Jun 16, 2014
Jun 16, 2014

How the tennis betting market reacts after a shock defeat

How the tennis betting market reacts after a shock defeat

Shock defeats happen on a regular basis in sport, and Tennis is no exception. This article assesses how top ATP players respond to these defeats, and looks at whether the market takes this into account efficiently.

The perception of many bettors and observers is that for a player priced as a heavy favourite to lose, there must be something wrong with them. Injuries, fatigue, or personal problems are frequently used as reasons and excuses for a short-priced player losing, generally as opposed to the heavy underdog playing exceptionally well, or perhaps conditions not necessarily suiting the favourite.

If the latter two cases were indeed true, then the favourite would not have a significant short-term problem, and it would therefore follow that their subsequent match in their next tournament could be treated as a completely different entity, with little or no weight given to their previous defeat.

However, if a heavy favourite was indeed defeated because they were injured, tired, or had issues away from the court, this is naturally much more likely to affect their chances of winning their next match.

The problem many bettors have – particularly in an individual sport like Tennis, where a player cannot be ‘carried’ by team-mates – is that this is a very inexact science, and in many cases, it’s not possible to pinpoint the exact reasons for a defeat, with there being various intangible reasons for a lacklustre showing. Does a player look tired because they are ill? Or is lethargy mistaken for slow conditions, which made it hard for that player to find their natural rhythm?

If many bettors have this issue, it’s logical to assume that the market might have inefficiencies, with a lot of guesswork being applied to a player’s chances in their subsequent match following a short-priced defeat. It would also be logical to assume the market might panic with guesswork, rumours, and over-thinking about a player’s next match.

The following table illustrates the price range stats of the current ATP top 50, in the last 12 months, in their subsequent match following a defeat priced 1.25 or below. For clarity, only matches where at least one set completed were considered, and all prices used were Pinnacle’ closing prices. (Data correct as at 12th June 2014):

OddsMatchesWinsWin %P/LROI
1.00-1.25 46 43 93.48 196 4.26
1.26-1.5 18 16 88.89 322 17.89
1.51-2 20 15 75.00 525 26.25
2.01-2.99 5 2 40.00 -57 -11.40
3.00+ 3 0 0.00 -300 -100.00
Overall 92 76 82.61 686 7.46

Quite surprisingly, the table shows that there were just 92 defeats for players priced 1.25 or below amongst the current ATP top 50.

World number one Rafael Nadal contributed seven of these defeats, which naturally would sound alarming for his backers when short-priced. Readers would be forgiven if they assumed on that basis that the Spaniard was a player that should be routinely opposed when priced below 1.25, but it’s worth pointing out that he also played the most matches in this odds range – an incredible 69 occasions.

Furthermore, Nadal also won all seven of his subsequent matches after a defeat priced under 1.25, and also managed to achieve straight sets wins in all of these matches.

Nadal’s big rival and world number two, Novak Djokovic, also lost three matches in this odds range, and he too bounced back with three straight set victories.

However, Australian Open champion and world number three, Stan Wawrinka, did not fare so well in this respect. The Swiss player has actually lost three of his last four matches, all priced below 1.25 – against Dominic Thiem, Tommy Haas, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Previous articles have discussed some issues Wawrinka has, and it’s very likely that his current ranking is a false one.

Another notable player in this respect was Grigor Dimitrov. Tipped by many as the new Roger Federer, the Bulgarian prospect struggled in Grand Slams when expected to win comfortably. In fact, Dimitrov has played five Grand Slam matches across four events in the last year when he was priced below 1.25 – winning just two of them. Defeats came against Grega Zemlja at Wimbledon (priced 1.218), Joao Sousa at the US Open (1.072) and Ivo Karlovic in the recent French Open (1.077). It’s clear that if Dimitrov is to reach his potential, it will be mandatory that he improves his consistency when a heavy favourite.

Despite quite a small sample, it can be seen that the overall results for backing a player after a sub 1.25 defeat were very positive, with a 7.46% return on investment generated from the 92 matches sampled.

It can also be seen that the top 50 ATP players generally bounced back immediately when expected to do so, with 74 wins from 84 matches (88.1%) when a player was favourite in their next match. This would indicate that the market – as mentioned earlier in the article – indeed panics and over-reacts following an immediately previous defeat for a player when a heavy favourite.

Only two from eight players managed to win when an underdog after a defeat when heavy favourite, with Denis Istomin’s victory over Jarkko Nieminen (priced 2.335) on the clay of Dusseldorf in May 2014 being the biggest priced win.

On the basis of the sample analysed, it would appear that bettors should not over-analyse a shock defeat for a player, and unless there are obvious reasons as to why this defeat occurred, should treat that player’s next match on its individual merits.

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