With the first week of the 2015 season almost complete, it's time to turn our attention to the second week of warm-up events for the Australian Open, as players attempt to fine tune their preparation for the first Grand Slam of the calendar.
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 Two 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.
As I mentioned in the week one previews, 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.
Unlike last week, where Brisbane had the highest percentage of trains for both tours, there is no relationship between the ATP and WTA data for Sydney, with there being an absurdly high number of trains in the ATP event in Sydney, but an incredibly low percentage for the WTA event.
Whilst many people think (often correctly) that player motivation isn't the highest in the final week before a Grand Slam starts, the set 2 WTA data disputes this. Clearly there is some level of fightback in Sydney, although Hobart data shows a higher percentage of trains in set 2 than any of the week 1 events. We can also see that of the 53 WTA matches with point by point data, only 13 went to 3 sets (24.5%) which is around 10% below the WTA mean. So whilst set 2 fightbacks existed, the player who took set 1 generally still prevailed in straight sets eventually.
In ATP action last year, Auckland featured a low percentage of trains - lower than any of the week 1 events. Sydney, however, was very high indeed and this is something to keep an eye on next week. Laying the set 1 winner in Sydney should be very carefully considered, with picking strong spots crucial.
Set 3 data in the ATP was also very worrying. First to break tended to win the deciding set without alarm in week 2 of 2014, although this wasn't the case in the WTA, with a very low train percentage indeed.
As events start at around midnight UK time, liquidity may be an issue in the early morning (3-6am matches) in particular. Checking likely liquidity before opening positions is highly recommended.
ATP 250 Auckland:-
2014 service hold 81.6%.
Conditions are likely to be slightly fast with fewer breaks than average.
2014 Winner: John Isner (bt Yen-Hsun Lu 7-6 7-6).
2014 Champion John Isner has an impressive 15-2 record in New Zealand and also won the event in 2010...
Two players historically stand out in this event - top seed David Ferrer and 2014 champion John Isner. These two players have taken the title between them every year since 2010, with Isner doing so in 2010 and 2014, whilst Ferrer claimed the three titles between those years.
With the conditions having more pace than average, it's not entirely a surprise that Isner thrives on the surface, whilst Ferrer has the benefit - as he typically does in these low level tournaments - of being the player with the best hold/break percentage. However, the Spaniard - as does Roberto Bautista-Agut - is still involved in week 1 events and both players may not wish to have an arduous week prior to a Slam. Having said this, Ferrer in particular tends to play every match like a Grand Slam final. Isner also is playing in the final of the Hopman Cup this weekend against Jerzy Janowicz, who lines up in Sydney.
There's 5 or 6 other contenders and then the level tails off with Giraldo and Johnson making up the numbers in the 10 contenders with hard court combined hold/break percentages below 100%. The rest of the draw comprises generally mediocre players, with Pablo Carreno-Busta and Federico Delbonis two players especially likely to have little impact. If Adrian Mannarino can finally convert his magnificent Challenger record to the main tour then he could be a surprise outsider, whilst despite having generally poor stats, only a fool would discount '250 King' Joao Sousa. The Portuguese accumulated over 50% of his ranking points in these low calibre tournaments. Youngsters Dominic Thiem and Jan-Lennart Struff could also continue their improvement with a good showing here.
ATP 250 Sydney:-
2014 service hold 80.1%.
Court conditions should be close to average.
2014 Winner: Juan Martin Del Potro (bt Bernard Tomic 6-3 6-1).
Bernard Tomic has reached the final in Sydney in the last two years...
What an intriguing, open field we have in Sydney. There are around 12 players that realistically could consider themselves a strong contender to take the title here, and this should be a very competitive tournament indeed. On that basis, I've extended the contenders list to 12...
Court speed was around average last season and both finalists are competing in 2015. However, expectations of champion Juan Martin Del Potro should be very low. Research shows that players who returned to action after a 6 month injury absence generally need around 3-5 matches to return to a level reasonably close to previously, and the Argentine himself has played down expectations of himself, saying he's not interested in his ranking, just competing.
