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 Nadal–Roger 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%