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Insight into tennis – Implications of playing a 5-set match


Playing 5-set matches and follow-up results

** This blog was originally posted in December 2012 **

‘Dan’ joins us with a guest tennis blog for us; Dan is a sports-trader with his main interest being tennis. I have found him approachable and open to sharing some ideas. 

It is often said by the media that if a tennis player is going to succeed in a Grand Slam event, they need to avoid playing 5 set matches.  The obvious implications of playing a 5 set match is that the player faces more mental and especially physical strain in these gruelling encounters.

The most notable of these has to be the match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 which ended 70-68 to Isner in the final set, in a match spanning 3 days if my memory serves me correctly.  Unsurprisingly, Isner lost his subsequent 2nd round match to Thiemo de Bakker (a player he’d have probably been considered a favourite against) only winning 5 games in 3 sets.

Several players seem to have a propensity to play 5 set matches more than others.  Notable mentions here should go to Almagro, Federer, Isner, Kohlschreiber, Petzschner and Wawrinka, all of whom regularly appeared in my research.  Indeed, it has been discussed in the media that Isner’s poor record in Grand Slam events is due to the fact that he regularly plays 5 set matches, due to the often tight nature of his matches.

So what I thought I’d do is to assess the impact of playing a 5 set match on the winning player’s subsequent match, to see whether either backing or laying these players would work well.  Would the market take into account the fact that the player had previously played an arduous match, or not? My sample was all 4 Grand Slams, from 2009-2012.

In the 4 years, there were 365 outcomes where the player playing had won a 5 set match in the previous round.  Out of those 365 matches, only 143 players won after winning a 5 set match in the previous round, a win percentage of 39.2%.  Clearly this is an interesting stat in itself, although further research was required to analyse an edge.

If I was to stake £100 on every player who had won a 5 set match in the previous round, I would have been £6,661 down overall (based on Pinnacle closing prices).  This obviously is a horrendous result, and the return on investment of -18.2% is terrible.  At this point we can draw a clear conclusion that blanket laying of every player that has won a 5 set match in the previous round is a winning strategy.

This is fantastic in itself, but what I then did was split the results into 2 categories: top 50 players and out of top 50 players.  The results were even more conclusive.

There were 218 outcomes where a top 50 player played a 5 set match the previous round, and they won 110 times (50.5%).  Outside the top 50, there were 147 outcomes but only 33 victories (22.4%).  Here we can see a clear distinction between how players of different ranks deal with fatigue.  The higher ranked players can seemingly deal with this much better and there was less of an edge laying these players in these situations.

In the 218 outcomes for top 50 players, I would have lost £1,848 (ROI -8.5%), but with the players outside the top 50 I would have been £4,813 down with an absolutely horrific ROI of -32.7%.

So the conclusion we can draw from my research is that it is highly profitable to LAY all players outside the top 50 in a Grand Slam match after they won a 5 set match the round previously.  It is profitable to lay top 50 players too, but the edge is much smaller.

I hope you enjoyed my article, and here’s to a profitable future.

Dan can be found on twitter here

About Author

Based in Dublin, Ireland. Introduced to betting through horse racing, placed my first bet on kicking king to win the Gold Cup at 4/1. Used my love of all sports to take an interest in betting on sports. Qualified accountant with a way with numbers. Over years have found the niche sports most rewarding with NFL and Cycling, but always dabble in bit of everything. Focus in future is good staking and improved trading. Also blog at


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