Article - Backing Underperforming WTA Players


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At the Matchbook Traders Conference in October that I presented at, I was absolutely captivated by one presentation in particular.  

Rasmus Ankersen, director of football at analytics-driven Brentford FC, superbly discussed (amongst other things) finding under-valued football players and the benefits that this brings.  This got me thinking in a Tennis context with the intention of finding a way of establishing which players may be under-valued by the markets and how we can use statistics to work out in advance which players fit into this bracket.

One way that we can achieve this is to look at the 'Break Point Clutch Score' of a player.  Available in the daily ATP/WTA spreadsheet, the Break Point Clutch Score shows how above or below expectation a player has performed over the last 12 months at break points.  This information is incredibly useful as it shows which players have shown high or low levels at key points in matches in the last year.  

It's worth noting at this point that some players are able to sustain these rates (e.g. they are mentally strong or choke due to mental weakness) but with many others this is more related to variance or confidence.  Particularly in the WTA, many players have a cyclical record where they perform well for relatively short bursts and then have bouts of very bad form (example Eugenie Bouchard, and there are many others).  On that basis, WTA players are more unlikely than not to be able to sustain a positive or negative clutch score.

Eugenie Bouchard has had peaks and troughs in her short WTA career...

With this in mind, I looked at the individual clutch scores of WTA players from 2014 and then applied the information to matches in 2015.  Players with a bad clutch score of -3 or less were included - by definition this means that the player has saved/taken 3% or worse below their expectation in 2014.  A hypothetical £100 bet was applied to all these players matches in 2015 with Pinnacle closing prices used:-

Player 

2014 Combined Clutch Score

2015 Combined Clutch Score

2015 Matches 1.00-5.99 SP

2015 P/L 1.00-5.99 SP 

2015 ROI

SP <1.50


SP 1.50-1.99


SP 2.00-2.99


SP 3.00-5.99


Favourite


2.00-5.99 Underdog


ROI Fav

ROI Dog







Matches

P/L

Matches

P/L

Matches

P/L

Matches

P/L

Matches

P/L

Matches

P/L























Babos

-8.6

-4.1

59

438

7.42

12

-141

15

446

21

-232

11

365

27

305

32

133



Arruabarrena

-6.7

0.6

40

566

14.15

3

-65

10

-158

17

231

10

558

13

-223

27

789



Vandeweghe

-6.2

-4.9

40

455

11.38

8

173

11

-234

11

-36

10

552

19

-61

21

516



Dulgheru

-5.9

0.7

35

777

22.20

11

116

10

-345

8

480

6

526

21

-229

14

1006



Krunic

-5.9

-4.9

41

233

5.68

4

-5

12

-193

17

263

8

168

16

-198

25

431



Puig

-5.7

0.4

46

-1045

-22.72

8

110

16

-494

14

-510

8

-151

24

-384

22

-661



Tsurenko

-5.2

-2.6

56

1528

27.29

12

35

16

550

20

408

8

535

28

585

28

943



Goerges

-5

2.4

48

-839

-17.48

12

251

16

5

14

-495

6

-600

28

256

20

-1095



Hsieh

-5

3.2

29

-119

-4.10

8

-195

7

133

10

-294

4

237

15

-62

14

-57



Kuznetsova

-4.9

-5.5

46

186

4.04

16

-1

15

-208

11

290

4

105

31

-209

15

395



Giorgi

-4.5

5

38

-333

-8.76

1

-295

23

88

8

57

6

-183

24

-207

14

-126



Keys

-4.2

3.1

49

218

4.45

25

229

15

-345

6

167

3

167

40

-116

9

334



Koukalova

-3.9

-5.4

42

340

8.10

6

163

10

-189

15

93

11

273

16

-26

26

366



Kvitova

-3.8

-1.1

54

-324

-6.00

39

-123

7

-388

7

-29

1

216

46

-511

8

187



Davis

-3.5

1.3

44

-85

-1.93

5

-79

17

236

15

-304

7

62

22

157

22

-242



Pennetta

-3.4

4.6

48

608

12.67

16

204

14

-257

7

-281

11

942

30

-53

18

661



Pironkova

-3.2

-0.5

41

-113

-2.76

5

31

11

122

18

434

7

-700

16

153

25

-266























2014 Bad Clutch



756

2491

3.29

191

408

225

-1231

219

242

121

3072

416

-823

340

3314

-1.98

9.75

in 2015





















From 756 matches a profit of £2,491 was achieved, which represents a solid return on investment of 3.29%.  This is an excellent return from any scenario, let alone a blind-backed scenario.  Only four of the 17 players which fitted into this criteria had a individual record of worse than -5% ROI (Puig, Goerges, Giorgi and Kvitova).  Ten of the 17 players recorded positive return on investment with five players (Arruabarrena, Vandeweghe, Dulgheru, Tsurenko and Pennetta) showing double figure returns.

Alexandra Dulgheru improved her clutch score in 2015, which converted into a very strong return on investment...

However, success was completely split between favourites and underdogs.  Favourites recorded an ROI of -1.98% from 416 matches, whilst underdogs performed superbly, showing 9.75% from 340 matches.  In particular this was shown in the SP 3.00-5.99 bracket, with a profit of £3,072 recorded from 121 matches.

These figures illustrate that overall, players who have underperformed on key points are under-rated by the market.  The -1.98% ROI on favourites is almost identical to bookmaker margin but it appears that players who underperform at key points in the previous year, when underdogs, represent solid value for a shock victory.  

Klara Koukalova recorded poor performance at key points in both 2014 and 2015...

In addition, only two players - Svetlana Kuznetsova and Klara Koukalova - managed to worsen their already poor clutch scores, although incredibly both managed slightly positive year-long returns. That duo, along with Timea Babos, Coco Vandeweghe and Alexandra Krunic were the only five players of the 17 to be able to qualify for this criteria this season.  This goes towards backing up the assertion that for the majority of players performance at break points is variance orientated as opposed to an inherent ability to over or under perform in these key situations in Tennis matches.






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