An assessment of ATP break-back statistics

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I've written a great deal over the past year or so regarding break-back statistics.

To those who haven't read much about these statistics, they focus on how often a player gives up a break lead and how often they recover a break deficit - exclusive stats to TennisRatings.

Naturally, these statistics - available via the TennisRatings Tier Two daily spreadsheet and the Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet are incredibly useful to in-play tennis traders, as they provide excellent points for entering the market, with a focus on laying the player a break up.  

I've already written several articles about the application of these which can be found under the "trading articles" drop-down menu at the top of the page, but I wanted to look at this from a completely different angle - which players are the most 'clutch' when a break up and which are the most motivated when a break down, compared to the expectation from their hold/break percentages.

A logical way of seeing a true 'clutch' figure for players when a break up is to compare a player's service hold percentage to their percentage they lose a break lead, whilst comparing a player's opponent break percentage to their deficit recovery percentage would be a great way of seeing true motivation from a player when a break down.

The following table illustrates the top five clutch ATP players when a break up.  These players have the lowest ratio based on the formula:- (Break lead loss %/Service Break %).

Player 12 Month 12 Month Ratio
Service Break % Break Lead Loss %
Stakhovsky 23.2 14.29 0.62
Bedene 29.8 18.75 0.63
Brands 16.8 11.54 0.69
Hanescu 20.6 15.79 0.77
Tsonga 12.9 10.17 0.79

Quite interestingly, these players are not in the upper echelons of the ATP, with only the declining Tsonga - someone who I've mentioned many times in match previews and articles at being consistently the best on tour for protecting break leads - being ranked in the top 20.  

Grigor Dimitrov, ranked 9th with a ratio of 0.93, is the highest ranked top 10 player according to this metric.

Sergiy Stakhovsky is the most 'clutch' player on the ATP Tour when a break up in a set...

However, whilst these players are generally strong at protecting a break lead, there are naturally some players that aren't as good - those who choke when a break up.  Using the same formula, here is the worst five ATP players when a break up:-

Player 12 Month 12 Month Ratio
Service Break % Break Lead Loss %
Del Potro 13.2 29.49 2.23
Querrey 15.5 32.56 2.10
Isner 8.1 16.98 2.10
Sijsling 20.3 41.30 2.03
Haase 18.9 37.50 1.98

There's several surprising names on this list, and several which may not shock readers...

Del Potro and Isner have justified reputations to be very strong servers based on their service hold statistics and their inclusion in this list is not something many will expect.  In the case of Isner, I feel this is slightly unlucky.  His break lead loss percentage is excellent, and ranks him 10th on the ATP Tour for this statistic.  Because the big-serving American often plays high-level opponents with superb return games, I'm prepared to cut him a little slack here.

This is less the case for the likes of Querrey, Sijsling and Haase - all players with reputations amongst observers of being mentally weak.  As I've mentioned previously, Querrey's break lead loss percentage is atrocious for a big-server, at around the ATP mean.

Sam Querrey should be bemused by how often he loses a break lead...

Knowing which players will fight for your trading money when you back them when a break down is essential.  

The statistics clearly show that there are some players who are much more motivated in this regard, compared to others.  The following table illustrates the top five best ATP players at recovering a break deficit (getting the set back on serve).  These players have the highest ratio based on the formula:- (Break deficit recovery %/Break Opponent %).

Player 12 Month 12 Month Ratio
Break Opponent % Break Deficit Recovery %
Isner 10.7 30.95 2.89
De Bakker 18.1 40.91 2.26
Hanescu 17.9 39.34 2.20
Bellucci 18.4 40.43 2.20
Tomic 16 34.88 2.18

As you can see from the stats, John Isner is absolutely in a league of his own.  The American is BY FAR the best player on the ATP Tour for recovering break deficits compared to his general return stats.  It is clear that despite having a game which is totally geared up to holding serve and putting pressure on opponents on that basis, Isner never gives up when a break down in a match.

The other four names on the list may well be a surprise - none more so than Bernard Tomic.  The Australian has a reputation for giving up in matches, but these stats actually generally indicate the opposite.  Tomas Berdych, with a ratio of 1.96, is the top ranked top 10 player, at 9th.  Interestingly, Berdych actually has the best deficit recovery percentage of any player on the ATP Tour, and clearly is another player well worth backing when a break down in sets.

John Isner has incredible break deficit recovery stats compared to his general return stats...

However, whilst these players fight when a break down, this cannot be said for some other players...

Player 12 Month 12 Month Ratio
Break Opponent % Break Deficit Recovery %
Donskoy 15.6 7.69 0.49
Karlovic 9.2 6.06 0.66
Brands 10.5 8.11 0.77
Struff 20.7 17.14 0.83
Sock 20.4 18.18 0.89

These players can broadly be categorised in the 'big server' bracket, and it is clear that they lack self-belief in their abilities to recover a break deficit.  All five players have deficit recovery stats well below the ATP mean, and especially in the case of the first three players, very poor return stats.

Evgeny Donskoy has atrocious break deficit recovery stats...

The final area I wanted to assess is which players are the most and least 'clutch' comparing their serve and return ratios, and the top five ATP players were the following:-

Player Deficit Recovery Lead loss Difference
to Opponent Break to Service Break
Ratio Ratio
Hanescu 2.20 0.77 1.43
Tomic 2.18 1.03 1.15
Stakhovsky 1.44 0.62 0.83
Isner 2.89 2.10 0.80
Dimitrov 1.65 0.93 0.72

The worst players were the following:-

Player Deficit Recovery Lead loss Difference
to Opponent Break to Service Break
Ratio Ratio
Donskoy 0.49 1.45 -0.96
Karlovic 0.66 1.61 -0.95
Del Potro 1.3 2.23 -0.94
Zeballos 0.89 1.82 -0.93
Goffin 0.98 1.85 -0.87

Knowing which players you can trust to give full effort when a break down, or those who are mentally weak in pressure situations such as serving for the set when a break up, is crucial for in-play trading success, and the statistics in this article clearly indicate all ATP players are far from equal in this respect...

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