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‘Is Annika Beck the biggest statistical anomaly in the WTA?’
Annika Beck has been mentioned on this website numerous times for her atrocious service hold percentage.
For Tennis traders, this makes her an attractive prospect, as she will rarely be able to hold serve consistently enough to win sets in a dominant fashion. Considering the likely move from readers of this website is to lay her when winning, this scenario is ideal for us.
Indeed, the latest edition of the break-back percentages – available via the Tier Two daily tradingspreadsheets or the Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet – show Beck to have been broken back 63.2% when a break up in sets in the last 12 months. This is one of the worst figures in the WTA, and is a huge 18.8% above the 44.4% WTA mean.
Only three other players with a decent sample size (at least 10 break leads lost), including Johanna Larsson, who at 75.0% is the worst in the WTA for losing a break lead, are worse on tour than the 20 year-old German.
The following table illustrates Beck’s record across all surfaces in the last 12 months (correct at 21st August, 2014):-
It’s clear to see that Beck is not a decent player, with combined hold/break percentages between 88.9% (clay) and 94.7% (hard/indoor), and this should rank her towards the bottom end of the top 100. She's marginally better on hard courts than on clay, but pretty mediocre on both surfaces.
However, despite this, she has managed to maintain her world ranking around the top 50, hitting a career high of 43 in March 2014, and currently she finds herself ranked at 57.
How can a player who cannot even hold serve half the time be ranked around the top 50?
It almost seems laughable that this is the case. Clearly, WTA players do not hold serve as much as their male counterparts, but it would be reasonable to expect any player ranked around the top 50 to be able to hold over half the time, considering the 12 month all-surface mean is 63.8%. Furthermore, Beck also wins only 36.4% of points on her second serve, which is horrific – 8.5% below the 44.9% WTA mean.
Beck does break more than the 36.2% all-surface mean on all surfaces, but I feel that this doesn’t tell the full story.
A factor that many wouldn’t account for is her superb mentality. Despite a negative 20-26 (43.5%) win-loss record, Beck has managed to win 14/23 deciding sets (60.9%) – a huge difference. It would therefore appear that she has the tools to succeed in final set shootouts, namely fitness and strong mentality. In the last 12 months, she’s managed deciding set underdog wins over Lucie Safarova (4.81 SP), Tsvetana Pironkova (2.73), Sam Stosur (2.63) and Garbine Muguruza (3.19).
In his poem ‘If’, Rudyard Kipling started by saying ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’ and that seems very apt regarding Beck. Whilst the WTA is known for volatility of emotion, here is a player that stays consistently level-headed, and it is obvious this does her many favours.
Beck has also managed to win 13 of 29 matches where she started as favourite and she lost the first set (44.8%). This is a superb percentage, well above the 29.6% WTA mean for favourites winning when losing the first set, so this adds further weight to her balanced mentality – clearly she doesn’t panic when she is in a losing position. This is even higher than the WTA mean for favourites priced under 1.50 (38.8%), so she deserves great credit in this situation.
At 20 years old it’s relatively unlikely that Beck can improve significantly – WTA players reach an ability plateau generally quicker than ATP players – but she’s carving out a solid career primarily on being different to most other WTA players, being solid mentally. If she was a typical WTA player in terms of mentality, I don’t think she’d have made it past ITF’s, but there’s no doubt that she is making the most of her career.
Can she break the top 20? Forget it. Can she have a half-decent career and cause some shocks, whilst giving traders the time of their lives? Absolutely.
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