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At the start of the season, something I want to focus on is mental strength and concentration amongst ATP players.
Many players are accused of choking on social media and/or are added to bettors/traders 'blacklists' for throwing away leads but certain players are highlighted more than others. I did a request on both Twitter and on the TennisRatings Chat Room for people to nominate several ATP chokers, and the following results were obtained:-
10 nominations: Robin Haase
8 nominations: Paul-Henri Mathieu
4 nominations: Philipp Kohlschreiber
3 nominations: Thomaz Bellucci, Sam Groth
2 nominations: Kevin Anderson, Tomas Berdych, Jeremy Chardy, Feliciano Lopez, Sam Querrey, Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, Igor Sijsling, Fernando Versdasco
This quick straw poll highlighted Robin Haase and Paul-Henri Mathieu as the two players who were overwhelmingly the biggest chokers on Tour, in the opinion of Twitter and the TennisRatings Chat Room.
Of course, it is interesting to see public perception of chokers and then compare them to reality. It's worth noting that a number of the players nominated by bettors and traders were players whose service hold was above the 80.1% ATP Tour mean for the last 18 months. These players were:-
Assuming all players who lose leads frequently are chokers would be unfair, as well as not being the most efficient way of calculating a player's ability to choke. For example, Diego Sebastian Schwartzman has lost the first break lead of any set a very high 58.3% of the time from July 2014 to December 2015 but has only held serve 67.2% of the time. With arguably the weakest serve on the ATP Tour, it's logical that he will lose leads much more often than the average player regardless of whether he chokes or not.
A fair way of calculating a player's ability to choke would be compare their service hold percentage with their lead loss percentage. Dividing a player's lead loss percentage (loss of the first break lead in a set) - available in the lead loss/recovery spreadsheets by the percentage their serve is broken gives us a ratio we can apply to see who loses leads more than expectation.
The following five players had the highest ratio (performed way worse than expectation as leaders) from July 2014 to December 2015 (minimum 15 main tour matches played):-
The name at the top of the list may not surprise people, although he wasn't hugely nominated by other bettors and traders - Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Frenchman has cropped up on my radar frequently for losing leads and his ratio of 2.81 was considerably higher than any other player.
Big-serving Australian Sam Groth was next on the list with a 2.62 ratio. He was nominated by several other people despite his serve being his main weapon, so it's very logical indeed to consider that he gets tight when leading by a break in sets.
Countryman Nick Kyrgios is a surprising third in the table, although that was from a relatively small sample. Rather than getting tight, perhaps Kyrgios' issue is with concentration. Either way, he's on the list...
Stan Wawrinka is another player whose lack of concentration has been highlighted, and he joins Kyrgios, as well as James Ward, with 2.44 ratios. Ward is another player who has featured strongly in my data for losing leads and it isn't a huge surprise at all that he featured highly here.
We can also look at the players who are strong as front runners, using the same ratio. With a minimum 25 leads across the same time period, the following players had the lowest (best) ratios:-
The top two names on the list probably surprise few people. Both the big-serving Milos Raonic and John Isner were superb at protecting leads. However the likes of Andrey Golubev, Donald Young and Albert Ramos will surprise many - all three performed a great deal better than expectation when leading in a set.
For traders, knowing which players are likely to fight when a break down is a valuable asset. Using a similar ratio, break deficit recovery %/break opponent % we can see which players perform well when a break down in sets. The following five players performed worst in this respect:-
The ratios recorded in this table were horrific, with all players mentioned significantly underperforming when losing in a set. Interestingly, and something I highlighted previously, two French players - Lucas Pouille and Nicolas Mahut made it into the five worst players a break down, and Kenny De Schepper, Adrian Mannarino and Julien Benneteau were 6th, 7th and 8th respectively, and Paul-Henri Mathieu and Edouard Roger-Vasselin were 13th and 14th in the list. With French players comprising 50% of the worst 14 players on the ATP Tour a break down, it's pretty reasonable to say that Frenchmen do not battle in a losing cause...
However, some players definitely have plenty of fight in these situations - the following five players recorded the best ratios:-
Ivan Dodig's break deficit recovery is stellar by anyone's standards, and to come from just 21.7% of breaks of his opponent's serve is incredible. Jiri Vesely and Ricardas Berankis are also far from being return orientated but have excellent recovery percentages, whilst the Uruguayan clay courter Pablo Cuevas has performed very well for me previously when backing him when losing.
In addition to these players, Roger Federer is worth briefly analysing. The Swiss legend has a superb recovery percentage and his percentage for avoiding 2-0 defeats in best of three sets is incredible. Clearly Federer has plenty of fight in him well into his 30's, although perhaps some of these fightbacks might be down to his 'name', leading his opponents to choke themselves...
Finally, what of the two players nominated multiple times by bettors and traders on social media - Robin Haase and Paul-Henri Mathieu?
Haase's ratio of 1.52 for losing break leads ranked him the 74th worst ATP player sampled, so his selection looks like either Gambler's Fallacy (where people are prone to remember notable events and think it happens much more than it actually does) or they are specifically referring to his notoriously bad tiebreak record.
Mathieu's ratio of 1.58 made him the 68th worst ATP player sampled, although it's worth noting that my data has him particularly vulnerable from a set and break up in set two, as opposed to other sets. Given that this scenario is the most noteworthy losing situation (from in-play price), Gambler's Fallacy can perhaps be excused on this particular Frenchman.
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