It's almost here!
The 2015 season is just around the corner, with qualifiers for WTA Brisbane already taking place. Main draw matches commence on Sunday 4th January.
As part of my commitment to provide quality Tennis betting and trading content, I'm planning on producing weekly tournament previews to help bettors and traders get valuable insight prior to each week's action.
Whilst the draws have yet to be announced, we are in a position to make a detailed assessment of some of the main contenders for each tournament and look at court speed and its influence, and historical in-play data.
As always, detailed daily data will be available via the daily trading spreadsheets, which can be purchased via the links on the right.
Week One Trading Overview (only matches where point by point data is available):-
The table above illustrates the percentage of situations that 'trained' in these events in 2014.
I've had some questions about trains on Twitter so I'll clarify this a little better - a train would be a situation where there is no upward price swing from a given position. Therefore in these instances, a set one winner train in set two would indicate that they took a set and break lead in set two and retained this lead without being broken back. A non-train would include the player that lost the first set breaking first in set two, or recovering a set and break deficit, or even recovering one break when a set and double break down.
Likewise, a set three train in this instance would be a player that has broken first and retains this lead throughout the deciding set.
As can be seen from the data, both in the ATP and WTA, Brisbane had the highest percentage of set two trains in 2014 from the week one events. This also held true in set three in the ATP. Court speed - as seen below - is very fast in Brisbane and this is a likely reason for the high proportion of trains. With liquidity likely to be worse in Brisbane than some of the other ATP events due to the unsociable hours that the tournament is played in for European traders, traders that like laying at low prices may wish to focus on events in Chennai and Doha.
Player motivation and fitness is likely to be high this week. It's like a new term at school, everyone will be enthusiastic and want to start the new season and new year with a good performance. Having said this, the overall ATP train percentage is very high compared to the mean and whilst researching the data, it was clear that there were a number of dominant final sets in the ATP, in particular. The WTA data shows that most matches in 2014 were very competitive and assuming this holds true, the WTA should provide some excellent trading conditions in week one of the season.
ATP 250 Brisbane:-
2014 service hold 84.5%.
Conditions are likely to be very fast with fewer service breaks than average.
It can be seen that Roger Federer, as the top-ranked player in the field, is by some distance the best player in the event, and will start as a deserved tournament favourite. The Swiss legend, however, was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt in last year's final and the Australian veteran is also playing again this year. However, 2014 saw a further decline for Hewitt, particularly on serve, and as mentioned in the declining players article, Hewitt should be opposed in an almost mandatory fashion when a set up and a set and break up. All ten players above have hard court service hold percentages above the mean, with a real mixture of return percentages. Looking at these players, it's likely that if these players make the latter stages, the event will be more serve-dominated than return.
Having said this, the likes of Jurgen Melzer, Mikhail Kukushkin, Carlos Berlocq and Andrey Golubev also make up the numbers and these players tend to be weak servers on the surface and make for poor front-runners in matches.
ATP 250 Chennai:-
2014 service hold 73.8%.
With 2014 service holds over 10% below Brisbane, conditions are likely to be very slow with many breaks of serve and fightbacks.
* Coric stats adjusted from Challenger level.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka leads a relatively weak field here and he boasts the best combined hold/break surface percentage. After making many criticisms of the Swiss' scheduling in some of my Pinnacle Sports articles, it's good to see him participating in India again, on a slow court which should assist his shotmaking greatly. The decisions of big-servers Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Muller to play here, however, is completely baffling and they'd be almost certainly assisted by the faster conditions in Brisbane instead.
Rapid improvers Roberto Bautista-Agut and David Goffin look to have solid claims to go far here and both should be able to break opponents more than average in these conditions. Despite this improvement, Goffin still has service hold stats below mean and may still be vulnerable when serving. His return stats are elite level, however.
Another rapid improver is Borna Coric. I will make a bold statement here and the Croatian prospect - just turned 18 - is the real deal. Only injury can prevent the 102 ranked player from breaking the top five in his career. Very very rarely do you see a 17 year old (at the time) have such stellar Challenger stats (over 110% hold/break percentage) and at his age he is far superior to the likes of players around the top ten such as Dimitrov and Raonic at that age. He also, based on the stats, looks to have even more potential than the Australian youngsters, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, and is vastly superior to the German Alexander Zverev. I'm immensely looking forward to seeing how Coric deals with his first full season at ATP level and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see his ranking around the 40 mark this time next year.
