Jan 29, 2015
Jan 29, 2015

Tennis betting analysis of lower-ranked favourites

Tennis betting analysis of lower-ranked favourites

World ranking of players is something that many bettors take into account, without necessarily understanding whether it is relevant or not to their betting. This article assesses whether there is an edge to be gained betting on Tennis favourites against higher ranked players.

Understanding tennis players ranking

A tennis player’s world ranking is a controversial subject. Calculated on a 52-week rolling basis, ranks tend to fluctuate significantly during the Tennis season. 

A long-term injury - think Juan Martin Del Potro, Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Haas recently - will affect a player’s rank severely and may leave them unable to enter directly into tournaments without qualifying or receiving wild cards.  Due to this, some observers feel that a 2-year (or 104 week) period would be fairer, and more representative of a player's actual ability.

Furthermore, world rankings tend to reflect the current predominant surface being played in the majority of tournaments, at that time of the season. For example, clay court experts are likely to be ranked higher, after the main clay season finishes, than they would prior to it. This means that rankings are often skewed and are not a true reflection of the all-surface abilities of players.

On this basis, the market may interpret player rankings incorrectly, with a player who has risen up the rankings recently due to several strong tournaments likely to be over-rated. So what does this mean for tennis bettors?

Are lower ranked favourites undervalued in the ATP?

An interesting angle would be to look at players who are favourites in the market, but are the lower ranked player. These players are perceived by the market to be the better player, but considered worse by the rankings by the ATP/WTA Tours. Logically, these players are likely to be under-rated despite being favourite, due to being the lower ranked player. 

The following table assesses a sample of players on the ATP Tour throughout their career (main draw and qualifying matches) when they started the match as favourite, but as the lower ranked player. 

A cross-section of players ranked from 1 to 100 were sampled, with two players around the midpoint of each ten ranking places included.

All prices used are Pinnacle’ closing prices, and only matches where at least one set was completed were included:

PlayerRankMatchesWinsWin %P/LROI %
Nishikori 5 23 12 52.17 -476 -20.70
Murray 6 13 8 61.54 -28 -2.15
Anderson 15 27 18 66.67 354 13.11
Bautista-Agut 16 30 19 63.33 252 8.40
Benneteau 25 32 21 65.63 109 3.41
Mayer L 26 45 33 73.33 945 21.00
Querrey 35 52 30 57.69 -181 -3.48
Mannarino 36 22 13 59.09 -70 -3.18
Sock 45 33 17 51.52 -333 -10.09
Seppi 46 12 9 75.00 326 27.17
Sousa 55 11 7 63.64 149 13.55
Young 56 39 27 69.23 757 19.41
Bellucci 65 41 27 65.85 83 2.02
Tomic 66 44 29 65.91 110 2.50
Jaziri 75 12 8 66.67 190 15.83
Haas 76 35 25 71.43 676 19.31
Berankis 85 46 30 65.22 277 6.02
Dodig 86 21 14 66.67 246 11.71
Kamke 95 23 14 60.87 -197 -8.57
Gojowcyzk 96 26 12 46.15 -504 -19.38
Overall 587 373 63.54 2685 4.57

As can be seen from the table, a significant sample of data was generated with 587 matches sampled. 373 wins came from this sample (a win percentage of 63.54%) and when a £100 hypothetical stake was applied to all matches sampled, a profit of £2,685 was generated (return on investment of 4.57%).

This ROI is very strong for a blind backed sample of a significant size, and can be treated as a huge edge in the market.

Andreas Seppi, Leonardo Mayer and Tommy Haas all recorded win percentages over 70% from this scenario, with Haas particularly interesting, as he recovered his ranking following a long-term injury in 2012. The same issue will affect Haas in the future, as he has been absent from Tour through injury since May 2014. Donald Young, with a win percentage of 69.23% and ROI of 19.41%, was also historically very strong.

Just seven players of the 20 sampled recorded negative ROI figures, with Kei Nishikori, Peter Gojowczyk and Jack Sock recording the worst figures of over -10% ROI. Interestingly both top ten ATP players sampled (Andy Murray was the other player) had negative figures, illustrating that both currently have poor records against elite level opponents.

Are lower ranked favourites undervalued in the WTA?

PlayerRankMatchesWinsWin %P/LROI %
Ivanovic 5 29 20 68.97 346 11.93
Radwanska A 6 8 6 75.00 229 28.63
Jankovic 15 12 7 58.33 18 1.50
Safarova 16 26 18 69.23 403 15.50
Pavlyuchenkova 25 16 10 62.50 118 7.38
Svitolina 26 12 8 66.67 122 10.17
Keys 35 29 22 75.86 637 21.97
Garcia 36 13 8 61.54 10 0.77
Vinci 45 15 10 66.67 297 19.80
Koukalova 46 10 7 70.00 169 16.90
Beck 55 21 11 52.38 -337 -16.05
Jovanovski 56 11 6 54.55 -152 -13.82
Vesnina 65 24 18 75.00 766 31.92
Shvedova 66 41 26 63.41 234 5.71
Erakovic 75 30 18 60.00 -77 -2.57
Rogers 76 14 6 42.86 -381 -27.21
Vekic 85 12 9 75.00 308 25.67
Parmentier 86 22 11 50.00 -275 -12.50
Konjuh 95 30 23 76.67 545 18.17
Gibbs 96 20 14 70.00 385 19.25
Overall 395 258 65.32 3365 8.52

Interestingly, the WTA figures were even stronger, with a return on investment of 8.52% from 395 matches, as well as a slightly higher 65.32% win rate. These statistics are truly stellar numbers for a blind-backed scenario.

Of the players with a large sample, Madison Keys, Elena Vesnina and Ana Konjuh had win percentages of 75% or over, and these look like players whose rank is likely to be, or has been below their level of ability.

Quite incredibly, only four WTA players of the 20 sampled recorded negative figures - Annika Beck, Bojana Jovanovski, Shelby Rogers and Pauline Parmentier. 

Overall, combining the ATP and WTA figures, profits of £6050 were generated from a stake of £98,200, giving a return of investment of 6.16%.  From such a huge sample, this profit level is likely to be statistically significant, and it would appear that the market has underestimated this scenario in the extreme.

Bettors would be very strongly advised to consider this in their future tennis analysis.

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