Qualifier Performance in the Main Draw at the US Open

 Guest post by @BigTenWatto

Bettors are always looking for an angle. Always looking for the next ‘sure’ thing. 

Twitter is a great community to talk about the prospects of the next ‘sure’ thing and one of those Twitter conversations led to a discussion about the qualifying tournament that goes on just before each tennis grand slam. See, every week on Saturdays and Sundays, each tennis tournament on the calendar has a qualifying event, where players who do not have the rank to enter the tournament directly can play two matches to try and gain entry. It is taxing on them considering they generally played the week before, maybe got eliminated on a Wednesday or a Thursday, traveled and then had to play a Saturday match and a Sunday match just for the right to play again the next week. 

Now, sometimes this can be an advantage. Sometimes the tour changes surfaces, sometimes even though the surface is the same it is a little bit of a different speed than the surface the previous week. Sometimes the weather and climate can be vastly different and playing the qualifying matches on the weekend can acclimatize the player and then he might have an advantage come Monday or Tuesday against a player who had direct entry into the tournament. 

The conversation alluded to early generated because the qualifying event for a grand slam is actually a whole week long. It is, in fact, like a mini-tournament. Players have to play three matches, alternating days, to qualify for the grand slam. The idea was that maybe, just maybe, because they got to spend a whole week at the venue and had won three matches maybe these qualifiers would have an advantage in the first round. So, of course, when a hypothesis is proposed, the next move for the bettor, looking for the ‘sure’ thing, is to back test that idea.
This data below has been accumulated for the last three years. Many thanks to @SpreadAstaire and @AndyMSFW for the original hypothesis.

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There is a lot of ways to slice that data. If you think of one not laid out here then by all means, speak up. As it is, a few outcomes are laid out below showing what some blind betting strategies would produce. One thing to note, is that each year there is at least one match where two qualifiers get to play each other, those matches have been excluded from the data set.

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It would appear that the best course of action would be to realize that guys in qualifying are in qualifying for a reason. No matter how much “acclimation” they get to a venue, they are still playing from behind the eight ball. Blind betting the moneyline favorites on matches that include a qualifier would have returned $346.25 if you flat bet a $100 on each of them. Of course, that’s a risky proposition, considering some favorites have huge, huge moneylines. If a bettor was so inclined they could merely bet the favorite on the handicap. Blindly doing that would have returned a whopping $932.43 with an ROI of 21.2%. Now, if a bettor were to reduce the outlay by eliminating any favorite who was a qualifier the profit would still be $603.08 and the ROI would be an incredible 23.2%. 

One more interesting angle is when a qualifier happens to get matched up with an opponent, where the qualifier is still the betting favorite. They are profitable on both the moneyline and the handicap. 

The bottom line is that dogs don’t necessarily prosper in round one and being a qualifier doesn’t help, at Flushing Meadows at least.

Good luck at the Open. @BigTenWatto