Apr 20, 2015
Apr 20, 2015

Tennis betting: Is there a home field advantage in the Davis Cup?

Tennis betting: Is there a home field advantage in the Davis Cup?
The Davis Cup is tennis’ premier team event, and is arguably the biggest example of a home/away concept seen in most other sports. This article assesses whether there is a home field advantage for nations in the Davis Cup, and if the market takes this into account?

The advantage of playing at home in the Davis Cup

126 nations entered the 2015 Davis Cup, while the elite 16 participate in the knock-out World Group, on a yearly basis. 

The eight teams that lose in the World Group first round participate in a relegation play-off with the eight winners from Zone Group One, with the eight winners participating in the quarter-finals.

As the main team event in tennis, the Davis Cup is the only event where nations have home advantage, as the Hopman Cup team exhibition is held in Australia. 

The rules for deciding who plays at home are simple - the venue is reversed from the two nations’ previous meeting.

Home nations theoretically have a big advantage, as they are able to choose the venue, and surface, for the tie. 

The 2014 Davis Cup quarter-final tie between Italy and Great Britain provides a good example of the benefits to choosing the venue. 

Italy were the designated home team, and chose to play the tie on clay in Naples.  This suited their players - Fabio Fognini (an out-and-out clay courter) and Andreas Seppi - whilst negating Great Britain’s edge of having the highest ranked player in the tie, Andy Murray – his ineffectiveness on clay has been well documented. 

Ultimately, Murray’s rubber against Fognini was the crucial match in the tie, and the Italian prevailed in straight sets. 

If the tie had been played on any other surface, and in particular the Grass or Indoor Hard surfaces preferred by Great Britain, Murray would have been an overwhelming favourite against, but clay made the ability differential between the two players much smaller.

With the surface advantage considered, it's logical that home teams should win ties more often than 50% of the time. The table below shows the results of the outright team markets in the World Group between 2012 and 2014, with a hypothetical £100 bet placed on the home nation using Pinnacle’ closing prices:

YearMatchesHome winsWin %P/LROI
2012 15 9 60 -382 -25.5
2013 15 10 66.7 30 2
2014 15 10 66.7 -175 -11.7
Overall 45 29 64.4 -527 -11.7

Home teams have an advantage but are over-valued

The statistics clearly indicate that home teams have an advantage, with 29 of the 45 ties won by the home nation. 

However for betting purposes, it's clear that the market factors in this advantage, and with a -11.7% return on investment, it would appear that home teams are over-rated by outright bettors.

The table below shows further evidence to this assertion, showing the results of all the individual rubbers (including relegation playoffs) in the World Group. As before, a £100 hypothetical bet was applied for all home nation players:

YearMatchesHome winsWin %P/LROI
2012 76 48 63.2 -844 -11.1
2013 77 50 64.9 -462 -6
2014 81 50 61.7 -348 -4.3
Overall 234 148 63.2 -1654 -7.1

It's clear home players enjoy an advantage, with consistent win percentages over 60%. Despite this, blindly backing home players generated highly negative figures, with a return on investment of -7.1% from 234 matches.

The data illustrates that home teams and players do enjoy an edge in matches, but this edge is somewhat over-rated by the betting market. 

Backing home players and nations should only be considered in very select circumstances, and value looks to exist on backing away players and nations instead. 

Further research to try and find value on away players who are competent on the home nations choice of surface is highly recommended for Davis Cup betting.

Click here to see the latest ATP odds.


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