ATP Player Assessment - Is Being Clutch a Myth?


7th March, 2018.


In advance of the men's event at the Indian Wells Masters, starting tomorrow, I went through the performance of the ATP top 100 in 2018 to try and establish who was underperforming, and conversely, overperforming across several metrics.

The first area I looked at was straightforward enough - combined service and return points won percentages.  Anything around 110% or greater reflects a player of elite level, while 105%+ would be a top 10-15 player.  The average ATP player will be around the 100% mark, while a player with a percentage in the low 90s, or even 80s, may be ready for a spell on the Challenger Tour.

From 1st January 2018, until today, here are the players with greater than or equal to 105% combined service/return points won - an additional filter applied was the requirement for a player to play a minimum of four main tour matches, ruling out the likes of Andy Murray and Milos Raonic:-


Service Points Won %

Return Points Won %

Combined Service/Return Points Won %





Federer

74.6

40.9

115.5

Nadal

65.4

44.3

109.7

Djokovic

64.0

45.2

109.2

Goffin

65.5

43.1

108.6

Bautista-Agut

68.1

40.4

108.5

Thiem

66.8

41.1

107.9

Cilic

68.6

39.3

107.9

Nishikori

66.8

39.9

106.7

Anderson

71.3

35.2

106.5

Berdych

65.4

41.0

106.4

Chung

64.7

41.7

106.4

Copil

69.8

36.4

106.2

Khachanov

68.4

37.3

105.7

Verdasco

63.5

41.8

105.3

Basic

72.0

33.1

105.1

Kyrgios

72.1

32.9

105.0

Tsonga

70.4

34.6

105.0


This list is pretty much a comprehensive list of strong performers during the season so far, although it may be a surprise to see Marius Copil and Mirza Basic (more to come about him later in this article) in the list.  Surface bias probably has something to do with this, given that both are relatively strong on indoor hard, and a number of events have been held on that surface already this season.  However, there aren't any out and out clay courters who have taken advantage of the various South American clay events so far this year.  Of these, Diego Schwartzman (104.7%) was just short of this list.

At the bottom of the list, here are the players with a combined percentage of 96% or below:-


Service Points Won %

Return Points Won %

Combined Service/Return Points Won %





Zverev M

55.4

31.8

87.2

Mayer F

56.1

34.1

90.2

Sock

61.4

30.0

91.4

Albot

59.3

33.4

92.7

Young

57.7

35.0

92.7

Wawrinka

62.6

32.0

94.6

Vesely

62.6

32.0

94.6

Chardy

63.3

31.5

94.8

Simon

56.6

38.3

94.9

Kohlschreiber

62.9

32.3

95.2

Youzhny

62.0

33.5

95.5

Sela

55.2

40.6

95.8


Mischa Zverev's level this season has been atrocious, with countryman Florian Mayer not much better.  Jack Sock, Stan Wawrinka, Gilles Simon and Phillip Kohlschreiber's inclusion may be of surprise to some readers, and the latter two in particular may not have as much upside as the former as the season progresses - Simon's serve (56.6% service points won) looks particularly vulnerable, while Kohlschreiber's data is more suited to something of a low-level big-server profile.

Gilles Simon's service points won percentage in 2018 is atrocious...

With an assessment of basic player level out of the way, I want to look at player performance on break points - otherwise known by many as an ability to be 'clutch'.

Across the last 12 months on the ATP Tour, the average player saves 2.8% fewer break point chances on their serve, than they win service points, and on the flip side, the average player converts 2.8% more break point chances on return, than they win return points overall.  This phenomenon is both pretty logical - there is usually a reason as to why a break point opportunity has been generated in a match - as well as being very stable statistically, as over the course of a season, many thousands of break points occur.  This figure is also virtually identical from season to season, and out of interest, in the WTA, it is 2.3% either way.

In a number of match previews for Betfair across the last year or so, I've made the point that a player is due some mean-reversion - in effect, they are performing at what is likely to be an unsustainable level during the current short-term phase of their career.

