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With just four Grand Slam tournaments per year, it is difficult to make quantitative judgements on an ATP player's best of five set record, with much smaller sample sizes than general ATP best of three set matches.
For example - how reliable is it to look at a players deciding 5th set win percentage when they've only played a handful of 5th sets in their career?
Therefore, it is useful to look at best of three set statistics to see if we can use these to help us in five set tournaments. One way we can do this is to look at a players 3rd set record - the deciding set in the best of three format - and compare it to their records in the 3rd, 4th and 5th sets of Grand Slam matches.
Logically there should be some form of general relationship. If a player is strong in the deciding set of a best of three match, the should be adept at playing matches which last for two hours or more. A player with good characteristics in a deciding third set (mental strength and fitness) should be able to transfer these to the longer format in Grand Slams.
The following table illustrates players with a strong 2014 record in deciding sets, compared to their overall set win percentage - these statistics (and many more) are available in the Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet:-
From these 19 players, we can see that they won 48.2% of sets 1 and 2 in Grand Slams, and 49.3% in sets 3, 4 and 5 in Grand Slams. These players did manage to win slightly more later sets in Slams than early sets, and this information definitely benefits us.
The following players had both a strong deciding record in deciding third sets in normal ATP matches, and a strong record in 3rd, 4th and 5th sets in Grand Slams.
These players are very viable candidates to be backed when losing 2-0 and 2-1 in Grand Slam matches.
One player I want to examine further is Martin Klizan. The Slovakian turned his career round (from a deciding third set perspective) in 2014 having previously had the worst record I have ever seen for losing best of three matches having won the first set. This may have just been positive variance on his part, and if we were to assume he was an outlier here, and remove his statistics from the sample, the players above would have won 48.1% of sets 1 and 2, and 50.0% of sets 3-5, for a 1.9% edge.
Having examined players that thrive in long matches, we can also look at players with poor deciding set records, and see if the same applies for them in the latter stages of best of five affairs:-
From first glance we can see that there is no general relationship between these players in best of three and best of five matches. However, when more detailed examination is used, one name stands out like a sore thumb - Tommy Robredo.
The Spaniard had a very poor season in 2014 in deciding sets of best of three set matches, winning just 41.2%, compared to an overall set win percentage of 59.2%. This is despite having a very strong 29-21 record in deciding third sets in his last 50 matches and an overall 61% career deciding third set win percentage. If we assume he is the 'reverse Klizan', where negative variance affected him, and we remove his statistics from the sample, the overall data looks very different, with the overall set 1&2 win percentage rising to 52.3%, and the overall sets 3-5 win percentage falling to 52.4%. Whilst this still shows no overall relationship, we can see how much that Robredo skewed the overall figures.
Whilst there may be little evidence of a general relationship here, what we can look at is players with a poor deciding 3rd set record in ATP matches (compared to overall set win percentage) and their record in sets 3-5 of Slams compared to sets 1-2. The following players had weak records in both respects:-
These players are very viable candidates to be layed when leading 2-0 and 2-1 in Grand Slam matches.
Nicolas Almagro in particular has a woeful record when two sets up in Grand Slams. The Spaniard, who has recently returned to Tour following a long-term injury, lost to David Ferrer in the 2013 Australian Open quarter finals having lead 2-0, and also did the same to Robredo in the 4th round of the French Open in the same year. Going back further, he also did the same against Lukasz Kubot in the French Open (when SP 1.07) in 2011 as well. Almagro faces Kei Nishikori tonight in the Australian Open first round and with Nishikori proven to thrive in long matches, this information is invaluable to in-play traders.
With eight players having a consistently good record in long matches, and eight having consistently poor records, this information should give traders some great entry points both in the current Australian Open, and in future Grand Slams.
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