Australian Open 2018: Favorites and Underdogs, the Numbers

One of the most important things in sports (and sports betting) are statistics; the numbers behind the outcomes.
As we all know, the Australian Open 2018 tournament provided Caroline Wozniacki with her first slam title, while Roger Federer secured his 20th career slam title (yes, 20th, you read that right). Wozniacki was one of the favorites for the win, priced at 11.00 right after the draw came out (you can read more about the women’s tournament here), while Federer was the biggest favorite all the time in the men’s draw as his price never went above 3.00 (2.87 the day of the draw to be specific; read more here.).

But this is not what this article is about; this article is about favorties, underdogs and statistics. For a sports bettor, taking time to analyze statistics and numbers in general is crucial and can be the difference between losing and winning money!
The downside of this is that it takes time, a lot of time. The good news is that we (BetzCenter), have done most of the job and have put together some pretty nice numbers.

Let’s start with the Men’s Tournament

Australian Open 2018 - Men's Length of Matches

All the data is taken from our own database and the charts are drawn accordingly.
So, you might think, 2 set matches? Your database sucks! Well, those are 3 retirements happened during the second set: Zverev vs Chung, Carreno-Busta vs Simon, Chung vs Federer.
Please note that the only other withdrawal was Nadal’s, in the 5th set against Marin Cilic.

This first graph is just a simple indicator of men’s matches’ length in general terms, nothing too crazy here, but let’s have a look at some more betting-specific numbers.

Australian Open 2018 - Men's Favorites vs Underdogs

For this article, we have only considered “closing” odds, meaning the last odds right before the start of the match; and, there was a 100% even match: Mackenzie McDonald played Elias Ymer in the first round and their prices were exactly the same; 1.95, pretty rare!
Out of the remaining 126 matches, 93 were won by the favorite (73% of the total), while the underdog scored the surprise in 34 cases (26%).

We still can’t understand much from this; to me, it looks like the distribution of wins between favorites and underdogs is pretty fair. So, let’s dive deeper into the numbers, and segment the favorites a little bit further.

Australian Open 2018 - Men's Favorites Analysis

I have decided to divide the favorites’ odds into 6 categories:

  • Odds from 1.01 to 1.11
  • Odds from 1.12 to 1.22
  • Odds from 1.23 to 1.35
  • Odds from 1.36 to 1.55
  • Odds from 1.56 to 1.69
  • Odds from 1.7 and above.

I do not have a specific reason for this classification, but, being a tennis bettor for almost two decades now, I have noticed that this can be a good solution to segment odds analysis when it comes to favorites.

The big favorites, odds up to 1.11

As we may see, favorites priced 1.11 and below were all winners: the black column is the number of total favorites in that odds range, while the green column shows the number of wins that belong in that odds-based category.
Propelled by Roger Federer’s 4-0 and Nadal’s 4-0 record in this specific category alone, the huge favorites combined for a 21-0 record here. When the draws were released, Nadal’s draw looked “easier” than Federer’s; now that I’m looking at the numbers, I notice that they both played 4 extremely easy matches.

The 2nd split, odds from 1.12 to 1.22

Things start to look interesting here. 13 wins out of 18 matches means that 72% of the favorite won, but 5 big surprises happened:

Apart from Kicker’s 2 upsets, which were unexpected but not too crazy (as matches were closer than odds suggested), the other 3 outcomes were pretty unexpected. Milos Raonic, Canadian, looks far from his best version to be honest and you can expect him to struggle. His body-type is pretty big, and he needs to be in good physical condition to perform. The problem with betting against Raonic is his serve, which is one of the best on the tour. If there is one thing that I really don’t like from a bettor’s perspective is to bet against big servers: they will concede a few break points only and will save them in many cases; this drives me crazy! Goffin, as good as he can be, had a pretty tough matchup. Benneteau is solid, has a very good backhand and can really play the game! Big surprise, though. Dominic Thiem is very difficult for me to predict: he is surely among the best in the ATP, but I think that he plays too far behind the baseline on fast surfaces (like this one in Australia). Thiem is strong, skilled and a force on clay courts, but he reminds me of Gael Monfils: they both play too defensively, even though Monfils has improved. One other note on Thiem is that his schedule is often too busy, and, even if he is young, this leads to short periods throughout the season where he is clearly out of shape, be careful when betting on the Austrian!

