WTA Trading - Who are the Best & Worst Comeback Players on Tour?


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There is a perception amongst traders and on social media that the WTA is a trader's paradise and that pretty much every match has numerous swings in it.  However, that really isn't the case, although there are obviously more breaks of serve than in the ATP, and this is correctly judged by the market where a break of serve is worth less in the WTA than it is in the ATP.

However, correct player profiling can help enormously with identifying matches which are likely or not to swing, and the lead loss/recovery data sheets are an excellent way of achieving this.  

Certainly, over the last few years, there appears to becoming more of a 'tank' or mentality issue amongst some WTA players who have very little fight to give when they are a set and break down, although it's worth making the point that some players do also seem to be able to perform well when their backs are against the wall.

Earlier in the year, I wrote this article which looked at whether the dynamic of top WTA players had changed over time, from players who were superb at recovering deficits (e.g. Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka) to players who were better at front-running, with particular emphasis on Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova.  Both of those players have much worse deficit recovery stats than the trio mentioned as great recoverers, but are there or thereabouts at a similar rank.

The currently banned Maria Sharapova had immense deficit recovery stats...

With the likes of Madison Keys (see below) coming towards prominence in the WTA, as well as a number of young prospects ranking badly on deficit recovery, this situation is unlikely to hugely change in the near future, so traders should not look at the WTA as a path to guaranteed swings in sets or matches.

The data below illustrates the players with the worst relative recovery (to get back on serve in the relevant set) from their 1st set and break down position in set two of matches, compared to when they are the 1st break down in sets 1&3 combined.   It's worth noting that that there is an expectation that set and break deficit is lower than in other sets, which is entirely logical - a player is often set and break down for a reason, and the mean recovery figure from 1/7/14 to 25/9/16 was 42.4% for set and break recovery compared to 54.69% for sets 1&3 combined.  Therefore the difference of 12.29% when subtracting the set and break mean figures from sets 1&3 combined figures is the average expectation for WTA players.

Player

Set & Break Recovery %

Set 1 & Set 3 Combined Recovery %

Set 1 & Set  3 Recovery % - S&B Recovery %






%



1/7/14 to 25/9/16

42.40

54.69

12.29





Osaka

30.00

84.21

54.21

Govortsova

18.18

72.00

53.82

Pironkova

12.50

60.42

47.92

Kontaveit

15.38

53.85

38.46

Gasparyan

26.67

64.71

38.04

Dellacqua

13.33

50.00

36.67

Radwanska U

26.67

61.54

34.87

McHale

36.67

69.77

33.10

Keys

27.78

59.62

31.84

Schmiedlova

30.30

62.07

31.77

Hsieh

30.77

62.50

31.73

Torro-Flor

25.00

56.52

31.52

Gibbs

33.33

64.00

30.67

Petkovic

44.12

74.70

30.58


These players above all had over 30% difference between set and break deficit recovery and sets 1&3 combined recovery.  Naomi Osaka was the relative worst performer, and the young Japanese player (who is a HUGE prospect) is probably both a victim of over achieving in sets 1&3 recovery (84.21% recovery is Sharapova-esque elite level) but is also probably likely to improve mentally in the future.  If we assess this again in a year, I'd be surprised if she was at a similar position.

Naomi Osaka's performances from set and break down are much worse than when she is losing in other sets...

Fellow young prospects Anett Kontaveit and Margarita Gasparyan also show up badly from set and break down and it may well be a symptom of youth that players beat themselves up mentally when in a dominant losing position.  Madison Keys, a more advanced prospect, also has awful set and break recovery numbers and even though she is top 10, should not be relied on to fight back from these spots.  

A number of other big names weren't far behind.  Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber, Ekaterina Makarova and Eugenie Bouchard all recovered relatively poor set and break recovery numbers compared to other sets and these players should not be even close to auto-backs when losing by this margin in-play.  In fact, the likes of Bouchard, Makarova and Kerber's numbers in particular indicate that they are not particularly viable propositions to back when set and break down unless they are playing some of the worst players on the WTA Tour.  Certainly my in-play trading script would not be recommending this trio in this spot very often.

Despite being world number one, Angelique Kerber's set and break deficit recovery numbers were not impressive...

Conversely, a number of players also showed up to be much better than average when losing by a set and break in matches:-

Player

Set & Break Recovery %

Set 1 & Set 3 Combined Recovery %

Set 1 & Set  3 Recovery % - S&B Recovery %






%



1/7/14 to 25/9/16

42.40

54.69

12.29





Pliskova Kr

80.00

44.00

-36.00

Mattek-Sands

63.64

46.43

-17.21

Begu

70.37

55.38

-14.99

Witthoeft

59.09

44.83

-14.26

Pavlyuchenkova

56.67

42.86

-13.81

Maria

50.00

36.67

-13.33

Kvitova

63.64

53.33

-10.30


These players all had a -10% or greater difference from set and break down compared to the two other sets.  From a small sample, Krystina Pliskova was the standout performer, but the other players should be commended on their 'bouncebackability'.  

Petra Kvitova's set 1 & 3 numbers are very poor for a player who has been top 10 for a number of years but she has improved when a set and break down, and is quite a reliable player in these spots.   Irina Begu's recovery numbers were pretty strong generally and she looks another player that can be relied on to fight back well when losing.

This data illustrates how useful individual player data is, and how important it is not to treat all players as equals, or even treat all players of similar price merely as equals.  The poor performers from set and break down in the WTA are mostly worse than even the average ATP player in this spot, so backing them when losing by this margin in the WTA is rarely recommended.
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