Defeated finalist Bernard Tomic has an epic record in these pre-Australian Open warm-up events and he can ill afford to drop most of his ranking points here. Tomic has made the final here for the last two years (overall record 12-2) and should be considered a major threat.
David Goffin boasts the best hold/break stats, with Philipp Kohlschreiber, Julien Benneteau, Vasek Pospisil and Sam Querrey on his heels. The Belgian currently is still in the Chennai event and may not wish to become unduly fatigued here, although it's worth noting that back to back long tournaments was hardly a problem during his 2014 renaissance.
Querrey I'd rule out based on his atrocious record away from his beloved USA, although Pospisil in particular looks a player to keep an eye on. Some positive displays in the Hopman Cup should give him further confidence to start the season well, which is something he hasn't always been able to achieve.
Top seed Fabio Fognini is like Forrest Gump's proverbial box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. With a hold/break percentage below 100%, and performances at the equivalent of a Futures player in the Hopman Cup, I'm going for my least favourite Hazelnut Whirl as opposed to a delicious Caramel Keg. I don't think the volatile Italian is a serious contender.
WTA International Hobart:-
2014 service hold 61.1%.
Conditions are likely to be slow and feature more breaks of serve than average.
2014 Winner: Garbine Muguruza (bt Klara Koukalova 6-4 6-0).
Sloane Stephens has a mediocre record in low-level events...
Similar to ATP Sydney, this is a very open event indeed. Matches should be close and competitive with there not being much to separate most players.
Mona Barthel has a very poor hold/break percentage on hard court but has an excellent record here, with finals in 2012 and 2013. Clearly she enjoys conditions in Tasmania.
Top hold/break percentage contender Monica Niculescu is flattered by her stats. She tends to do well in low level events though and the slow conditions should also suit her, and she is a contender here.
Impressive youngsters Zarina Diyas and Camila Giorgi will be major threats, whilst the more experienced Varvara Lepchenko, Kaia Kanepi and Casey Dellacqua, in front of home support, also will have realistic hopes of going deep into the tournament.
Sloane Stephens is likely to be over-rated by the market. Whilst the American prospect has talent, she's also got a very poor record in low calibre tournaments and capitulated in week one from a set and break up against Lauren Davis. To me, she has a lot to prove.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni is one to watch. I've been growing more and more impressed with the Croat during 2014 and she was toughed out by the much higher ranked Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets after taking the first set in week one. After a difficult career off-field, she seems to be making up for lost time.
Some players in the rest of the field make for poor front runners and these players are viable propositions to lay when leading. I'd include Kurumi Nara, Annika Beck, Jana Cepelova and Heather Watson in this bracket. All four are pretty weak on serve.
WTA Premier Sydney:-
2014 service hold 62.3%.
Conditions are likely to on the slower side of average.
2014 Winner: Tsvetana Pironkova (bt Angelique Kerber 6-4 6-4)
2014 Champion Tsvetana Pironkova again has to go through qualifying...
Another excellent field, with very strong players making the effort for this Premier level event. As with some other tournaments, I could have listed further players in the contenders list...
Something worth noting here is that Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki are competing in finals in week one events and may not wish to have an arduous consecutive week. With Halep's propensity to not take Slam warm-up events seriously, this should be worthwhile considering. Petra Kvitova also played a semi-final this week.
We can see that the contenders are of a high level with the majority boasting over 110% combined hold/break percentage.
On basic stats, Wozniacki leads the field from Halep and Kvitova. Agnieszka Radwanska will also be playing Hopman Cup this weekend and may not wish for a long week, and traders should note that the Pole was very poor at recovering break deficits, as well as in tight sets generally, in 2014. It's fair to say that any of the contenders listed could beat each other on a given day, and other players not listed such as Elina Svitolina (a semi-finalist in week 1), Shuai Peng, Karolina Pliskova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur - who lost from a double break up in set 3 last week - are also threats, although yet again Stosur failed to succeed in front of a home crowd.
This should be an excellent tournament which should feature close matches with fightbacks given the close level of most players, and based on the 2014 data.
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