Analysis: WTA Clay Courters in Advance of French Open 2018


27th April, 2018.



With there being a number of players on the men's tour who are considerably better on clay than other surface, the concept of clay-court specialists on the men's tour has been well documented.  While these clay-courters on the men's tour are well known, there is less recognition of these clay-court specialists in the WTA.

In the run-up to the French Open, I thought it would be interesting to assess this area, so that readers can benefit from the information both in the match odds markets, and also possibly from an outright market perspective as well.

I analysed 24-month clay court data for all WTA top 100 players, filtering out those players who had played fewer than 10 main tour/main draw clay matches in this time period.  First of all, here are the top 10 clay-courters on the WTA Tour, based on the combined service points/return points won percentage:-

Player

Clay Court Service Points Won %

Clay Court Return Points Won %

Clay Court Combined Points Won %





Halep

59.6

50.5

110.1

Bertens

60.2

47.2

107.4

Bacsinszky

57.6

49.7

107.3

Muguruza

59.8

46.6

106.4

Svitolina

58.6

46.6

105.2

Siegemund

57.2

47.9

105.1

Wozniacki

56.1

48.6

104.7

Stosur

61.6

43.1

104.7

Williams V

58.7

45.8

104.5

Suarez Navarro

57.0

47.2

104.2


Simona Halep is out on her own as the best clay-courter in the WTA, and the Betfair Exchange outright market for the French Open agrees, making the Romanian a marginal 6.60 favourite, at the time of writing.  However, there are a number of names in this list of top 10 clay-courters over the last two years who aren't close to the forefront of the market, including Timea Bacsinszky, Laura Siegemund, Kiki Bertens and Sam Stosur.  The former two players have had injury issues but - if fit - would be a huge threat at Roland Garros, and while Stosur's hard court data has declined markedly as she gets older, she's still strong on clay.  Kiki Bertens looks very under-rated by the market on clay currently, priced at 48.00.

What is also apparent is that there are a number of players who are very well matched on clay in the WTA.  There were a further 13 players who had a combined percentage of 103% or greater, and another 12 who were 102% or better.  This makes an incredible 35 players who would be considered extremely competent on the surface, aptly illustrating that it is very difficult to be dominant on the WTA Tour right now.

There are also a number of players who are much better on clay than on other surfaces, and the table below shows the players who are considerably better on clay than other surfaces.  What I did here was take their clay court combined points won percentage and subtract the same percentage for hard & indoor hard courts.  The higher the positive figure, the more the player has over performed on clay compared to hard and indoor hard:-

Player

Clay Court Service Points Won %

Clay Court Return Points Won %

Clay Court Combined Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Service Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Return Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Combined Points Won %

Clay-Hard/Indoor Court Combined Points Won %









Maria

57.6

42.8

100.4

52.4

36.9

89.3

11.1

Siegemund

57.2

47.9

105.1

51.1

44.7

95.8

9.3

Bacsinszky

57.6

49.7

107.3

54.4

44.2

98.6

8.7

Bertens

60.2

47.2

107.4

55.8

43.2

99.0

8.4

Sevastova

58.7

45.0

103.7

50.9

44.4

95.3

8.4

Stosur

61.6

43.1

104.7

57.1

39.7

96.8

7.9

Begu

57.6

46.1

103.7

54.8

42.9

97.7

6.0

Putintseva

55.7

47.3

103.0

54.0

43.6

97.6

5.4

Arruabarrena

57.0

45.7

102.7

53.9

43.6

97.5

5.2

Giorgi

58.1

44.7

102.8

55.9

42.9

98.8

4.0

Barthel

57.0

43.9

100.9

56.7

40.3

97.0

3.9

Linette

57.4

44.9

102.3

57.0

41.5

98.5

3.8

Cirstea

57.2

44.7

101.9

54.3

43.9

98.2

3.7

Kontaveit

59.7

44.3

104.0

57.5

43.1

100.6

3.4

Konjuh

58.2

45.4

103.6

58.1

42.2

100.3

3.3


These 15 players have won over 3% more points on clay than hard or indoor hard courts, and we can see that Siegemund, Bacsinszky, Bertens and Stosur - all in the top ten clay-courters list - were also included here, and this quartet are likely to be as close to being true WTA clay-courters as it gets.

A number of other players, such as Irina Begu, Yulia Putintseva and Lara Arruabarrena, have much better records on clay as opposed to hard/indoor courts, and could be under-rated on the surface in the coming months.  All three have pretty mediocre records away from the surface.  Anett Kontaveit, to a slightly lesser extent, also is similar.

In addition, a number of players struggle on clay compared to other surfaces, and the 13 players listed below won more than 3% more points on hard/indoor courts, as opposed to clay:-

Player

Clay Court Service Points Won %

Clay Court Return Points Won %

Clay Court Combined Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Service Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Return Points Won %

Hard/Indoor Court Combined Points Won %

Clay-Hard/Indoor Court Combined Points Won %









Konta

57.7

40.8

98.5

62.6

44.9

107.5

-9.0

Niculescu

51.1

43.9

95.0

53.1

48.8

101.9

-6.9

Kerber

54.7

43.7

98.4

59.0

45.8

104.8

-6.4

Wickmayer

57.0

37.0

94.0

58.1

42.1

100.2

-6.2

Zhang S

55.0

42.4

97.4

57.8

44.8

102.6

-5.2

Sasnovich

50.4

44.5

94.9

56.7

43.1

99.8

-4.9

Kozlova

51.9

46.7

98.6

57.2

46.0

103.2

-4.6

Osaka

57.2

41.7

98.9

59.8

43.7

103.5

-4.6

Tsurenko

51.5

46.5

98.0

56.2

46.3

102.5

-4.5

Kvitova

59.7

43.0

102.7

62.0

45.1

107.1

-4.4

Goerges

60.2

41.2

101.4

62.5

42.3

104.8

-3.4

Wozniacki

56.1

48.6

104.7

60.2

47.7

107.9

-3.2

Bellis

56.8

41.7

98.5

56.3

45.3

101.6

-3.1


Two names at the top of the list spring to mind - Johanna Konta and Angelique Kerber.  Both have combined serve/return points won percentages of below 100% on clay in the last 24 months and look prime for opposition in the current clay season. 

Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Julia Goerges are three other high-profile players in this list, and looking at these five players together, there is an obvious trend - all five are rather serve-orientated and have better results in quicker conditions.  

Understanding such nuances will hopefully see readers profit in the run-up to the French Open, and at Roland Garros in around a month's time.


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