In 2018 so far, 17 ATP players have over performed by 10% or greater on break points across serve and return combined:-


Service Points Won %

Break Points Save % 

Break Point (Serve) Over/Under Performance

Return Points Won %

Break Points Convert % 

Break Point (Return) Over/Under Performance

Combined Service/Return Points Won %

Break Point (Total) Over/Under Performance










Zeballos

65.2

70.8

8.4

31.3

53.1

19.0

96.5

27.4

Struff

62.9

62.5

2.4

34.0

54.8

18.0

96.9

20.4

Shapovalov

67.9

70.7

5.6

35.0

52.1

14.3

102.9

19.9

Herbert

66.0

72.6

9.4

30.6

41.7

8.3

96.6

17.7

Haase

64.2

64.3

2.9

33.2

49.1

13.1

97.4

16.0

Zverev A

64.7

73.0

11.1

37.6

43.1

2.7

102.3

13.8

Basic

72.0

80.0

10.8

33.1

37.9

2.0

105.1

12.8

Mayer F

56.1

61.4

8.1

34.1

41.4

4.5

90.2

12.6

Tiafoe

65.8

73.5

10.5

36.5

41.3

2.0

102.3

12.5

Pouille

65.6

67.8

5.0

34.1

44.3

7.4

99.7

12.4

Kyrgios

72.1

72.2

2.9

32.9

44.4

8.7

105.0

11.6

Millman

62.9

60.9

0.8

39.4

52.5

10.3

102.3

11.1

Basilashvili

58.8

60.3

4.3

38.8

48.1

6.5

97.6

10.8

Lajovic

58.1

62.5

7.2

39.3

45.7

3.6

97.4

10.8

Delbonis

61.4

64.6

6.0

37.8

45.1

4.5

99.2

10.5

Seppi

66.8

69.1

5.1

34.4

42.5

5.3

101.2

10.4

Young

57.7

66.7

11.8

35.0

36.1

-1.7

92.7

10.1


I've made the point quite a few times that Denis Shapovalov and Alexander Zverev, as well as Lucas Pouille, are all due a dose of mean-reversion, and maintaining such a high rate of break point conversion for this trio of prospects would be almost certainly impossible.  This list should give you an idea of which players may be over-rated by the market in the near future, and I also note the appearance of Mirza Basic, mentioned before.  While he's performed incredibly on serve in his matches this year so far, saving 80% of break points is never going to continue, and I'd expect this number to settle below 70% across a bigger sample of data.

Denis Shapovalov is due a dose of negative mean-reversion...

13 players were in double-digit negative territory - effectively they've grossly under-performed on break points this year so far:-


Service Points Won %

Break Points Save % 

Break Point (Serve) Over/Under Performance

Return Points Won %

Break Points Convert % 

Break Point (Return) Over/Under Performance

Combined Service/Return Points Won %

Break Point (Total) Over/Under Performance










Chardy

63.3

41.9

-18.6

31.5

28.6

-5.7

94.8

-24.3

Tsitsipas

68.4

45.5

-20.1

31.5

34.9

0.6

99.9

-19.5

Nishikori

66.8

52.0

-12.0

39.9

36.4

-6.3

106.7

-18.3

Isner

68.8

52.0

-14.0

28.9

27.6

-4.1

97.7

-18.1

Ferrer

59.2

50.7

-5.7

42.4

34.8

-10.4

101.6

-16.1

Sousa J

66.7

48.9

-15.0

35.3

37.1

-1.0

102.0

-16.0

Coric

63.6

42.1

-18.7

40.5

46.2

2.9

104.1

-15.8

Djokovic

64.0

61.5

0.3

45.2

32.4

-15.6

109.2

-15.3

Youzhny

62.0

51.4

-7.8

33.5

30.6

-5.7

95.5

-13.5

Zverev M

55.4

44.4

-8.2

31.8

31.0

-3.6

87.2

-11.8

Cuevas 

65.7

45.7

-17.2

35.6

43.9

5.5

101.3

-11.7

Thiem

66.8

61.9

-2.1

41.1

34.5

-9.4

107.9

-11.5

Vesely

62.6

52.4

-7.4

32.0

31.9

-2.9

94.6

-10.3


Several players worth looking at include Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic, whose level this season looks better than perception, during their attempts to return towards peak level post-injury, while David Ferrer's mediocre break point conversion this season looks to be the real driver to why he's failed to break opponents as frequently as he tends to.  While there's no doubt he's declined from his peak around three years ago, these stats (as well as his combined percentage of 101.6%) show he's not as bad a player as many will have you believe.  John Isner's data is fascinating - he's saved just 52.0% of break points on serve, when his expectation would be 66.0%, and with such a serve-orientated style, it's going to be virtually impossible for him to win matches saving such a low percentage.  Fortunately for him, positive break point mean-reversion on his serve is as certain as it gets.

