Strategic and Psychological Momentum in Professional Tennis
31 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 2020
We provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of strategic momentum and psychological momentum in best-of-three contests where players have asymmetric abilities. As a theoretical benchmark, we develop a fully rational model of best-of-three contests and define psychological momentum as systematic deviation from the theoretical equilibrium. An empirical analysis of 67,730 professional tennis matches from 2002-2020 shows that our theoretical model closely matches first set outcomes, which is when psychological momentum is absent. Overall, the empirical results show that both strategic momentum and psychological momentum contribute to the outcomes of best-of-three tennis contests.
Keywords: tennis, best-of-N tournaments, game theory
JEL Classification: Z20, L83, C73
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