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If you've read my previous article about the ATP set percentages, you may remember that my inspiration was the WTA event in Baku which I thought in my head had a lot of 3 set matches and retirements.
Looking at the data for each tournament at the resource link, you can indeed see that was the case. Baku had only 58.06% of matches ending in two straight sets, which was the third lowest in the WTA. Only Quebec City and San Diego/Carlsbad were lower.
In the first table, with the data assessed by season, we can see that there's a marked rise in matches ending in retirement as the season goes on. Just 3.18% of matches January to March 2010-2013 ended in retirement but that rose to 4.55% in October. Clearly either the long season takes its toll on players, or the players lack motivation later on in the season, preferring not to fight adversity.
Straight sets wins are also more prevalent in the second half of the season, with 67.28% of matches July to September ending in straight sets and 67.37% of matches in October onwards also doing so. Compared to January to March (65.03%) and April to June (64.90%) there's an obvious difference in the figures. This also supports the lack of fight/fatigue in players in the latter stages of the season.
In the second table, with data assessed by surface, it's interesting to see that the fastest two surfaces, Indoor Hard and Grass, have the lowest percentage of matches decided in straight sets. Indoor Hard (63.52%) and Grass (64.04%) were several percentage points lower than Clay (65.85%) and Outdoor Hard (66.54%).
There wasn't a huge difference in retirements per surface but it's interesting to note that clay, the surface which had the lowest percentage in the ATP, for logical reasons in that the softer surface has less impact on the body, was actually the highest in the WTA. Who said the WTA was logical anyway...
On the subject of retirements, it's fascinating to see that Grand Slams only had 1.67% of matches ending in retirement, compared to International events (3.75%) and Premier Events (4.60%). Clearly players are much less inclined to retire in Grand Slams, preferring to fight until the end with bigger financial and ranking rewards on offer. Could it be that players retire too easily away from Grand Slams? These stats certainly back up that assertion.
What we can also see is that Grand Slams have a very high percentage of matches ending 2-0 in sets - 69.54% to be precise from 2010-2013. This is much higher than International (65.26%) and Premier (64.29%) events. It's hard to find an obvious reason for this but it probably has something to do with the huge difference in ability levels which can happen frequently in the early rounds.
As I mentioned in the ATP article, there's been a lot of discussion about retirements generally and from the data we can see that actually this year there's been less WTA retirements than previous years (just 2.81% this year). Comparing this to last year's incredible 5.01% perhaps some negative publicity regarding this has caused players to see out defeats - Victoria Azarenka recently commented on this after a defeat at the Istanbul end of season finals.
What we can see looking at the year by year stats is the percentage of matches ending in straight sets is slowly decreasing year by year. 2013 had 64.85% of matches finish 2-0, compared to 66.82% in 2010. Should this continue, it will be great for traders as it will naturally create more price swings in-play.
The WTA has a higher percentage of matches ending in straight sets than the ATP, with 65.82% of matches doing so between 2010 and 2013. The ATP was lower at 63.41%.
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 38%):-
The following tournament venues have a very high percentage of matches being decided in 2 straight sets (over 70%):-
Istanbul (WTA event in 2010, not the tour finals)
The following tournament venues have a very high percentage of matches ending in retirement (over 6%):-
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