Winner’s Complex

 Guest post by @BigTenWatto


Tennis is played almost every week of the calendar. As a pro (or a fan), if you want to, there is a tennis tournament starting basically every Monday of the year that you can play in (or watch… or gamble on).

It’s long been a contention of the tennis community, especially the sports betting tennis community, that when players decide to play in back to back weeks they face a disadvantage due to potential fatigue. This is considered to be amplified when a player makes a final; meaning they have to play on a Sunday, travel on a Monday and then most likely play again on a Tuesday.

This amplified fatigue, from playing on a Sunday, is considered even more detrimental if the player happened to win a title — maybe they partied, maybe their sleep schedule and daily routine was thrown off, maybe they had additional media responsibilities.

Now, what if the player in question played on a Sunday, won a title, had another tournament scheduled the following week and it was his FIRST title? How much partying happens then? How much extra media is there? How many family touch-points are added? This could be considered the worst case scenario. On the other hand, for a sports bettor, this would seem like example ‘A’ of the perfect fade. This player is still basking in the after-glow, they’re tired, they’re probably not focused.

So, this week, sports bettors, and the tennis community in general, are presented with two such cases. Both Matteo Berrettini and Nikolai Basilashvili won their first title last week and are playing on Tuesday in Kitzbuhel. Should I bet against them, simply on this long accepted premise that they are fade material? Or is this some form of a gambler’s fallacy? In order to find out, I looked back at the first time title winners in the current era (back to Federer’s first, considering he is both one of the oldest and also one of the best players on tour). The following tweet from @lucabeck was instrumental in my research:



To complete the study I collected the data around each players activity after they won their first title to see if there was any pattern or any discernible way to bet future first time title winners who choose to play the week immediately following. This is the result (since I couldn’t figure out how to get a pivot table into this blog, you just get raw data):



 *player attended a Challenger event in between

 *player attended a Challenger event in between

Don’t worry I have done some tabulating for you. 83 players won their first ever title and chose to play the following week. Only 29 of them were eliminated in the first round. A full 54 (65%!!!) of them managed to make some progress in the following tournament. Five of them actually managed to win back-to-back titles (think about how crazy that is; to win your first two titles in consecutive weeks).

Some further research I am tempted to tackle is how much travel these players had to do after winning their first title (furthering any potential fatigue) and possibly how old they were at the time they won (older, more mature maybe able to handle the situation better). Maybe if there is another first time winner this season I can update this article. In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll be fading Berrettini or Basilashvili solely on fatigue on Tuesday.

Good luck with your wagers!