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As we saw last week in the analysis of the top women players, there was a big discrepancy between the several - Serena Williams (in particular), Sharapova and Halep - and the rest. I also discussed that previous research in the ATP showed that matches featuring two elite players had slightly more breaks than the average ATP match.
I decided to do detailed analysis of the current men’s top ten players to see if the tendencies of the WTA repeated themselves in the ATP, and whether there were indeed fewer service holds amongst top ten players.
The table below illustrates the records of the current ATP top ten in best of three set matches in the last 12 months, against fellow top ten members. Grand Slam matches were not included, as it would skew the number of sets per match metric, and the 2-0 win data.
Immediately we can see just how far Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are ahead of the rest of the top ten, winning over 80% of matches and 70% of sets. Both also won in straight sets around 50% of the time, considerably more than any other player.
Stan Wawrinka’s stats are quite surprising. The Swiss managed to have the third best stats in the sample, and from a small sample, did very well against top opponents.
Slightly behind Wawrinka was Kei Nishikori, but interestingly the Japanese won six of his eight victories by a 2-1 scoreline. Nishikori’s 2.64 sets per match was the highest out of all top ten ATP and WTA players. Laying the first set winner in Nishikori’s match may be a very lucrative avenue.
All other players, with the exception of Nadal (who had a very small sample) fared very poorly against top ten players, struggling to win more than 30% of matches and 40% of sets. Grigor Dimitrov (27.3% match wins and 30.8% set wins) performed the worst. The Bulgarian, as well as Milos Raonic, had a very poor 2-0 win percentage and laying them a set up against top ten players should yield long-term dividends. Andy Murray, who averaged just 2.25 sets per match, looks to be a player whose matches would ‘train’ a considerable amount, whether he was losing or winning.
Deeper analysis into the match statistics for each match generated further interesting stats. The following table illustrates the overall hold/break percentages from the sample and also shows how often each player won dominant and tight sets.
As previously, this data illustrates just how much better Djokovic and Federer are against the field when playing against top ten opponents, both holding over 85% of the time, and their percentages are almost identical to their overall hold/break percentages, illustrating how much they step up their game against top-level opposition. One angle traders can look at is Djokovic’s relatively poor record in sets that end 6-4, 7-5 or 7-6. His 7-6 record is not strong at all given his set and match win percentages and laying the Serb’s service games in late games of the set may prove profitable.
With the exception of Wawrinka, the rest of the current top ten had very poor hold/break statistics, far below their overall ATP Tour percentages.
Andy Murray (68.5% holds) was around 12% below his overall Tour mean, as was Grigor Dimitrov, who also struggled badly on serve. As with Djokovic, Murray performed poorly in late games of the set. Tomas Berdych (74.8%) was also well down on his overall service numbers.
Three players in particular had issues breaking top-level opponents. Milos Raonic, with a humiliating 5.5% of breaks, was by far the worst, although it’s worth noting he only broke opponents 15.0% in the last 12 months generally. Dimitrov (12.4%) and Berdych (14.8%) were also well down on their 12 month stats against all opposition.
Also worth looking it is Kei Nishikori’s stats. The Japanese player won over 50% of matches but had a combined hold/break percentage of just 94.9%, indicating that he won a lot of tight sets and matches but lost a number of dominant sets, and won at least several matches above his hold/break expectation. Indeed, Nishikori, Raonic, Berdych and Ferrer won a mere four dominant set between them, which gives traders an excellent angle for laying them when a break up, knowing that a big tick loss from a double break lead is highly unlikely.
This article should give traders a number of viable player-specific angles for the coming months for matches involving two top ten players.
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