Is the Davis Cup good for comebacks?


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Several weeks ago, Tennis traders were treated to a weekend of epic trading action in the Davis Cup, with five players coming back from two sets down to force a deciding set, including James Ward’s memorable victory over John Isner, which turned the whole tie in favour of Great Britain following Andy Murray’s facile defeat of Donald Young. 

James Ward's comeback against John Isner turned the tie in Great Britain's favour...

During, and following the weekend, there was some speculation regarding trading the Davis Cup and the general theme was towards the World Group format generating more upsets than a best of 5 set Grand Slam match.

With World Group matches having pretty decent liquidity, and the players a little more closely matched than the lower level Davis Cup groups, which frequently feature very short priced players with huge ability differentials, it would be reasonably logical that this would be the case.

However, dealing with speculation and subjective assessments is far from an ideal trading perspective, and much more useful is assessing historical stats.

A previous article I wrote for Bet Angel - http://www.betangel.com/blog_wp/2014/08/21/us-open-tennis-5/ - showed how various scorelines developed in the best of 5 set format in Hard Court Grand Slams. This showed that in the Australian Open, 22.2% of matches which a player had a 2-0 lead went to a 2-1 scoreline, and 11.4% went to 2-2. The figures were slightly higher in the US Open, with 28.5% of 2-0 leads going to 2-1 and 12.2% to 2-2.

We can use this as a base for the Davis Cup statistics, and should the Davis Cup have more in-play turnarounds, we can look to exploit this angle in future matches.

The table below illustrates the scoreline statistics for the Davis Cup from 2011 to 2015:-




Davis Cup World Group






2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Overall

%

Completed BO5 Singles  Matches

41

42

44

43

26

196


2-0 Matches

26

27

29

29

20

131

66.8

2-0 -> 2-1

6

6

6

3

8

29

22.1

2-0 -> 2-2

3

1

2

2

5

13

9.9


We can see that in fact the Davis Cup had less comebacks for either 2-0 to 2-1 or 2-0 to 2-2 in the last five years than either Hard Court Grand Slam, and was particularly low for matches where a player led 2-0 going to a deciding set.

However, we can also see that the 2015 figures also significantly boosted the Davis Cup results, and without these recent fightbacks the figures would have been even lower. 

On this basis, we can make a number of assertions:-

1 - The speculation regarding the Davis Cup having more in-play comebacks is nothing more than a ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’, where gamblers remember notable events more than ones which are less obvious, and therefore believe an outcome happens more than it actually does. 

2 - It would appear that financial and ranking point incentives in Grand Slams motivate players to come back from a losing position more than national pride in the Davis Cup. 

3 - Whilst laying the player at 2-0 up in the Davis Cup provides a low risk entry at a very low lay price, it is difficult to justify this position given the success percentage in Grand Slams is higher.

The information in this article also illustrates why a subjective judgement based on recent notable historical events is not a solid betting or trading strategy, and why using historical statistics is a much better approach.
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