The 3rd split, odds from 1.23 to 1.35

This category, and the next one, are tricky! Odds don’t really pay well and matches are often more dangerous than they look like:

Still a 72% success rate for the favorite in this section, same as the previous section, and 8 upsets. Nishioka beating Kohlschreiber really surprised me, they are both consistent players with the German having more effective strokes. I haven’t watched the match, but the result was 36 62 06 61 26, so basically each set had its own plot. Is Kohlschreiber getting old? He is 34, it might be worth to pay attention to the German when betting.
Bebelmans vs Pouille does not seem too crazy. Pouille deserved to be the favorite but match looked closer than odds suggested, and I think the same applies to Johnson vs Kudla. Johnson has ups and downs, I like him, but I do not trust him entirely when it comes to placing a bet especially if he is favorite. Talking about crazy players, only a few are crazier than Verdasco. The Spaniard is so talented, but also loses matches very easily: no wonder he won as underdog in the first round and lost as favorite in his second match.
Sandgren – Wawrinka, Djokovic – Chung and Nadal – Cilic all belong to the same category where you have a clear favorite, but we are unsure about his form. All three coming back from pretty bad injuries, so upsets like these can easily happen. Chung was also the real surprise of the tournament, and has a bright future (well, present) ahead.
Dimitrov losing to Edmund was the real surprise here! Even if Edmund is very powerful, an in-form Dimitrov has the skills to beat him; huge surprise!

The 4th split, odds from 1.36 to 1.55

This category, with a favorite-winning-rate of 74% is very similar to the previous one: 7 upsets out of 27 matches. I think that odds between 1.36 and 1.55 start to be scary for the non-experienced bettor and I can see why; in the end even for the bookies the probability of the favorite to win is in a range from 73% to 64%:

It needs to be noted that 6 of these 7 matches were round 1 matches, only Sam Querrey vs Marton Fucsovic happened in the 2nd round.
I think these matches were pretty difficult to price and even if I tend to agree with the bookmakers, the match that surprised me the most is probably the last one of the list. Dustin Brown and Benoit Paire are only good for betting purposes when they are priced as underdogs or when the odds are really attractive. Anderson is very good but had a pretty tough matchup against Edmund, Isner (and also Querrey to be fair) base their game too much on their serve, and also need to be in good form to support their powerful (but heavy) body-types. Being the Australian Open the first slam of the season, it’s always pretty difficult to judge a player’s form.
Sugita vs Sock and Bautista-Agut vs Verdasco looked pretty close on paper as well and the upsets don’t surprise me too much.

The 5th split, odds from 1.56 to 1.69

In this section, 8 out of 15 of the favorites won, 53%. This split, together with the next one, represents the most difficult matches to predict (on paper), and in facts this proved to be true for this Australian Open 2018 tournament:

With such succulent odds it is easy to bet on the favorite, but if we have a look at the numbers, it is not really convenient in the long run. All of these matches, and even the matches in this odds-range where the favorite won, were a close call, but as a general concept this category is dangerous: the favorite is attractive, but it turns out that it is a loser many times (almost 50%). My suggestion is to analyze the game plan deeply: in pure tennis words, how will the game develop? Carreno-Busta vs Simon, a tennis battle, be careful, Karlovic vs Sugita, 2 very different tennis styles where Karlovic is the better server, might be worth a try. Millman vs Dzumhur, who will control the rally? Same applies to Marterer vs Sundgren. Chung vs Zverev, two young guns, tend to go with the better form. Berdych vs Del Potro and Dimitrov vs Kyrigios, very tight matches, a few points can decide the whole result, try to stay away.
Of course, it is easy to say now, but hey, we are just evaluating results so that we know for the next time… Also, this category is probably the toughest.

The 6th split, odds from 1.7 and above

There were 16 matches in this category, and the favorites won 10 times (63%).
I like this category a lot, it’s probably my favorite. Bookmakers are having a hard time pricing these matches and we can take advantage of this if we are careful enough.
I won’t list all of the matches that belong to this category, but a few examples will work:

I think that this category (and maybe the previous one as well), is the category where information, and especially fresh information, matters the most! If you have an insight on one of the two players, try to use it, for example: Rublev defeated Ferrer in 5 sets. This would not happen a couple of years ago when Ferrer was one of the fittest athletes on the tour. Now Ferrer is no longer a big favorite when matches go the distance.
Baghdatis vs Bhambri: Baghdatis is a better player, if you know that he is fit, got for it!
Ruud vs Halys: I have to be honest here, I don’t know much about the way the two play and being in the gambling industry for 10 years I can also tell that even people who priced the match haven’t seen them play much; they are often relegated to smaller courts and are rarely televised. Even when traded live I imagine traders just follow the matches on some kind of live scoring service. If you, for whatever reason, know these two players and can imagine the development of the game, you should bet on this kind of matches.

The last chart that I want to attach is the following, a view on the underdogs who managed to win, divided by different odds category:

Australian Open 2018 - Men's Underdogs Analysis

In fuchsia you see the winners (34 in total), while in black you see the total matches belonging to that category (126 matches in total as Mackenzie McDonald vs Elias Ymer was equally priced, so no favorite and no underdog).

