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February 3rd, 2016.
Having traded two particular matches yesterday - Paul-Henri Mathieu vs Elias Ymer and Ruben Bemelmans vs Joao Sousa - where the winning player had fewer break points than the losing player, I thought it would be pretty interesting to start to work on a study of break points on the ATP Tour with a view to seeing how rare this phenomenon is, and to see if we can start to gauge some form of expectation for break points in general. There can be no doubt that having this information in our armoury would be very useful from a trading perspective.
The two matches highlighted above had quite different dynamics:-
Mathieu was always ahead of Ymer but my strategy was to lay Mathieu when a set and break up, after which Ymer had most of his break points. I got into a position whereby I had no liability on Mathieu with a big green on Ymer, but the Swedish youngster could not take any of his numerous break points.
Sousa's match with Bemelmans was a bit of a trading epic. My main trades in the match were to lay Bemelmans at 4-2 in the third set, and entered again when serving for the match, having a big liability on Bemelmans but a very nice upside on Sousa if he could get back into the match. If I recall correctly, Bemelmans was about 1.10 serving for the match and then when broken swung out to around 2.44, and I caught a very nice swing indeed and level greened back on serve with Sousa serving at *4-5. Sousa was then broken to lose the final set 4-6.
Incredibly, Sousa - using ATP statistics - had 14 break points to Bemelmans' 5, a 9 break point advantage. I don't have any data on this but I'd strongly envisage that players in best of three set matches would have a greater than 90% chance of winning a match when they earn 9 break points more than their opponent.
On a side note, I don't particularly agree with the ATP, or media, classification of break points. A player who converts a solitary break point at 30-40 is analysed by them as 1/1 on BP conversion, which doesn't seem fair considering that that is the same conversion figure when breaking immediately from 0-40.
The table below illustrates the 28 best of three set matches so far in 2016 (including matches played on 2nd February, 2016) where players lost despite obtaining more break points than their opponent:-
We can see that Sousa is no stranger to this phenomenon, also losing to Fabio Fognini in Auckland despite earning six more break points than the Italian. On this basis it's pretty fair to assume that Sousa's results so far this season are under-representing his ability and he may well become some value in the near future if oddsmakers do not take this information into account.
Another match worth looking at in some detail is further down the list, with Daniel Munoz De La Nava (8 break points) getting the better of Feliciano Lopez (9). Many readers currently may be thinking that Munoz De La Nava was lucky to win the match, with variance getting the better of Lopez.
However, Munoz De La Nava (closing Pinnacle SP 5.282) can actually be said to have over performed based on his pre-match break point expectation, as the table below, covering best of three set break point data for January 2016, shows:-
The Spaniard was expected to earn 2 net BPs fewer than Lopez during the match whilst earning 41.03% (he actually earned 47.06%). There wasn't a huge amount of positive discrepancy from mean figures, but bettors can look for examples of players winning when underperforming on expectation with a view to opposing them in future rounds, and conversely back players who significantly over performed on their expectation, with logical reasons including strong physical fitness, decent form/mentality and a liking for tournament conditions being prevalent.
In addition, traders can use the information in several ways as well. The average ATP match has a duration of around 2.34 sets - this roughly translates to just under five break points per match being a little over two break points per set.
The table below shows how often players in the various price ranges obtained and conceded five break points or more in those matches in January 2016:-
Heavy favourites (<1.25) obtained at least five break points almost 90% of the time, whilst heavy underdogs (6.00+) conceded at least this figure over 90%. This information goes a long way to explaining why an 'averaging down' script when a heavy favourite is losing is often a pretty solid strategy, although as always player profiling is crucial. In all price ranges apart from those heavy underdogs, players obtained 5 break points or more over 50% of the time.
Of those 271 best of three set matches in January where I could get formal match statistics, 23 (8.49%) of matches were won by players with fewer break points than the losing player. In addition, just four (1.48%) were won by players with more than three break points fewer than their opponent - of which two of these four were the previously mentioned Portuguese, Joao Sousa. Adopting a trading strategy to take this into account would be recommended.
As always, I hope you enjoyed the article and please feel free to send any comments or feedback to any of my accounts:-
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