T20 tennis

While digesting the first round results of the Australian Open tennis, I was amazed (should I have been?) by the lopsided results. There were a couple of games in the Ladies draw, for instance, where the loser didn’t even manage to scramble a game. It was reminiscent, to my mind, of T20 cricket, a game that has evolved to cater for the technology-induced deterioration in our concentration spans. It seems that tennis is doing this naturally, with many sets struggling to last 20 minutes. Perhaps the gals on the losing side had some tweeting or emailing to do, I can’t be sure.

OMG, this set has been going, like, 15 minutes already! - Source: Fox Sports

OMG, this set has been going, like, 15 minutes already! – Source: Fox Sports

This led me to analysing both sides of the draw, Mens and Ladies, to tease out some key stats. Not the % of First Serves, Error count etc, but a comparison of the length of matches, games played etc. I’ve never seen a comparison like this, so a painstaking data trawl was in order. Now, this wasn’t meant to be a comparison or opinion on Mens tennis vs Ladies tennis. I don’t wish to be excoriated, excommunicated, or in any way ex’d by the fairer sex, and I actually like Ladies tennis (now), but note that the depth makes early rounds less than exciting, and prize money vs entertainment is still an issue.

So here are some selected facts from Round 1:

– the average Ladies match lasted 1hr40 with 22 completed games on average

– the Men’s draw averaged 2hr28 with 36 games per average match

– the Men’s matches therefore were nearly 50% longer on average, with more than 60% more games played (yes, I realise the men play best of 5 sets)

– speaking of which, only 37.5% of the Ladies matches went further than the minimum 2 sets, while 50% of the Men’s matches required more than 3 sets (20% being 5-setters)

– comparing Mens and Ladies 3-set matches, I find average lengths of 60min and 56min respectively. This is much closer and suggestive of comparison, but is arguably unrepresentative because a Ladies 3-set match “going the distance” is likely to be far more competitive, per set, than Roger Federer slamming any Round 1 opponent unlucky enough to draw him.

I’m going to bet Round 2 is similar, but we’ll see (if I can be bothered).


This is a result I wasn’t quite expecting, but Round 2 had an even wider court-time discrepancy between Men’s and Ladies’ draws, due mostly to some marathon Men’s matches.

The average match was 60% longer in the Men’s draw, with 80% more games played.

In the Ladies, 20% of matches have gone longer then the minimum (6 of 30 so far have reached a third set), while 45% of Men’s have reached at least a 4th set (13 of 29 so far)

However, Ladies’ 3-setters have averaged a very competitive 2hr25 in Round 2, outlasting the Men’s 1hr50.

Moral of Round 2? If you get beaten in the Men’s draw in straight sets, you get really beaten up!  But don’t the Ladies in their 2-setters? You bet.

The real moral is that you can’t reeeeallly compare 3-set matches between the sexes, because a 3-set Ladies match is far more competitive – it goes the distance.

Instead, look at it this way – for both Men’s AND Ladies straight-set matches, there is an average 8.8 games played per set. So when you’re arguing (for or against) equal prize money, just keep in mind that matches are equally competitive. It’s just that the Men last longer.

Ladies’ tennis is therefore the T20 version of Men’s tennis 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s