Having addressed the wild fluctuations that small data sample sizes can give, the final question I want to answer is whether it is possible for a player to maintain an ability to be clutch - or indeed, choke - on break points over a large sample of data.  I looked at the career data for main tour matches for the current men's top 20 players, sorted by total over/under performance on break points:-


Service Points Won %

Break Points Save % 

Break Point (Serve) Over/Under Performance

Return Points Won %

Break Points Convert % 

Break Point (Return) Over/Under Performance

Combined Service/Return Points Won %

Break Point (Total) Over/Under Performance










Zverev A

64.3

62.4

0.9

36.9

42.8

3.1

101.2

4.0

Pouille

63.7

63.2

2.3

35.9

40.4

1.7

99.6

4.0

Kyrgios

68.5

66.3

0.6

33.9

38.2

1.5

102.4

2.1

Sock

65.3

63.1

0.6

35.3

39.2

1.1

100.6

1.7

Nadal

67.3

66.3

1.8

42.4

45.0

-0.2

109.7

1.6

Del Potro

66.5

63.6

-0.1

38.5

42.2

0.9

105.0

0.8

Fognini

59.4

56.8

0.2

39.3

42.7

0.6

98.7

0.8

Djokovic

67.0

65.4

1.2

42.1

44.2

-0.7

109.1

0.5

Carreno-Busta

61.9

57.9

-1.2

38.5

43.0

1.7

100.4

0.5

Berdych

66.9

63.8

-0.3

38.1

41.7

0.8

105.0

0.5

Bautista-Agut

63.9

62.0

0.9

39.6

41.9

-0.5

103.5

0.4

Wawrinka

65.1

63.5

1.2

37.9

39.8

-0.9

103.0

0.3

Isner

71.2

70.2

1.8

30.0

30.9

-1.9

101.2

-0.1

Anderson

68.1

65.9

0.6

34.5

35.9

-1.4

102.6

-0.8

Goffin

62.9

60.9

0.8

39.6

40.7

-1.7

102.5

-0.9

Cilic

66.1

63.8

0.5

38.1

39.3

-1.6

104.2

-1.1

Schwartzman

59.3

55.9

-0.6

41.8

43.9

-0.7

101.1

-1.3

Federer

70.6

67.9

0.1

40.2

41.3

-1.7

110.8

-1.6

Dimitrov

66.1

63.0

-0.3

36.8

37.6

-2.0

102.9

-2.3

Thiem

65.3

62.4

-0.1

37.7

37.9

-2.6

103.0

-2.7


As I mentioned previously, Zverev and Pouille have over-performed by reasonable amounts throughout their relatively young careers, but we can also see from the career data of the current top 20 how difficult it is to maintain such levels, with much more stable total over/under performance numbers across the board.

Alexander Zverev leads the current top 20 players in break point over performance...

The current top ten underperformed on break points by an average of -0.1%, while the top 20 on average over performed on break points by an average of 0.3%, with both figures extremely close to the mean.  These numbers offer evidence that performing considerably better than service/return points won expectation figures over the course of a career is extremely difficult, with wild figures such as double-digit over/under performance being impossible.  The fact that not a single member of the ATP top 20 has over performed by more than 4% on break points combined across the entirety of their careers aptly illustrates that while short-term over performance is possible, it cannot be sustained in the long term.


 

A Selection of TennisRatings Products for 2018
 
Please visit the
TennisRatings Products links for a full overview of our fantastic Tennis Trading tools, and the TennisRatings Subscription Packages link to see our great value range of discounted subscription packages!

Please check out our testimonials page!

The TennisRatings Daily Trading Spreadsheets have never been more popular!  

To find out more on how these can dramatically improve your Tennis Trading, check out the YouTube Video we made.




The Challenger Daily Spreadsheets cover all ATP Challenger Events and include projected hold percentages (for traders) and model prices (for bettors and traders).

Subscriptions are available for 3 months:-


The Lead Loss/Recovery Data Spreadsheets have taken the Tennis Trading World by storm - discussed in detail in October 2015 at the Matchbook Traders Conference these incredible spreadsheets highlight lead loss & deficit recovery in individual sets, as well as how often a player loses/gains the first break of the second set based on whether they won or lost the first set!

INCLUDES FREE REGULAR UPDATES - THIS IS A ONE-TIME PURCHASE!

Comments