Randomization and Serial Dependence in Professional Tennis Matches: Do Strategic Considerations, Player Rankings and Match Characteristics Matter?

Spiliopoulos, L. (2018). Randomization and serial dependence in professional tennis matches: Do strategic considerations, player rankings and match characteristics matter?. Judgment and Decision Making, 13(5), 413-427.

15 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2016 Last revised: 22 Dec 2019

See all articles by Leonidas Spiliopoulos

Leonidas Spiliopoulos

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Date Written: August 27, 2016

Abstract

In many sports contests, the equilibrium requires players to randomize across repeated rounds, i.e., exhibit no temporal predictability. Such sports data present a window into the (in)efficiency of random sequence generation in a natural competitive environment, where the decision makers (tennis players) are both highly experienced and incentivized compared to laboratory studies. I resolve a long-standing debate about whether professional players’ tennis serve directions are serially independent (Hsu, Huang & Tang, 2007) or not (Walker & Wooders, 2001) using a new dataset that is two orders of magnitude larger than those studies. I examine both between- and within-player determinants of the degree of serial (in)dependence. Evidence of the existence of significant serial dependence across serves is presented, even among players ranked Number 1 in the world. Furthermore, significant heterogeneity was found with respect to the strength of serial dependence and also its sign. A novel finding is that Number 1 and Number 2 ranked players tend to under-alternate on average, whereas in line with previous findings, the lower-ranked the players, the greater their tendency to over-alternate. Within-player analyses show that high-ranked players do not condition their randomization behavior on their opponent’s ranking. However, the under-alternation of top players would be consistent with a best-response to beliefs that the population of opponents over-alternates on average. Finally, the degree of observed serial dependence is not systematically related to other match variables proxying for match difficulty, fatigue, and psychological pressure.

Keywords: Randomization, Mixed Strategy Nash Equilibrium, Minimax, Tennis, Sports Data Analytics

JEL Classification: C73, C93, Z20

Suggested Citation

Spiliopoulos, Leonidas, Randomization and Serial Dependence in Professional Tennis Matches: Do Strategic Considerations, Player Rankings and Match Characteristics Matter? (August 27, 2016). Spiliopoulos, L. (2018). Randomization and serial dependence in professional tennis matches: Do strategic considerations, player rankings and match characteristics matter?. Judgment and Decision Making, 13(5), 413-427., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2830798 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2830798

Leonidas Spiliopoulos (Contact Author)

Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Max Planck Institute for Human Development ( email )

Lentzeallee 94
D-14195 Berlin, 14195
Germany

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