US Open Tennis – Trading short priced favourites

02/09/2014 | By | Reply More

I was chatting with a few fellow traders on Skype during day three of the US Open this week and we commented that there seems to be a lot of surprise results in the WTA tournament, and in particular that both the ‘big name’ players appeared to be very short for starting prices in Grand Slams, and that they were losing the first set much more than they should be – allowing some profitable lay to back trades.

[Editor – Many thanks to Dan from for his insight]

Favourites are justifiably shorter in ATP events with the best of five set format lending itself to the ‘better’ players, both in a fitness and a variance sense – however in the WTA, the best of three format still applies and realistically there should be little difference between Grand Slams and general WTA tournaments.

Whilst financial and ranking point incentives are highest in Grand Slams, it’s taken as a given that players will give maximum effort, and whilst this is reasonable to assume, it’s also going to be the case for both higher and lower ranked players.

Our conversation was further exacerbated by Sloane Stephens’ demise from 1.01 against Johanna Larsson.  At the point she was a set and break up (2-0) in the second set, she was 1.01 to back and 1.02 to lay, and I highlighted this as a price that was too short with over half a potential match left, given the Americans’ propensity to go walkabout mentally during periods of matches.

Laying at low prices is obviously an attractive proposition, with there being little risk but a potentially huge upside if the trade turns in your favour.  Therefore, with this week’s events naturally piquing my interest further, I decided to analyse some WTA historical data to see if there were any trends worth discovering with a view to profiting in the markets.

 The following table illustrates the records of WTA players priced under 1.25 in Grand Slams from 2013-2014, in both the first set, and the second set when they won the first set.

Lost 1st Set Won 1st, Lost 2nd Set
Yes No % Yes No %
2013 Aus Open 6 40 13.04 5 35 12.50
2013 French Open 5 33 13.16 4 29 12.12
2013 Wimbledon 6 27 18.18 5 22 18.52
2013 US Open 7 29 19.44 3 26 10.34
2014 Aus Open 5 34 12.82 6 28 17.65
2014 French Open 6 35 14.63 5 30 14.29
2014 Wimbledon 3 33 8.33 5 28 15.15
2014 US Open 9 24 27.27 4 20 16.67
2013 24 129 15.69 17 112 13.18
2014 23 126 15.44 20 106 15.87
Overall 47 255 15.56 37 218 14.51

As we can see from the stats, the percentage that WTA players lose the first set in Grand Slams is significantly higher at this year’s US Open than any other Grand Slam in the sample, so our observation that heavy favourites seem to be struggling more currently was correct.

However, with the preceding Grand Slam – Wimbledon – having the lowest percentage, it’s difficult to start making any judgements as to whether this is a trend, although the 2014 statistics for WTA players winning the first set and losing the second set show a significant 2.69% increase from 2013.

Overall, from the 302 matches sampled, 84 were not won in straight sets by the heavy favourite (27.8%), and very interestingly, there was a very small difference between the percentage that heavy favourites lost the first set, and the percentage that they won the first, but lost the second.  From that, we can infer that there is very little momentum taken from winning the first set, and that in itself is very useful information.

Given that the tick risk is even lower for laying WTA players when a set up – typically they will be around 1.05 or so to lay by this point – being able to know that there is little momentum taken from the first set to the second when the heavy favourite wins the set, gives us an attractive entry point to lay the favourite.

Further filtering of players with a primary focus on those without high projected service hold percentages – enabling us to have an even better chance of upward price movement – should allow us excellent chances of profiting in the long run with this approach.

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Category: Tennis, Trading strategies

About the Author ()

I left a good job in the consumer technology industry to go a trade on Betfair for a living way back in June 2000. I've been here ever since pushing very boundaries of what's possible on betting exchanges and loved every minute of it.

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