Article - Favourites Success Based On Tournament Categories

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It always makes me chuckle when I see punters complaining that top players have lost, when their defeat comes in a tournament that offers low ranking points/prize money.

For those that are unaware, there are 4 tournament categories in the ATP main tour, rising in importance:-

250 events
500 events
1000 events
Grand Slams

In the WTA, there are 3 tournament categories:-

International Level
Premier Level
Grand Slams

The WTA also had a couple of 'Challenger' events at the end of the year too, but as a new event which is not common, I'll discount these for the purpose of research.

Logically, it's fair to assume that with the higher rewards on offer in the higher level tournaments, you will guarantee much more effort from all players to achieve the ranking points and financial incentives that go with them.  Therefore they should have a higher proportion of favourites winning matches.  Furthermore, with Grand Slams having the best of 5 set format for the men, this should be in the favour of the better player, as the underdog needs to win 3 sets as opposed to 2.

I set out to establish whether that was the case...

My research clearly indicated that 250 events in the ATP had the lowest level of success, with an overall favourite win percentage of 63% in my sample.  500 and 1000 events both showed a considerable jump to 70%, with Grand Slams coming in even higher at 76% - proving my hypothesis.

The difference in surfaces also was interesting to assess, with grass having the highest proportion of favourite success at 70%, followed by outdoor hard (69%), clay (66%) and indoor hard (65%).  

Bearing those stats in mind, it's logical to assume that Wimbledon has a high percentage of favourites winning (being a Grand Slam on grass) and that was indeed the case - with 78% of favourites winning between 2009 and 2012.  All Grand Slams had a minimum of 74% favourite success, so they all had solid stats in that regard.

There are some tournaments with a much lower favourite success than other comparable tournaments:-

Cincinnati, Paris and Shanghai had the lowest Masters favourite success.  In the case of Paris, this is logical when looking at the calendar.  Scheduled at the end of October, it's the last tournament of the season and player motivation probably isn't the highest with a fair few having an eye on their forthcoming holiday.  Shanghai is the last tournament of the season in Asia, and many European players are probably looking forward to either getting home for a break after an arduous campaign in the Far East, or just getting back to European tournaments generally.

ATP Tournaments with a low favourite success percentage compared to expectation:-


Los Angeles




We can definitely use this information to make our betting and trading decisions.  With many traders liking the strategy of backing the favourite when losing (personally it's not necessarily a strategy I advocate as those who have read my Trading Handbook will know), doing so in the above tournaments would appear to be a very poor strategy.   Pre-match bettors will be interested in backing underdogs much more in these tournaments, as opposed to Grand Slams where favourites tend to dominate.  

It's almost impossible to know which players are motivated prior to a match starting, but with detailed analysis of previous tournaments we can definitely have a broad view of whether this will generally be the case, and act accordingly.

Good luck in the markets!
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