2014 finalist Edouard Roger-Vasselin also participates again and there are many other players - including Pablo Carreno-Busta, Andreas Haider-Maurer, Alejandro Falla, Alejandro Gonzalez and Somdev Devvarman - who are likely to struggle to hold as often as the ATP hard court mean. Wild-card youngsters Ramkumar Ramanathan and Elias Ymer complete a very intriguing field.
ATP 250 Doha:-
2014 service hold 76.0%.
Conditions are likely to be on the slow side with more breaks than average.
Doha is probably the only 250 that can boast two of the top three players in the world and it sees defending champion Rafael Nadal make his comeback from an injury-hit 2014 season. He will do well to get past world number one Novak Djokovic who is the epitome of consistency year on year and boasts the best overall hard court stats in the field by some distance.
World number seven Tomas Berdych is the third member of the top ten to participate and the Czech will be looking to start the 2015 season well under new coach Dani Vallverdu. However, he has a horrific 20-3 head to head record against Nadal and with general match-up problems against left-handers, Berdych will not be embracing a latter-stage match against the Spaniard.
The declining David Ferrer still has strong stats and the superb returner will be a threat on this slow surface, and is likely to be able to recover losing positions against lower level players, and should make a viable trading proposition on that basis.
The temperamental Ernests Gulbis and Richard Gasquet have similar stats but are somewhat polarised against top-level opponents. Gulbis has no fear against the elite and won five of nine matches against top ten opponents in 2014, and going back to 2013 he is an overall 8-9.
Conversely, Gasquet tends to wave the white flag as soon as he walks on court against top players and the Frenchman failed to record an ATP Tour win (0-3) against top ten players in 2014. Against top ten players from 2013 onwards he is 3-14 in ATP Tour matches with two wins over Ferrer and none against Berdych. Against Nadal and Djokovic combined he is 0-14 since 2010. Laying Gasquet if he somehow leads in a potential clash against Nadal or Djokovic appears a mandatory position for traders to take.
Ivo Karlovic and Philipp Kohlschreiber will be hard to break but may have been better served making the trip to Australia. Lukas Rosol has very poor hard court 2014 stats and may well be over-rated by the market.
A high quality field also sees Nicolas Almagro make a re-appearance after a long-term injury. Now at 71 in the world, the Spaniard may be a little rusty initially and should be treated with caution in his opening matches. Decliners Mikhail Youzhny and Andreas Seppi are likely to make decent prospects to oppose when leading in their matches.
WTA Premier Brisbane:-
2014 service hold 68.5%.
Conditions are likely to be very fast with fewer service breaks than average.
Just looking at the names on the list it's clear this is a high quality event. With Sabine Lisicki, Elina Svitolina, Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka - who is making her way back from an injury ravaged 2014 - also competing, this promises to be a very open and competitive tournament.
Maria Sharapova is the top-ranked player but as can be seen from the hold/break percentages, she isn't dominant over the field on this surface. Of the table, Dominika Cibulkova, Andrea Petkovic and Sam Stosur arguably have the most to prove. Cibulkova will be looking for a strong start to 2015 with runner-up points to defend at the Australian Open, and she was woeful in the tail end of 2014. Petkovic, as mentioned many times in historical match previews, does not play her best on hard courts and the statistics above illustrate that well. Both may see their serve perform inconsistently, and I'd expect them to be broken with relative regularity. Stosur is a stronger server (but a weak returner) and had a poor 2014. She also tends to perform very poorly in her home country, perhaps unable to cope with pressure and expectation.
Of those not in the table, Lisicki and Keys tend to be stronger on serve than return, whilst Svitolina is a decent all-rounder. Former world number one Azarenka is a much better returner than server and depending on the draw, it might pay to oppose the Belarussian on serve initially here as it will be likely that she will be wanting for consistency after missing the tail end of 2014.
