Today we will talk about tie-breaks in tennis matches. You will find out which of the leading players is the most successful at tie-breaks, what patterns are present here, and what data to take into account when betting on these decisive segments of the games.
Let’s imagine that Liverpool is hosting a team from one of the lower football leagues in England (this is possible, for example, in cup competitions). Obviously, in this case, the chances of the home win would exceed 90%, and the bookmaker odds for such an outcome would be extremely small.
But let’s try to imagine that the underdog somehow managed to keep a draw in the match, and the outcome of the confrontation is now decided by a series of penalties. Agree that in this case, the chances of winning the favorite will still be higher, but still they are significantly leveled, and can be regarded as a ratio, for example, 60% / 40%.
The same statement is generally true for tennis tie-breaks. Imagine that in one of the matches of the Grand Slam tournaments, Novak Djokovic, invariably one of the leading tennis players in recent years, plays a five-set match against an opponent from the second hundred in the rating. It is clear that the odds for a Serb victory would be minimal. And it’s another matter when it comes to a tie-break in one of the games – the chances of the opponents are largely leveled, and the underdog may well win the set.
Djokovic would have retained the status of the favorite in the tie-break, primarily due to the fact that he is much more likely to win points both on serve and on reception than the average player. So, in 2019, each of the top five players in the ranking (Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Russian Daniil Medvedev and Milos Raonic) won at least 62.5% of tie-breaks, but none of them was able to achieve 80% and more. Federer won 79.5% of the time as the best player to play at least 15 tie-breaks.
The chart below shows the percentage of points won on serve and reception versus the percentage of tiebreaks won for ATP players who played at least 15 tiebreaks in the 2019 season:
As you can see, the graph is rather scattered, which indicates a not too high relationship between the percentage of won serves and receptions and the percentage of successful tie-breaks. This circumstance illustrates the presence of short-term deviations in tie-breaks. Despite the fact that the best players on the tour overall won a very high percentage of tie-breaks compared to the average, there were numerous exceptions.
So, Roberto Bautista Agut was sixth in the ranking last season in terms of the percentage of points scored on serve and reception, but only third in the number of winning tiebreaks. It is worth saying that for the Spanish tennis player this has become a certain problem. He lost twice in tie-breaks in the Miami Masters quarterfinals against John Isner, but most importantly, he lost, and also in the quarterfinals, but at the Australian Open, to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth set. Note that this was a key moment of that meeting.
In addition, at a high-rating tournament in Montreal, Bautista Agut lost to Gael Monfils in the decisive set in a tie-break. Ironically, this also happened in the ¼ stage of the finale. Thus, the Spaniard, due to his unsuccessful play in tie-breaks, missed both rating points and numerous prize money.
On the other hand, the same Tsitsipas was able to win the Final of the ATP World Tour in London, which was the most significant victory for the Greek to date. He managed to win this title thanks to the victory over Dominic Tim in a tie-break of the decisive set. In general, Stefanos is the best in winning tie-breaks over tennis players from the top ten of the rating in a ratio of 10-6.
Analysis of tie-break tennis players
However, one should not consider such a good tie-break game of the same Tsitsipas as a kind of long-term trend. For example, in 2018 he won them only 44%. In other words, do not overestimate the players when betting on their victory in the tiebreaker, considering only the short-term trend (we are talking about tennis players whose names are located in the upper left part of the above diagram).
On the other hand, you shouldn’t underestimate the players from the bottom right of the diagram either. But, at the same time, if, relatively speaking, Tsitsipas and Bautista Agut meet each other, and it came to a tie-break in one of the sets, one can still expect that the Greek’s chances of winning are somewhat higher than those of the Spaniard.