Gender Differences in Performance in Competitive Environments: Evidence from Professional Tennis Players

62 Pages Posted: 27 May 2008

See all articles by Daniele Paserman

Daniele Paserman

Boston University - Department of Economics; Hebrew University of Jerusalem; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: June 2007


This paper uses data from nine tennis Grand Slam tournaments played between 2005 and 2007 to assess whether men and women respond differently to competitive pressure in a setting with large monetary rewards. In particular, it asks whether the quality of the game deteriorates as the stakes become higher. The paper conducts two parallel analyses, one based on aggregate set-level data, and one based on detailed point-by-point data, which is available for a selected subsample of matches in four of the nine tournaments under examination.

The set-level analysis indicates that both men and women perform less well in the final and decisive set of the match. This result is robust to controls for the length of the match and to the inclusion of match and player-specific fixed effects. The drop in performance of women in the decisive set is slightly larger than that of men, but the difference is not statistically significant at conventional levels. On the other hand, the detailed point-by-point analysis reveals that, relative to men, women are substantially more likely to make unforced errors at crucial junctures of the match. Data on serve speed, on first serve percentages and on rally length suggest that women play a more conservative and less aggressive strategy as points become more important. I present a simple game-theoretic model that shows that a less aggressive strategy may be a player's best response to an increase in the intrinsic probability of making unforced errors.

Keywords: Gender differences, performance under pressure, tennis

JEL Classification: J16, J24, J71, L83, M50

Suggested Citation

Paserman, Daniele, Gender Differences in Performance in Competitive Environments: Evidence from Professional Tennis Players (June 2007). , Vol. , pp. -, 2007. Available at SSRN:

Daniele Paserman (Contact Author)

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
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Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, IL Jerusalem 91905

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

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