Winners and Losers in the 2014 Australian Open Men’s Draw

Every draw carries with it plenty of luck, but even by Grand Slam standards, this year’s Australian Open men’s singles draw seems a bit lopsided.  The top half makes possible a Rafael NadalRoger Federer semifinal, at least if Federer gets past Andy Murray and Nadal beats the likes of Bernard Tomic.

While Novak Djokovic is seeded below Nadal, he gets the benefit of a projected semifinal matchup with David Ferrer.  A more substantial challenge may arise one round earlier, as a possible quarterfinal opponent is Stanislas Wwrinka, who took Djokovic to a fifth set twice in the last four Grand Slams.

As I’ve done in the past, let’s quantify each player’s draw luck.  Using my forecast, combined with a forecast generated by randomizing the bracket, we can see who were the biggest winners and losers in yesterday’s draw ceremony.

The algorithmic approach is most useful in confirming our suspicions about the draw luck of the top players.  Djokovic and Ferrer, the top seeds in the bottom half, definitely came out ahead.  While Djokovic had a respectable 28.0% chance of winning the tournament in the randomized projection, he has a 33.7% chance given the way the draw turned out.  In turns of expected ranking points, the draw gave him a 10.7% boost, from an expectation of 747 points to one of 827 points.  In percentage terms, Ferrer’s expectation jumped even more, from 312 to 368 (18.0%).

Nadal, however, had the worst draw luck of the top ten seeds.  Before the bracket was arranged, he had a 30.7% chance of winning the title, with an expectation of 763 ranking points.  Once the draw was set, his title chances fell to 24.9% and his point expectation dropped to 662.  No one else in the top ten lost more than 7% of their expected ranking points on draw day; Nadal lost 13%.

It doesn’t take an algorithm, though, to identify the draw’s worst losers.  They’re placed where you’ll always find them: right next to the top two seeds.  In the randomized projection, Tomic had a 58% chance of winning his first-round match and a 27% chance of reaching the third round.  In reality, though, he’ll play Nadal first.  His slight chance of earning a place in the second round gives him an expectation of 29 ranking points (10 of which he earns simply by showing up).  In the random projection, his ranking point expectation was 75.

Lukas Lacko, the unlucky man who will play Djokovic in the first round, didn’t suffer quite so much, if only because he didn’t have as high of expectations in the first place.  Before the draw, he could expect 48 ranking points and a 15% chance of reaching the third round.  Now, his projection is a mere 24 ranking points, one of the worst in the entire draw.

The luckiest players are always those who had little chance of progressing far in the draw, but managed to draw someone equally inept.  At the Australian Open, the four luckiest guys have yet to be identified: all are qualifiers.  The luckiest man of all will be the one who is placed in the topmost qualifying spot, opposite Lucas Pouille.  At this stage, my rating system doesn’t think much of the Frenchman, so it is likely that the qualifier will be the heavy favorite entering that match.

In the randomized projection, each qualifier has a 29% chance of winning his first match and a 6% chance of winning his second, for a weighted average of 32 ranking points.  The man who plays Pouille, however, will enter the field with an expectation of 55 ranking points.  Other qualifiers with nearly the same happy outcome will be those who draw Federico Delbonis, Julian Reister, and Jan Hajek in the opening round.

Here are the pre-draw and post-draw expected ranking points of the men’s seeds, along with the percentage of pre-draw points they gained or lost:

Player                 Seed  Pre  Post  Change  
Rafael Nadal           1     763   662  -13.2%  
Novak Djokovic         2     747   827   10.7%  
David Ferrer           3     312   368   18.0%  
Andy Murray            4     473   488    3.1%  
Juan Martin Del Potro  5     421   393   -6.6%  
Roger Federer          6     411   397   -3.4%  
Tomas Berdych          7     264   317   20.2%  
Stanislas Wawrinka     8     290   279   -3.9%  

Player                 Seed  Pre  Post  Change
Richard Gasquet        9     186   186    0.1%  
Jo Wilfried Tsonga     10    151   187   23.8%  
Milos Raonic           11    223   234    5.0%  
Tommy Haas             12    207   222    7.5%  
John Isner             13    176   196   11.2%  
Mikhail Youzhny        14    190   193    1.5%  
Fabio Fognini          15    101    81  -19.3%  
Kei Nishikori          16    172   135  -21.6%  

Player                 Seed  Pre  Post  Change
Tommy Robredo          17     71    61  -13.4%  
Gilles Simon           18    116    95  -18.3%  
Kevin Anderson         19     80   107   33.9%  
Jerzy Janowicz         20     99   154   55.3%  
Philipp Kohlschreiber  21    125   132    6.2%  
Grigor Dimitrov        22    136   122  -10.1%  
Ernests Gulbis         23    125   107  -14.1%  
Andreas Seppi          24     94    49  -47.8%  

Player                 Seed  Pre  Post  Change
Gael Monfils           25    147   101  -31.4%  
Feliciano Lopez        26    100    80  -20.7%  
Benoit Paire           27     94    89   -5.5%  
Vasek Pospisil         28     82    81   -0.9%  
Jeremy Chardy          29    111   126   13.7%  
Dmitry Tursunov        30    101    80  -21.0%  
Fernando Verdasco      31    106   105   -0.8%  
Ivan Dodig             32    104   106    1.8%

One thought on “Winners and Losers in the 2014 Australian Open Men’s Draw”

  1. Jeff, first: bravo! After so many, sooooooo many pointless tennis sites and blogs etc. someone to make sense and show some brains!
    There would be hundreds of “this and that” to comment further. I will reduce it (for now) on most important. One big omission in algo of your analysis is fact that draw unfolds, plays – it is not static thing. Your algo is valid as if Novak got East Conference with small number of stars and Rafa got West Conference, valid for liga-system but not for cup-system! Each can play no more then 7 games.
    In reality (and as Games Theory opened for math vision of reality) apparent paradox happens: “bad” draw is not nearly much worse then “lucky” draw! It is so because of pairing of games. If one part of draw is “loaded” what will happen is that strong players will clash before in hard, long games. Sometimes repeatedly! That will wear them down, so once when finally playing favorite they are too tired and go down easy! (A)symmetrical, “lucky” favorite may clash with decent player who shares easy draw and make extreme resistance! This effect means and it happen several times that “luckier” is unluckier and goes down to apparently “unluckier”. When Djokovic on FO got it “easy” he went down 2 sets to in form Seppi. Then he started bright but went down and had to save 4 match points against Tsonga! Finally this late physical disadvantage prevailed and for that little Nadal won over him.
    This AO it may happen that injured Murray will play injured Federer in QF and after 5 sets dead man will be challenge on paper but easy cake for Nadal in SF.
    Many corrective factors are needed but this one is for real and, in my view, big time. That would be some additional “equality” pairing evaluation of the draw, that is further more of the factor more valuable player are going to crash! This is the reason why slight advantage in draw may be for real and important, and apparently big advantage may not be at all!

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