The Women’s Tournament

Australian Open 2018 - Women's Length of Matches

Before analyzing the women’s specific numbers, here is what I expected: more surprises than in the men’s, more underdogs that actually won their matches, let’s see if that happened:

Australian Open 2018 - Women's Favorites vs Underdogs

In fact, there were some more underdog winners in the women’s tournament compared to the men’s. The difference might not seem big: 33 underdogs won their matches in the men’s Australian Open 2018, while that happened 39 times in the girl’s.
This chart does not say too much, so. like we did for the men’s,  let’s dive into the analysis of more specific numbers.

Australian Open 2018 - Women's Favorites Analysis

The big favorites, odds up to 1.11

Like the men, all the favorites priced up to 1.11 (extremely huge favorites) won. This already surprises me a little as I always tend to think that favorites have a tougher time on the wta tour. I can’t really say if this is because of the fact that girls can count on their serve less than man can do: they, for sure, get fewer easy points through this weapon. Or maybe, the fact that many girls on the wta tour struggle to be mentally consistent throughout the match, leads to more unexpected results.
Or maybe that’s just my opinion? Let’s have a look at the next odds category.

The 2nd split, odds from 1.12 to 1.22

Favorites won 14 out of 17 matches here with these 3 being the biggest upsets of the tournament:

Pretty succulent odds, right? All 2nd round matches and the result that shocks me the most is the last one. Muguruza is strong, very strong and even if she is not playing particularly well, I did not see this coming at all.
Cornet vs Goerges is a much closer match than odds represent, and Cornet actually won it with the score of 64 63. Cornet is tough to beat, she is probably not at her best at the moment, but it is pretty rare to see her losing without fighting. I remember countless matches that went the distance when Cornet was involved and even when she was playing much higher ranked players. Always be careful when betting against her.
Johanna Konta, as good as she showed she can be, is in a poor form and she is losing many matches. Still this result is very surprising.

The 3rd split, odds from 1.23 to 1.35

In this odds-range we find 23 matches, with favorites winning 16 of them. The ratio, 70% is similar to the men’s (72%), while the surprises were 7.

A few matches here where the biggest surprise is probably Mertens’ win against Svitolina. Svitolina was one of the candidates to win it all and has the power to keep up with Mertens’ tennis; but the Belgian was simply too good on that day.
Babos beating Vandeweghe was also very unexpected, while the rest of the matches looked much closer than odds represent even on paper: Kvitova has many ups and down, Radwanska’ best days are probably over and the same applies to Peng. Bencic was coming from an impressive win against Venus Williams and Kasaktina is still very young and not very constant.

The 4th split, odds from 1.36 to 1.55

This is an interesting category, prices on the favorites are good enough to attract bettors and the winning percentage only drops to 69%. This is the category with the most matches (32) and it is also a category where a person that really knows the game can make the difference. Odds rise, and implied probability drops but, for example in this tournament, favorites winning percentage was 69%, which means that they did a pretty good job.
The underdogs that won:

You get the idea, these matches do have a favorite, but they aren’t easy at all. I think that, for example, Barthel’s odds to beat Niculescu was too generous, same for Flipkens versus Riske. I did not expect Begu to beat Makarova, who is pretty good on fast courts. And, while Vikhlyantseva’s, Bondarenko’s and Osaka’s wins surprised me, the other underdogs had a fairly good chance. Also, I did not expect Suarez Navarro to beat Kanepi.

The 5th split, odds from 1.56 to 1.69

Favorites here recorded an incredible 13 wins out of 13 matches! Totally unexpected! This is normally a dangerous category especially in women’s tennis, but things were different in this Australian Open 2018.
Overall, the favorites in the women’s tournament really performed well.

The 6th split, odds from 1.7 and above

Twenty-nine matches belong to this category and the favorites won only 10 times, meaning that they respected the prediction only 34% of the times and this is, for example, a huge difference with the men’s, where the favorites had a 63% success rate.
I like this category, a lot! Both in men and women, you can really show how good you are at tennis pre-match betting.
I know numbers are not really big, we are only analyzing the first slam of the season, and as important as it can be, it is just one tournament in a busy wta calendar, right? Yes, but I think it really gives us a good indication of this category: women that are favorite and priced above 1.7 are not a good bet. You can still bet on them when you have a specific reason for doing that, but as a general guideline the underdog side is better, and especially in the long run.

And just to conclude, as we did for the men’s underdogs, here the same chart for the women’s underdogs:

Australian Open 2018 - Women's Underdogs Analysis

In fuchsia you see the winners (40 in total), while in black you see the total matches belonging to that category.

Thoughts? Please comment below!

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5 months ago
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Tennis
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