WTA International Auckland:-
2014 service hold 67.5%.
Conditions are likely to be fast with fewer service breaks than average.
The main contenders for the Auckland title appear to be stronger on serve than return with only Sara Errani and Kurumi Nara - who should both be very vulnerable when leading in matches - having below WTA average hard court service hold percentages.
Caroline Wozniacki is the only top ten participant and after a very strong end to 2014 she boasts the best combined stats. Only Venus Williams - who still poses a threat despite her advancing years - has anywhere near the level of the Dane.
The aforementioned Errani is likely to be over-rated by the market with her poor combined percentage and 12-14 hard court record in 2014, and this may also be the case for Mona Barthel, although the erratic German has a strong record in this tournament.
The over-rated Sloane Stephens has failed to consistently improve and tends to do her best work away from these low-level events, whilst perhaps the ageing Svetlana Kuznetsova may prove to be the biggest threat to Wozniacki and Williams.
Monica Puig and Kristina Mladenovic will be looking to improve this year at a young age, but veterans Daniela Hantuchova and Elina Vesnina were named in my declining players article and are likely to struggle to hit former peaks in 2015.
Shelby Rogers, Julia Goerges and Marina Erakovic are also in a competitive field and all may enjoy the extra pace here. Erakovic should enjoy good support as a home player whilst Goerges showed glimpses of improvement at the end of last year, and should also appreciate the fast conditions.
WTA International Shenzhen:-
2014 service hold 60.2%.
Conditions are likely to be slow with many breaks and fightbacks.
Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova lead the field as the two top 10 players competing in China. Halep's return stats have dropped slightly from her peak of around 52% and I'd be very careful about backing the Romanian outright here. She may well benefit from the off-season but I don't think she was fully fit since Wimbledon and she has a very poor record in pre-Grand Slam warm up events.
Halep in her last pre-Slam events in 2014:-
New Haven (pre-US Open): lost first match 2-6 6-4 3-6 against Magdalena Rybarikova
Hertogenbosch (pre-Wimbledon): Retired second match 7-5 2-3 up against Annika Beck
Rome (pre-French Open): Gave Carla Suarez Navarro a walkover in her second match
Sydney (pre-Australian Open): lost 6-1 6-4 to Madison Keys in her first match
With just one win prior to four Slams in 2014 it's clear these warm-up events are not Halep's priority. Laying her at low prices appeals.
Kvitova appeared to recover some consistency last year and the Czech certainly reduced the percentage of matches going three sets, although that's a natural consequence with her serve-orientated game.
Shuai Peng also boasted strong service numbers on hard court in 2014 and will enjoy home support, whilst both Zarina Diyas and Timea Bacsinszky showed great improvement last year and will be looking to build on that. Diyas is a player I really like and if the Kazakh can improve her mentality when losing by a break (her stats are poor in this regard) this should ensure further progress.
Monica Niculescu, with incredible return statistics (although often gained against mediocre opponents), is a threat but should struggle on serve, as should Klara Koukalova, who showed zero appetite in the latter stages of 2014. If possible, her body language was even worse than usual.
Bojana Jovanovski and Sorana Cirstea both have ability but had mediocre years last season whilst out of the other players in the field, Annika Beck ended the year well and is always a solid prospect to back to win matches 2-1 with her tendency to grind out deciding set wins in close matches. Regular readers will know I have little respect for the German's serve, however.
Anna-Lena Friedsam showed some talent in the tail end of 2014 and may be a decent outsider whilst I'd expect the likes of Lara Arruabarena, the inconsistent Irina Begu, Pauline Parmentier and Anna Schmiedlova to be unable to hold consistently and give away leads in matches.
Donna Vekic had a very poor 2014 after a 2013 season full of promise and is another than needs to improve mentally whilst Vera Zvonareva is a fan favourite but the veteran Russian has much to prove and I will almost certainly look to start the season opposing her strongly when leading in matches. I'd be surprised if she amounted to much this year.
The 2015 season promises to be a fantastic season with both tours having somewhat of a 'changing of the guard'. I'm expecting some very open events and a number of youngsters to come through, which isn't something that can have been said in recent years.
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