Final Exam – Tennis Myths 101

Final Exam – Tennis Myths 101

by Ryan M. Rodenberg

In 2007, Jim Albert and Ruud H. Koning edited Statistical Thinking in Sports, a book at the intersection of math and sports. One chapter, written by Jan Magnus and Franc Klaassen, was entirely devoted to tennis. In it, the authors statistically tested a number of commonly held beliefs about specific aspects of our sport. To conduct such tests, Magnus and Klaassen had comprehensive data on 481 men’s and women’s singles matches from Wimbledon during a four-year time period (1992-1995).

Are you ready to test your knowledge on the truth or falsity of what is often described by television commentators and tennis aficionados as the conventional wisdom? The questions that follow are based on the insightful and detailed analysis of Magnus and Klaassen. In the course of answering the questions, remember that: (i) the data derived at a time when there were only 16 seeds (as opposed to 32 currently); (ii) at Wimbledon, women play the best of three sets and men play the best of five sets; and (iii) the time period preceded the widespread use of Luxilon and other polyester-based strings on the professional tour.

Here is your true/false exam:

1. True or false (circle one). On average, men and women serve the same number of double faults per match.

2. True or false (circle one). Seeded players win significantly more points on their first serve than do non-seeded players.

3. True or false (circle one). Seeded players win significantly more points on their second serve than do non-seeded players.

4. True or false (circle one). It is an advantage to serve first in the first set of a match.

5. True or false (circle one). It is advantageous to serve with new balls.

6. True or false (circle one). At the beginning of the final set, the player who has won the previous set has the advantage.

7. True or false (circle one). After breaking serve, there is an increased likelihood of being broken in the subsequent game.

8. True or false (circle one). Winning the seventh game is the most important game to win in connection with the likelihood of winning the set.

Click here for the answer key and explanation.

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