieminen (deteriorating return game) make up the numbers in this area.

Being able to analyse general trends for specific age groups, plus identifying those players who stay strong in their advanced years, as well as those whose careers tail off, is vital for tennis betting success, and should be included as part of a balanced betting strategy.

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