Article - ATP Set Percentages By Venue, Season, Surface & Tournament Category

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Originally prior to compiling the resource ‘Set Percentages By Venue, Season, Surface & Tournament Category’ I had no set hypotheses about what I might find – my inspiration was the WTA event in Baku which in my head had a lot of 3 set matches and retirements and I attributed that to the extreme heat in the Azerbaijan capital.  We shall see if that’s indeed the case when I publish the WTA stats in the near future!

From the resource tables at the above link, there are a number of things we can infer looking at the stats…

In the first table, with the data assessed by season, it’s clear that there’s a little disparity in the number of sets between the first and second half of the year.  In January-March 64.00% of matches were completed in two sets whilst in April-June it was marginally higher at 64.38%.  However this dropped to 62.41% and 62.08% in July-September and October-November respectively.  If I did have a pre-conceived idea about this it probably went against my thoughts as I thought there’d be less player effort and more straight set ‘tanks’ in the latter parts of the season, so this data is pretty interesting.

With regards to retirements, it’s hard to infer a seasonal bias with the lowest season (Jul y to September) having 3.64% of matches ending in a retirement compared to the highest being 4.16% (October to December) – although it’s perhaps telling that the end of the season has the highest retirement percentage as some players may well be looking towards several weeks on holiday.

In the second table, with data assessed by surface, the stat that really stands out is the lack of retirements on clay (3.45% of matches) compared to the three other surfaces which are all over 4%.  There can be little doubt that the hard ground of the other surfaces contributes to more player retirements.   Clay also had the highest percentage of matches ending in three sets, although there wasn’t a huge amount in it.  I’ve thought in the past that clay is a bit of a ‘leveller’ for many matches and perhaps that’s evident here.

What did surprise me a little was the lack of retirements in 250 events (evidenced in table 3).   Just 3.57% of matches ended in retirement in 250s, compared to 4.60% in 500s and 4.45% in 1000s(Masters) events.    What was also apparent is the amount of matches ending in 2 sets in 500’s – a very high 64.94% which is almost 2% higher than 250s and 1000s.  I cannot logically explain why that is the case, but with samples of well over 1000 matches, it appears that is a clear trend.

There’s been lots of discussion on my Twitter timeline about players retiring this year and what’s interesting is that the figure for retirements has barely moved from year to year so it’s definitely not more prevalent this year as previous years – just 0.13% separates the 4 years so there’s barely any difference year on year there. 

However, what can be evidenced is the high percentage of matches ending in 3 sets this year – 34.42% with the next highest (2011) having a percentage of 32.55%.  Could this be the start of a trend due to factors such as increased competition?  Or is it just variance?  Only time will tell there – certainly should 2014 continue in this vein then there’s likely to be a reason for it…

So how can we use this information to profit in the markets? 

For bettors – the information (especially the individual tournament venue data) is invaluable for over/under games or 2/3 sets lines and I will be doing some backtesting in the near future to assess just how viable the data is on that basis.  Furthermore, some tournaments with high percentages of retirements can be treated differently with manipulation of the various bookmaker rules on retirements.  Certainly there’s scope to tailor your bets to suit your own agenda in this regard, and I don’t believe for one minute the adage that retirements are ‘win some, lose some’.

For in-play traders – this information should be extremely useful to gauge whether there’s a higher or lower likelihood in a match going 3 sets.  Should a tournament venue have an extremely high percentage of matches going 3 sets, then laying the winner of the first set who will almost certainly be fairly heavy odds-on should be pretty viable. 

Looking at the data, the following tournament venues have a very high percentage of matches going 3 sets (over 40%):-






New Haven



The following tournament venues have a very high percentage of matches being decided in 2 straight sets (over 68%):-

Costa do Sauipe

Monte Carlo







San Jose

Kuala Lumpur

The following tournament venues have a very high percentage of matches ending in retirement (over 7%):-

Estoril (Oeiras)





Interestingly, with Vienna having high percentages for retirements and matches going 3 sets, it’s unsurprising that it has the lowest percentage for matches ending in 2 sets – just 51.85%.  Laying the first set winner in Vienna historically would clearly have had a huge return in 2010-2012 and with this tournament very soon on the schedule a big opportunity could arise soon!  All of those three years have had lower than 56% of matches ending in straight sets so there’s clear trend at that venue.

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