For the past couple of days, I’ve found myself wondering about just how advantageous home court advantage is in tennis. Does it confer the same enormous weight as it does in team sports like football and basketball?
Yesterday, I finally started to look for answers. Since I found no sites online that distinguish between home and away records in tennis (and if there is one, please let me know so I can feel silly about having done all this work), I decided to do my own research on the matter. Here’s what I found:
|Player||Home Hard Court Win%||Away Hard Court Win%||Home Clay Win %||Away Clay Win %||Home Grass Win %||Away Grass Win %||Overall Home Win %||Overall Away Win %||% of matches played at home|
And yeah, I know that table is hard to read. Alas, my wordpress/HTML tabling skills aren’t what they could be. To that end, I had to eliminate the “Indoor Home Win Percentage” and the “Indoor Away Win Percentage” columns in order to make room for the rest. If you’re desperate for that information, I’ll be happy to email it to you.
To make things slightly more legible/enjoyable, I’ve colorfully highlighted the numbers I’m focusing on. If you’re interested in the methodology behind how I arrived at these numbers, do please check the footnote*.
But within this horrid chart, the first thing that jumps out at me is:
Three of the four players who have a better winning percentage outside North America than they do within have something in common — can you spot it? That’s right: they all played collegiate tennis. Rhyne Williams, Stevie Johnson and Austin Krajicek all have better records in far-flung regions than they do in the American North.
This suggests a few things. First, the learning curve isn’t as steep transitioning to the pro game from college. This could be because a) they’re more familiar with playing against hostile crowds and people cheering against them (those of you who watch college tennis will know of what I speak); b) their bodies are more developed and physically able to keep up with the men as they begin life on the pro tour; c) their strategic sense is more developed or; d) all of the above. I lean toward “d”, myself, but I’m open to other suggestions.
(Author’s note: yes, I know Tennys Sandgren’s match record away from home flings a statistical wrench at my theory. However, Sandgren is the American who plays the largest percentage of his matches on U.S. ground, and I don’t consider eleven matches (3 wins, 8 losses) to be a large enough sample size to be statistically relevant. So my theory remains largely undamaged. I think. Maybe. You be the judge.)
You also may notice a red-highlighted Bjorn Fratangelo hangin’ a hefty 75 percent win rate in the foreign soil column. In this case, the word “soil” is the key to figuring out that stat; e.g. the 2011 French Open Boys Champion is a red clay hound, and there ain’t hardly many red clay courts Stateside. So he and his team have done a great job finding the proper venues through which he can find success.
The above numbers also give Ryan Harrison a couple of boosts he might be in need of these days: Harrison is the only “young gun” to play over 30% of his matches away from home. Only the older guys like Robby Ginepri, Wayne Odesnik, and Michael Russell have played a similar schedule. Plus, Ryan has a winning record both at home and on the road.
And speaking of Wayne, Odesnik is the American who plays the fewest percentage of his matches at home. Which isn’t altogether surprising since a lot of the other Americans have been so vocal about their distaste for him in the wake of his HGH suspension and the terms by which he got his sentence reduced (i.e. some consider him to be rather snitchy). Odesnik would be a perfect person to be in those “Wanna get away?” Southwest Airlines commercials. Actually, I think he is in this ad:
Ah, that does explain a lot.
The fact that, for the most part, only the older guys on tour have played that kind of away-heavy schedule suggests a few things as well. First, though this is not always the case, usually it’s the older more established player who even has the funds or fiscal backing to spend a large part of their year abroad. It doesn’t make sound economical sense to travel to Futures events when there are so many at home. Second, as a player comes up through the ranks, they usually rely on academies, coaches and training bases situated on home soil, and understandably lean on them more heavily in their younger years.
Either way, Michael Russell does love him some home cookin’; his record at home far exceeds his record away.
On average, this group of players wins 58.17% of matches on home turf, and 53.63% of match on not-home turf. So the “home field advantage” is obviously a factor overall, but not as much as in, say, basketball or football; in those sports, the home/away differential is much more acutely skewed. In tennis, it accounts for about one more win per every 13 matches.
And how much of an advantage a player incurs is as individual to the player as their playing styles are; Michael Russell gets a huge boost from being in North America (possibly due to the proximity of Tennis Express warehouses), while Denis Kudla pretty much has the same amount of success regardless of venue.
Welp, that concludes this first installment. Stay tuned for Part II: The Aussies, Part III: The English and Part IV: The Argies, coming soon (although not necessarily in that order). And if anything in the above numbers pops out at you and is something I neglected to mention, please comment about it in the, er, comment section. That would be swell.
*Yes, hello. This is, indeed, the footnote. And here is my methodology:
The win/loss totals were culled from this site and herded into a database. They are current through yesterday. In the rare cases in which a player has results on carpet, I merged them into the “indoor hard” category. So sue me. You’ll note that the site combines all levels and stages of tournament play; that is, you get futures results mixed with Slams, and quals mixed with round robin mixed with main draw mixed with Davis Cup. It is the true melting pot of tennistical results. And I used every single blessed result except for those in the juniors. Lastly:
Though Central America is technically considered part of North America, I felt there was enough of a language and distance differential to count Central America in the “away” column. Either way, there aren’t many Central American tourneys, nor did enough U.S. players go there to make a substantive difference in the data.
Oh, and I didn’t include John Isner and Sam Querrey here because they no longer play many challengers, duh. And we all know they hate playing abroad and do it overall quite poorly. But if you beg for it/ask nicely, I suppose I might include their totals for a nominal fee.