Sports Betting Guide

The "choke factor" in tennis betting

Are you a tennis fan? If you are, you know that sometimes lower-ranked players have to face the world's best. We will talk about the importance of ranking the opponents before place the actual bet, in your betting guide.

tennis tutorial choke factor guide

What exactly is a "choke factor"?

You probably have seen this somewhere. These fans' rants online or newspapers' articles where reporters and writers accuse a player. Most of such things are related to a player "chocking" the game or the important moment of it. 

Such "chokes" usually take place during the key moments, like the serving for a set or match point. These situations impose a great amount of stress even on elite veterans, which puts players' mental strength and self-control on a test.

One research has shown that players tend to mess up more set or match servers than any other. This happens due to the aforementioned stress and great responsibility. Besides being an important moment, such servers are more memorable and valuable for the fans, they receive more attention from the media, etc. All of this combined results in players being a little shaky when it comes to these serves.

Based on this information, you can tell right away that players may struggle with self-confidence when it comes to the very last moment. 

The very next thing we would like to look at is the actual ranking and whether it affects the winning chances of the underdog. For example purposes, we would like to use the data from 2014, which includes all the players that received a 5.00 (4/1) odds and were wagered on with a £100 stake.

The Association of Tennis Professionals


Rank Matches Wins Win% P/L ROI
1-20 77 9 11.69 -1420 -18.44
21+ 35 6 17.14 50 1.43
Combined 112 15 13.39 -1370 -12.23

This table represents the ATP matchups and provides the comparison of underdogs facing up against the top 20 players and the ones beyond. You can see that the winning percentage against the top 20 players is fairly lower compared to the outside top 20 players. The return on investment was not the best one as well. To show you an even bigger picture, the highest priced win was Roberto Bautista-Agut's victory over Juan Martin Del Potro with the odds of 13.03 (1203/100). Moreover, the two out of nine wins came from Stanislas Wawrinka, who is ranked in the top 10. He managed to beat Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on the way to his Australian Open title. David Ferrer also had two listings in that statistic, but this time being on the losing side, falling short to Daniel Brands, 6.13 (513/100), and Yen-Hsun Lu, 5.66 (233/50).

The Women's Tennis Association


Rank Matches Wins Win% P/L ROI
1-20 71 9 12.68 -216 -3.04
21+ 30 6 20.00 615 20.50
Combined 101 15 14.85 399 3.95

As you can see, the same pattern is observed in the WTA, but in this case, the difference is less noticeable. If back in 2014 you were betting on the underdogs priced over 5.00 (4/1) against the top 20 female tennis players your results were not that bad, slightly on the negative side. While the top 20 results didn't bring you any profit, the matchups against the players ranked outside the top 20 showed a big profit margin despite having just a small sample.

Just like in men's matchups, there were some extremes. There were two instances where the top 20 ranked player lost to another top 20 candidate. Ana Ivanovic, who was priced at 9.75 (35/4) defeated Serena Williams during the Australian Open and Agnieszka Radwanska, who won against Victoria Azarenka while being priced at 5.16 (104/25).


If you would ask people around you where do more upsets occur, in ATP or WTA, most people would probably be unsure which way to go. Of course, we have seen lots of Wimbledon or any other major tournament upsets where the favourite was topped by an underdog in ATP but a somewhat inconsistent performance from the top WTA players and the higher likelihood of the low-ranked ones to choke, facing big moments splits the opinions.

If you look a little deeper into the matter, you can see that WTA has a large share of young and talented players, which promises a more competitive environment than in ATP.

Just for comparison, ATP has 17 players in the top 100, who are under 23. The highest-ranked "young" player is Alexander Zverev (6) who's also leading the top 50 ranking among 12 youngsters. On the other hand, WTA currently holds 32 players under the age of 23 in its top 100 ranking and just 10 in top 50 all led by Naomi Osaka (1). As you can see, WTA has almost the double of the young ATP's young core, which logically will result in more frequent underdog victories.


ATP/WTA Combined

Rank Matches Wins Win% P/L ROI
1-20 148 18 1216 -1636 -11.05
21+ 65 12 18.46 665 10.23
Combined 213 30 14.08 -971 -4.56

This table shows combined data from the two previous tables, representing the result of tennis matches where we have seen shocking upsets. Despite having some difference WTA and ATP still share the same patterns when it comes to "choking factor". You can tell right away that there is a noticeable difference between match results against the top 20 players and those outside of it. Despite still being a small sample, matches against the top 20 opponents suggest betting on the underdog largely depends on the ranking positioning. Take notes and remember to consider the ranking of an underdog's opponent before placing your bet.

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