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26th January, 2016:-
The recent article focusing on mentally strong and weak players in the ATP proved very popular, so I thought I'd do a slightly different take on the same subject when looking at the WTA.
Another way we can compare players who are good at retaining leads or chokers on serve when leading, or indeed, fighters or quitters on return when losing is to look at the difference between the lead loss percentage of players and the deficit recovery percentages. Whilst this is likely to give a slightly biased viewpoint by way of ranking top players at the top of this metric, this will also allow us to see above and below expectation performers, and not be biased by a player having a strong serve or return game.
The lead loss/recovery data spreadsheets - last updated after the Australian Open matches last night - have full lead loss/deficit recovery information for over 100 players on each of the ATP and WTA tours, with all data available both in individual set format as well as a combined overview. For the purposes of this article, I want to look at the combined overview, where sample size is at its largest.
The table below illustrates the five players with the biggest first break of the set lead loss to first break of the set deficit recovery differences (minimum 15 leading and losing situations) These players are those who lose many more leads than they recover deficits - in short, backing them when losing would be a dubious proposition, but they may well provide a solid lay opportunity when leading.
These players all showed a propensity to be much worse defending leads than recovering deficits, with Mitu, Rogers and Parmentier all showing horrific recovery percentages (current mean 50.01%). It is no surprise that all five of these players have major issues with winning matches with any consistency at WTA main draw level and if any of these players can consistently be ranked in the top 100 they'd have done very well indeed. Interestingly, Peer's and Torro-Flor's deficit recovery was around the mean, but their lead loss percentages were shocking at over 90%!
The table above shows the players who were best at recovery relative to them losing leads.
Unsurprisingly, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova boss this area, with stellar deficit recovery percentages. In the case of Williams, this goes along with a very low lead loss percentage (which would rate her one of the better performers in this category in the ATP - which has fewer breaks - let alone the WTA).
Despite their issues so far in 2016, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki have strong recovery data and could potentially offer some value in backing when losing in matches in the near future. Petra Kvitova's recovery numbers are not much better than average, but she makes the top five when her superb lead loss numbers are factored in.
Williams, Sharapova and Kvitova are three of the current top ten, so I thought to conclude it would be interesting to see where the rest of the top ten were ranked using this metric:-
Simona Halep, world rank 2, metric rank 18
Garbine Muguruza, world rank 3, metric rank 17
Agnieszka Radwanska, world rank 4, metric rank 7
Angelique Kerber, world rank 6, metric rank 21
Flavia Pennetta (now retired), world rank 8, metric rank 82
Lucie Safarova, world rank 9, metric rank 42
Venus Williams, world rank 10, metric rank 12
Of these players, Radwanska and Venus Williams were ranked similar using this metric compared to their world rank. However, Halep, Muguruza and Kerber had a difference of 14-16 positions, and may not offer frequent value propositions for backing when losing by a break in sets.
Finally, those discrepancies were nothing compared to Lucie Safarova and the now retired Flavia Pennetta, who had horrific metric stats compared to their world rankings. Backing Safarova when a break down looks to be a horrific entry point.
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